I’ll be honest: despite working in beauty for a number of years, I’m still a total fake tanning novice. I’m always the person at the party with awkwardly orange hands, patchy elbows, and uneven ankles to boot.
If you can relate, the answer to your self tan for winter woes is this: selective tanning. Selective tanning is the act of only fake tanning certain areas you know will be out, rather than your entire body.
Take for example the age-old ‘jeans and a nice top’ going out ensemble many of us so often turn to. You’ll only really be exposing the skin on your arms, shoulders, and décolletage most likely, with your feet also possibly making an appearance if strappy heels are your footwear of choice. For this reason, fake tanning all over just feels unnecessary — and very time consuming for those of us who have better things to do!
I spoke to top tanning experts to find out how selective tanning can work during the winter months, while also sharing my own top tips as a lazy girl who only tans the bits I know people will see…
Pick your areas wisely
Let’s start with the basics: where to actually tan. This is totally dependent on what you’ll be wearing and thus, which areas will be on show. It’s safe to assume that your face and shoulders will be, along with possibly arms, feet, and ankles. Unfortunately, these are some of the hardest areas to tan in general, but I’ve gleamed a few top tips from the experts that may help.
Founder of Isle of Paradise Jules Von Hep for example, recommends using the ‘towel trick’ when doing your wrists and hands. “Hang a towel onto the back of your door and rub your wrists together [after tanning]; this removes those pesky tell-tale tan lines,” he says. Silver Goodwin, Vita Liberata’s Education Manager, suggests the ‘damp cloth routine,’ instead: “wipe your ankles, knuckles and where the palm of your hand meets your wrist,” to ensure product is applied super sparsely and looking natural rather than overdone. When it comes to the face, it’s all about the formula, which we’ll get onto later.
Make it natural-looking
A given, but ensuring your self tan looks natural is essential when only working on certain areas, and during winter in general. ‘Remember the whole reason you’re using self tan is to look like you’ve slept a month or just got back from vacation – not to look like you’ve bought a bottle of self tan,’ notes Von Hep, rather comically.
Von Hep recommends switching up the shade you’d usually go for because of this: ‘When tanning in winter the light is completely different due to the position of the sun in the sky — a lighter shade choice means the tan will even out skin tone without taking it too dark.”
Blend, blend, blend
This leads nicely onto my next point: blending. A natural-looking self tan for winter depends on a stringent blending routine, particularly if you’re selectively applying. I’ve certainly learnt from my own mistakes, and realised that no matter how short on time you are, taking a rushed approach to self tanning will not serve you in the long run.
Take your time to ensure everything looks even, and use an expert-approved technique, such as Goodwin’s. “The foolproof application that all professional tanners use to avoid streaks and ensure clean blending is to use elongated circular movements. The bigger the better, lightly buffing in the formula so it looks as natural as possible,” she says.
Reach for clever tools
Blending is made even easier with the correct tools, I’ve quickly learnt. I won’t even look at a bottle of tan if I don’t have a mitt handy these days, and a back applicator is a great addition to have on standby for the backs of your shoulders, which will likely be out if you’re selective tanning.
Von Hep also suggests giving a kabuki brush a try, especially for the areas you’ll be focusing on like the wrists, neck, ankles and feet. “A brush has super fine follicles, and can therefore blend a tan much more naturally than fingers could,” he explains.
And if all else fails? “A household sponge can work,” says Von Hep. Yep, really.
Choose the best formula for the job
The winning formula for selective tanning is — in my humble opinion — Vita Liberata’s Body Blur, which is a wash-off product that blends like a dream and won’t leave awkward lines. “It’s packed with nourishing ingredients, so if you’re suffering any winter dryness, it still guarantees a flawless result,” says Goodwin. “You can use it on specific areas with a mitt or kabuki brush to ensure controlled application.”
Mists are also great for natural tanning, as they’re pretty subtle and don’t take much know-how when it comes to application. Oskia’s, for example, is amazing and can be used on the face and body.
Speaking of the face, if there’s one thing I implore you to do it’s to find a formula that’s designed specifically for the face. Body self tan formulas can cause dryness and breakouts if used on the face, so a moisturising tan with specific skincare benefits is definitely preferable. Bronzing drops come into their own here; easily mixed into your existing skincare, they make the whole process delightfully simple.
Your must-have kit for selective fake tanning:
Best for: a wash-off experience
The ultimate wash-off tan for selected body bits, this now comes in a range of shades and also a gradual tanning version.
Best for: easy body and face application
The most natural yet effective tanning water mist I’ve ever used, this can be spritzed over the face, shoulders, arms and décolletage for all your winter self tan needs.
Best for: blending delicate areas
The kabuki Von Hep himself turns to, this is a must-have buy for blending delicate areas like hands, wrists, ankles and feet.
Best for: reliable limbs application
Easily the best tanning mitt in the business by a country mile, this is super high quality, thick and super soft.
Best for: a seamless face glow
The easiest, faff-free way to tan your face for a natural winter glow? Mix bronzing drops into your serum, moisturiser, or primer.
Best for: simple back application
Back applicators deserve a place in your tanning arsenal, especially if you live alone!
Best for: when all else fails
At your wits end? Grab your gradual tan and run with it. This one is cheap and cheerful, and a bestseller for a reason.