We all know the dangers of spending too much time in the sun - crepey skin, sun stroke, skin damage and of course, cancer. But while reaching for a bottle of fake tan might well may be a preferable solution, the perils of a cack-handed approach to self-tanning might also result in some equally serious damage to your image.
When it comes to fake tan, try to remember that the trick is to replicate the healthy glow we'd be sporting after a week in St Tropez. A blotchy tan or an artificial Umpa Lumpa-orange glow is definitely not the look you should be going for, neither is the kind of deep brown hue that suggests you've spent the last week wallowing in a mud bath. Sadly, the above scenarios are all too common, and aren't just restricted to those with a tendency to get heavy-handed when it comes to application - fake tan applied to skin that hasn't been properly prepared will often appear blotchy and will also start to fade sooner.
[Related feature: More tips for natural looking sunkissed skin]
Tantastic tanning tips
"The most common mistake people make with self-tanning is improper preparation," explains Xen-Tan Tanning Expert Natalie Roche. "Preparing your skin with the right products is just as important as having the right self-tan product for your skin tone. Skin must be exfoliated and hydrated to achieve an even and flawless colour using oil-free products, as oil-based products can break up your colour. Exfoliating and moisturising will also help to prolong your tan for up to 7 days." If you're a regular user of fake tan, exfoliating is especially important because it will help to unblock pores between applications.
Try to shave around 24 hours before applying your fake tan - shaving soon after you've applied fake tan can damage the colour. Just before tanning, exfoliate thoroughly before moisturising - pay extra attention to areas prone to dryness, such as elbows, knees and ankles. "Moisturising is important because DHA (the active tanning ingredient) can cling to dry areas causing an uneven colour," explains Natalie. " The DHA can also leave your skin feeling a little dry."
When it comes to the actual application, always use a mitt, which will help you to blend in the fake tan while avoiding those dreaded stained palms. Indeed, it's areas such as the palms which are commonly forgotten, says St Tropez skin finisher Jules Heptonstall, who has tanned everyone from the stars of X Factor to the models at London Fashion Week. "The most common mistake people make is forgetting about their hands and feet - leaving fake tan on the nails, palms, soles, knuckles and in between the fingers," reveals Jules. "After application, wipe the palms of your hands and nails to avoid any left over colouration. Rub a small bit of moisturiser into the bottom of your palm where it meets your wrists to blend the tan."
Unless you're some kind of double-jointed freak of nature, there are always going to be those hard-to-reach bits which lie just out of reach. Tools such as back applicators, which resemble long-handed spatulas and which are available from most chemists, can come in handy here, as do tanning sprays, which provide a continuous spray at any angle. It's also worth having a second read of the instructions - most tanning products will come with a guide which will point out the areas you're most likely to miss.
If you're not sure which shade to go for, it's worth checking out the DHA content. "One very common mistake is wearing a product with too high a DHA content," says Abi O, managing director of BeauBronz. "DHA is the self tan agent, so don't over do it! The Towie-type tan looks over done and the skin will be de hydrated. If you are fair or pale-skinned, start with a gradual tanner and build up slowly. If you have olive skin you can wear a higher percentage of DHA - i.e. a darker tan." And remember, the Umpa Lumpa look will never, ever be a good one.
Xen-Tan Body Scrub, £14.99
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