How to achieve the Perfect False Tan at Home

Whether you prefer to use a lotion, mousse or spray, at home tanning can be really effective but it can also be an absolute disaster.  Last week I posted a guide to choosing a false tan and as promised, today I’m going to share my top tips on how to achieve the perfect false tan at home. This is the routine that I follow when tanning to ensure a naturally bronzed look every time.

Selecting a Fake Tan
There are so many brands of false tan out there and it really is just a case of trial and error until you find one that you like. I’ve written a guide to choosing false tan that you can read here.

Hair removal and Exfoliating

When using a false tan it is really important to exfoliate the night before you apply it, even in the days leading up tanning if you have the time, if you don’t, make the night before tanning exfoliation count.  Use an oil free body scrub, Xen-Tan do a great one, this is so important and I’ll come onto why later.  Get in the bath, have a soak or stand under then shower for a few minutes to soften your skin, then either let the majority of the water out if you’re in the bath, or turn off the flow of water from the shower.  Using the body scrub rub it deeply into the skin in circular motions.  I exfoliate my whole body thoroughly and then go back to the rougher areas, paying particular attention to the feet, heels, knees and elbows.  I also like to exfoliate my under arms to make sure that the tan doesn’t settle in them.  If your skin is especially dry, scaly or a bit neglected then you might want to consider using some exfoliating gloves.  These can be bought pretty cheaply in pharmacies and body care shops and do a great job of smoothing out rough skin that’s in need of some extra exfoliation.  All you go is pop them on your hands, squeeze a bit of shower gel into your hands and run them over your body.  These are a very affordable way to exfoliate too as they’re so cheap to buy and last ages.

With regards hair removal, appropriate time must be left before tanning.  Waxing must be completed at least 24 hours before tanning and for epilating or shaving I’d always try to do it at least half a day before tanning, otherwise you run the risk of ending up with stripey legs or with the tan settling in the pores.  If I’m tanning at night, I tend to shave on the morning or if I’m tanning on a morning, which is rare, then I’ll tan the night before.  Simples!

Wearing Fake Bake Airbrush tan


Time to Moisturise

Once you’ve got rid of all that dry, dead skin you’ll need to put some moisture back into your skin using an oil free body moisturiser.  I personally like the Fake Bake Oil Free Moisturiser but there are many more out there.  The more days you can exfoliate and moisturise before you tan then the better prepared your skin will be and your tan will come out better as a result.  I moisturise my whole body then on the day I’m tanning I’ll just moisturise my drier areas.  Don’t forget to moisturise your underarms and the crease of your arm as I find tan has a tendency to settle here.

The Morning Before Tanning

I usually tan at night so on the morning of the day that I’m going to tan on, I have a shower and do my final exfoliation.  I moisturise afterwards and go about my day as normal.  I tend not to apply any other products to my skin as their ingredients can effect the tan developing, acting as a barrier and making it uneven, if they’re still on the skin when the tan is applied, this is particularly the case with deodorants and perfumes.


Preparing to Tan

Immediately before tanning, I tie my hair up tightly on the top of my head and apply Vaseline or oil free moisturiser around my hair line, through my eyebrows and on my finger and toe nails to act as a barrier so that the tan doesn’t gather around them.  I then apply a small amount of the Fake Bake Oil Free Moisturiser to my elbows, knees, wrists and feet.



Application Accessories and Preparing the Room

Regardless of whether I’m using a lotion, spray or mousse false tan, I always wear latex gloves so that I don’t end up with orange palms.  Mine are the blue ones that you get free when you buy any Fake Bake tan but any will do as long as they’re a good fit for your hands- too small and you risk them ripping, too big and you risk tan getting inside them or them effecting a smooth application.  I then wear a tanning mitt.  There are many available like the Deluxe Tanning Mitt from Xen Tan that I recently reviewed.  However my favourite tanning applicator is the Buffing Mitt from St. Tropez.  It’s made of a soft towelling material and leaves the most natural finish on the skin.  It makes applying false tan easy and trouble free.  If I’m applying tan on the left hand side of my body, I’ll wear my mitt on my right hand and swap it over when I’m doing the other side, but I’ll always wear the latex gloves on both hands at all times!

The room you tan in should be well lit and easy to clean, particularly if you’re using a spray formula.  I always tan in my bathroom with a towel on the floor for me to stand on and also one covering the toilet seat/ side of the bath so that I can rest my foot on it to tan.

