How to get the perfect at-home fake tan, according to the experts

It all starts with finding the right product for your skin tone.

By Erin Cook

This year, winter was longreaaaal long. But fortunately for us, those dark days are now in the past.

If you're anything like us (small, green and covered in spots), you're probably obsessed with fake tan come summer. That faux glow takes off five kilograms, makes us look more toned and puts a little spring in our step at the beach.

However, in the wrong hands, self-tanner has the potential to work against you. Blotchy legs, orange hands and stained elbows? Not-so-cute…

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Here, Cosmo chats to YouTuber and face of Le Tan's Uber Dark range Cartia Mallan, along with Kristyn Pradas, the tanning expert who spray tans Angels for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for their fake tan tips and tricks.

Finding the right fake tan for your skin tone

Arguably, the most important step to nailing that faux glow is finding a product that can provide the result you're after. Plus, there's also your skin tone to think about — what suits fair skin won't necessarily look right on dark skin.

For fair skin

Ella Baché Great Tan Without Sun, $40 at Adore Beauty has a reputation for being the best product in the biz for girls and guys with a fair complexion. As one Beauty Heaven editor put it: "Never streaky, never orange, and never stinky, it's my most-loved cream tanner."

For medium to dark skin tones

As far as we're concerned, the best fake tans on the market include Jergen's Natural Glow Instant Sun Deep Bronze Tanning Mousse, $15.99 at Priceline, St Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse Classic, $39.99 at Priceline and Le Tan's new Uber Dark range, $24.99 at Le Tan.

While the former two product are old favourites, Le Tan Uber Dark is changing the game with its three different bases. The Uber Dark Ash base is perfect for fair skin tones who want a dark tan. While the Uber Dark Violet Base is perfect for olive complexions and the Uber Dark Green Base works on any skin tone.

For those who are new to fake tanning

Applying fake tan is a process, man. If you don't have the desire or time to spend 30 minutes perfecting the application, try a gradual tan instead. The results are lighter and, ah, more gradual. Read our list of top gradual tans in Australia here.

How to prep your skin for fake tan

Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. The secret to an even fake tan lies in the base. For Cartia, it's a simple process: "all I do is use a mitt and I get body soap and I'll make sure I exfoliate all the areas I'm tanning." Simple but effective.

To make sure your skin is prepped and exfoliated to within an inch of its life, Kristyn recommends exfoliating skin the day before and shaving with a razor the day of. In addition to the tried-and-tested body scrub or exfoliating method, shaving can really help to scrub get rid of those last dead skin cells.

The next step in prep? Moisturising. As Kristyn explains to Cosmo US, dry skin tends to absorb more pigment than other areas of your body, causing a patchy finish. To prevent unevenness, apply an oil and fragrance-free moisturiser all over your body as soon as your get out of the shower. Try Cetaphil Body Moisturiser Lotion, $17 at Woolworths or DermaVeen Everyday Moisturising Lotion, $24.99 at Chemist Warehouse. After applying a moisturising lotion, wait 20 minutes before applying the tanning product.

How to apply fake tan the right way

If you're using a foaming tanner, invest in an applicator mitt to ensure even coverage. A mitt helps to ensure you don't overdo it in one area. Apply the formula straight to the mitt, and then blend and buff as you go.

For your face, Kristyn recommends applying foam to the mitt and then folding in half. This gets rid of excess product in one concentrated spot and ensures your face gets light, even coverage.

To avoid build up on the elbows, knees and ankles, Cartia goes back in with a teensy bit of moisturiser before the tan dries. "To avoid those awkward orange patches just blend the tan with a moisturiser," she says.

Hands are another tricky spot for fake tan aficionados. To prevent that annoying effect when your hands are white and your arms are bronzed, Cartia uses moisturiser again to blend the product: "I'll kind of get moisturiser and drag it... I find that that helps the most I think."

Once you're happy with your application, scrub your hands with an exfoliator, says Kristyn. The grittiness of the scrub should remove any leftover tanner that has attached itself to your palms in the process.

How to make a fake tan last longer

If you've gone to all this effort to make sure you're bronze AF, you'll want the spray tan to stay around for a while, right?


To keep your tan looking fresh for a week (or longer!), it's important to keep your skin hydrated. "If I have a dark tan and I want to extend it, I'll moisturise every day," Cartia says.

Opt for an oil-free moisturiser and body wash to maintain your tan. According to Kristyn, anything oil-based has the potential to make your tan fade faster.