If you’ve found this page, maybe you’re a complete beginner to the world of fake tanning, or maybe you’ve been doing it for a while but are looking to perfect your technique. Either way, you’re asking; What is the best way to apply fake tan? Keep reading for the ultimate tried and tested fake tan application.


Contrary to what you may think, your preparation will be the most important step when it comes to the evenness and duration of your tan application. Having the correct skin preparation can be the difference between your tan lasting 2 days, or 20.

1. Exfoliating

Ensure that your body is properly exfoliated before applying your tan. There is some division over whether you should do this step the night before you tan, or directly before. Personally, I have always showered and exfoliated directly before my tanning applications and I have never had an issue.

There are multiple options when it comes to exfoliating. An obvious one is shaving. When you shave your legs (or anywhere else for that matter), the razor will take off the top layer of your skin cells, which is a very effective exfoliation.

Another option is exfoliating gloves, which work very well both for prepping the skin for tanning and also when the time comes to remove your tan. If you’re new to the world of tanning, I promise you, invest in a pair of exfoliating gloves, and you will never look back.

Finally, I love exfoliating scrubs for my tanning prep. Not only do these really nicely soften the skin, but they often contain extra ingredients which gives lovely scents or added benefits. My favourite is currently The Body Shop Shea Butter Body Scrub. Not only does this leave your skin feeling amazingly soft, but it also puts a lot of moisture back in your skin which is very important for a good tanning routine.

2. Moisturising

The second, and equally important phase of your tanning preparation is moisturising. This step is so important because the fake tanning process can be very drying on your skin, and when your skin is dry, your skin cells will shed faster, meaning your tan fades quicker! For this reason, it’s super important to keep your skin hydrated so that you can get the best longevity out of your tan.

After your shower (and exfoliation), you have 2 options. You can either use a body lotion to moisturise your entire body, or you can just moisturise the areas which fake tan “clings to”. This is purely a matter of personal preference, and everybody’s skin is different, however it is imperative that as a minimum, you moisturise the parts that fake tan “clings to”. These areas are; your knees, your ankles, your elbows, your hands (including wrists), and your face. These are the areas which tend to have drier or rougher textured skin, which can make the tan appear darker or patchy over these areas. Apply your moisturiser at least 10 minutes before you fake tan, but ensure it has been on your skin long enough to soak in.

My personal favourite body lotion to use before a fake tan application is this super affordable one from Neutrogina. It is a perfect consistency whereby it is thick enough to give you a real boost of hydration but it is thin enough that it soaks in perfectly without leaving a sticky residue on your skin.

Tanning Application

1. Body

For the optimum application of your fake tan on your body, you should use a mitt that works well for you. Whether it’s a basic £3 Velvotan one or a more expensive velvet mitt, this choice is completely down to personal preference again and what works best for you. I have tried many mitts over the years, and I personally always opt for my cheap Velvotan ones, as they always give me a seamless application, without soaking up all the product.

When applying, work in circular motions, taking one section of your body at a time. It would definitely be useful to have a friend or partner help you with your back which can be really hard to reach if you aren’t used to tanning by yourself. Having a guide colour in your tan will make it much easier to see if you’ve missed any spots, that’s why I would always recommend a tan with a guide colour for beginners.

2. Face

I have read and watched so many approaches to tanning faces as it’s an area I previously struggled with. The method that works best for me and gives me a really even application, is to apply a good layer of moisturiser before applying the tan to your face, and then applying a layer of moisturiser after too. This can feel like you’re breaking some sort of sacred rule, but I promise you it doesn’t mess up your layer of tan and actually makes it look much smoother.



This is by far the most important step when it comes to the longevity of your tan. A lot of people make the mistake of having brilliant preparation and application, achieve a flawless tan, and then just leave it, and are disappointed when it only lasts a few days before it starts to go patchy.

This is because, to maintain a tan to the absolute maximum length of time possible, your skin needs to be constantly hydrated. This means applying a moisturiser every day after your shower or bath. I know that this can seem extremely long-winded, and you might argue that you don’t have enough time to do this every single day, however, the extra few minutes this step takes will really pay dividends when your tan lasts an extra 2 weeks longer. Moisturising your body might be a faff – but it’s certainly significantly quicker than an entire new fake tan application.

My personal favourite lotion for this step is the Palmers Cocoa Butter Gradual Tanning Lotion. This is a body lotion with a tiny amount of self tanner in it, which I think is perfect for the maintenance stage because not only does it hydrate your skin, but it tops up your colour to keep your tan looking nice and deep days after application. It also smells amazing. My only advice if you do invest in this product is to wash the palms of your hands after applying it, as for some reason it can tend to stain your hands quite badly, alternatively you can wear gloves.

When you (inevitably) find your tan starting to fade and lose colour after a few days, a fabulous way to top it up is to use another tanning product over the top of your mousse tan, to give it a boost of colour and longevity. My favourite product for doing this is the Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Tanning Oil, which is a fantastic product on it’s own but I especially love it as a tan topper. On around day 3/4 of my mousse tan, I apply this oil all over my body and voila! My tan looks fresh and new again. This product is also great if you’re starting to experience patches or streaks, as it blends them right out, and no need to wash off, just apply and go.


I hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the important steps that go into developing a really strong tanning routine. Time and time again I hear people say “I didn’t like *insert brand name here* tan, it only lasted 4 days!”, when in practice, it’s not the tan that is at fault but the preparation and maintenance steps. Perfecting these steps, you can achieve an even tanning application every time, and make it last for as long as absolutely possible. Please leave me any comments or questions you may have down below!