Wearing Xen-Tan Mousse Intense

Application Method

To apply my false tan I start at my feet and work upwards, moving fairly quickly but accurately wearing latex gloves and the St Tropez Buffing Mitt I mentioned earlier.  The trick is to not end up leaning on to the areas of your body that you’ve already done as the tan will come off and you’ll end up patchy.  This isn’t much of a problem for those who are slimmer but for those who have a large tummy like I do then you need to be careful.  This has affected the way that I apply my tan.  I tend to squeeze/pump the tan onto the mitt and then onto my body, a fairly small amount at a time, unless I’m using a spray formula in which case I’ll spray it directly onto my skin and then buff in.  I buff the tan into my skin in circular motions, working up my body.  I do one foot working up the same leg to just above my knee, then I do the same on the other leg, I then stand up more straight and apply the tan to my upper legs, so as not to lean on the areas I’ve already done.  After tanning your legs, its important to keep them straight so that you don’t end up with bright white patches at the backs of your knees where you’ve bent them.  I then tan my tummy to just under my chest and I tan as much of my back as possible before shouting for Mr WLL to come and give me a hand on the areas I can’t reach.  St Tropez used to do these cool applicators to help you to tan your back but I’m not sure they sell them any more… if they do and you don’t have someone to help with your tanning then I’d really recommend them.  I then tan each arm, working upwards from my wrist and up onto my shoulders.  I keep my arms straight until the tan is dry and no longer tacky.  I tan my face lightly in the same way and work downwards, onto my ears, neck and blending it down onto my shoulders and chest.  I tan my hands last by removing the mitt and gloves and sweeping the mitt down my hands from my wrists to my fingertips.  I lightly tan in between my fingers.  A tip to ensure that your hands don’t go too dark or orange is to mix a little bit of oil free moisturiser in with your tan before applying it to your hands.  This can also be used when applying tan to the face and feet.  I’d also advise to lightly skim over these areas as well as the knees and elbows when tanning, don’t apply too much pressure so that the tan doesn’t settle here.

I apply a lot of tan so I always look pretty muddy after the application.  The only tan I would really go out in after tanning is the Fake Bake Airbrush, so all of the others I use at night.  Often when tanning, girls are frightened to use too much but that’s how you can end up streaky when you don’t apply enough.  My advice is to whack it on, don’t worry about using too much as long as your whole body is covered.  The buffing mitt ensures a smooth and even application so even if you’re looking a little darker in some areas than others you should still turn out streak free providing the whole body has been covered in tan.

Wearing Fake Bake Original tanning lotion

Tanning Time and Washing it Off
I tend to leave my tan to develop overnight for about 6-8 hours.  It can be done much quicker than this, like with the Fake Bake 60 minute tan or the Xen-Tan which gives you a beautiful colour after about 3 hours.

To wash my tan off, I have a light shower and move the shower head over my body to ensure that all areas of my body have been covered.  The guide colour should wash away to reveal a glowing gorgeous tan.  I wash my hair as normal in the shower but I make sure that I don’t use any products with oils in as this will strip my tan off.

Wearing St. Moriz self tanning spray mist

Personally, I prefer to tan once a week so I opt for tans that are a natural but dark colour after the first application.  If this isn’t for you, or you would like to build up to a darker tan, you could repeat the application of the tan the next night.  I just don’t have the time or the will to do this!

I maintain my tan by moisturising daily, again with an oil free moisturiser, and exfoliating every other day.  This helps the tan to fade evenly.

I always remove the rest of my tan after a week of wear, I never tend to build my tan up and tan on tan without removing it as I find that the build up makes it fade unevenly and I end up with clogged pores and a patchy tan.

Usually after a week of wear, my tan has pretty much faded.  To remove the last bits of my false tan, I run a bath and put in my favourite bath oil which is the Argan 5+ Dry Body Oil at the moment, but Johnson’s Baby Oil is a great alternative.  The oil helps to break up the tan.  I soak for about 10 minutes then using my exfoliating gloves, I rub my body to remove the rest of the tan.  After my bath I make sure I moisturise with a thick moisturiser or body butter, whether oil free or not it doesn’t matter here as my tan has been removed.

I hope this guide helps you to achieve a gorgeous false tan.  If you have any questions, please just ask.


  1. Sparkles
    September 1, 2012 / 4:02 pm

    Thanks for this post! Can really tell how much weight you've lost. you look amazing! x

  2. amanda pants
    May 12, 2014 / 9:16 pm

    I am waaaay late to the party, but I saw your black and yellow dress during a self-tan image search and it's *darling* – so I felt the need to tell you even though I'm sure you already know, haha. <3

    • WhatLauraLoves
      June 2, 2014 / 12:17 am

      Thanks so much Amanda for your lovely comment xxx

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