How to create a convincing fake tan: The ultimate no-streaks guide by Jacquie Carter

How to create a convincing fake tan: the ultimate no-streaks guide

Whatever the weather, having glowing skin can help improve everyone’s complexion. Here’s my ultimate guide to fake tan!

Since sunbathing without protection is a big no-no but sun kissed skin is still considered a good beauty look, I know all of us are happy to have a sunless alternative. Let’s raise a cheer for fake tan, also known as sunless tanner.

These sunless tanning products have come a long way in the last few years. The active ingredient in most products, called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), darkens the skin to mimic tanning from the sun. The beauty of fake tan products is that they give us a marvelous tan, as if we’ve just returned from a tropical vacation, without risking burn and skin damage from staying out in the sun too long. Many fake tan options contain SPF and moisturizing ingredients, too.

When they first came on the market, fake tans were unpredictable and you saw a lot of bright orange carrots walking around! Sunless tanners are much better now but you still want to take the right steps to get great results. Read on or watch my video to learn how you can make beautiful sun-kissed skin appear effortless.


Get ready for a sunless tan

Your journey to a beautiful sunless tan ideally starts the night before. Begin by shaving and exfoliating thoroughly. Use a body scrub and pay special attention to areas where your skin is thicker and rougher. You’ll want to smooth out your elbows, knees and ankles as much as possible. Fake tan will color unevenly if it is applied to skin with a different texture so the more you can exfoliate and soften your skin beforehand, the better.

Prepare your skin

Allow plenty of time to apply your fake tan, as well as at least 30 minutes before getting dressed. Your skin should be clean and smooth; apply moisturizer particularly to your rougher areas. Make sure your skin is completely dry as any moisture on the skin can thin the product and cause streaks.

Apply in sections

The biggest challenge with fake tans today is getting even coverage. Some products are tinted so that you can see where you are applying it, but it’s still tough to get perfectly even, streak-free results even for the pros! If this is your first time with a fake tan you’ll want to be super methodical with this next step.

Apply product in sections—arms, legs, stomach, etc.—with a uniform circular motion. Always start from the top and move down; for the arms start with the shoulder then move to the upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, then back of the hand. For your back, use a cloth strap or long handled brush and take your time to cover every inch.

For elbows, knees and ankles, you might want to gently blot some of the excess product after applying so it isn’t too dark. Then apply more moisturizer to those areas.

Don’t give yourself away

Even though the best tans now come from bottles and tubes, giveaway orange hands are not a good look. Wash your hands several times throughout the application process so that your palms don’t get discolored.

Give it time

You should wait at least 30 minutes after applying your fake tan to get dressed, then wear loose clothing for as long as possible so you don’t rub or streak the color. Do not do anything that breaks a sweat or get wet for at least a couple of hours. Did I mention that this is one thing you don’t want to rush through?

It’s a great idea to start with a lighter tan and work your way to a darker one if you wish. Going darker is much easier than trying to lighten up afterwards! If your result is too dark then be patient, it will fade in a couple of days; you can also spot lighten by rubbing a cut lemon on the darker areas.

Stay sun aware

You should always use a self-tanner with sunscreen; otherwise apply your own sunscreen before going out.


Congratulations—you are now beautifully bronzed without ever being exposed to one ray of sunlight! Your tan should look great for 4-7 days before it starts to fade. Some people reapply once a week on their body and twice a week on their face. After a few attempts, you’ll get all of this down to a perfect science after a few weeks.

Of course, if you feel like sharing your colorful mistakes with me right here in comments I won’t judge you, I promise!

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