5 Fake-Tan Mistakes We All Make (And How to Fix Them)

women in the sun

Fake tanning can seem like a daunting prospect. Those accidental streaks and patches always look bad, whether it's winter or summer. But come May, we're thinking of all the weddings and various events that require feeling our best. The thing is, a little fake tan can work wonders for a sallow pallor made pale by the winter and is especially great during the imminent wedding season; the trick is to tread lightly.

Want to know how to fake tan like a pro once and for all and avoid the common mistakes we've all made? Of course you do, which is why we called on Carly Hobbs, a celebrity tanner and brand ambassador for Sienna X.

Mistake #1: Not Prepping

That classic saying "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail" should have been invented for tanning. If you don't exfoliate or pay attention to key areas and close off those pores, the results will be streaky, uneven and darker where you don't want it to be.

Golden Glow Solution: Pre-tan exfoliate like a boss, buffing with specialized products, like Sienna X Polishing Body Scrub ($15). This gets rid of any roughness, meaning your tan will glide on. Don't moisturize all over as this stops your tan from sticking properly. However, do give your elbows, fingers, between the fingers, knees and toes a wipe over with a moisturizer.

Shave at least 12 hours before your tan to allow those leg and underarm pores times to close. In fact, you can even rinse off with cold water and pat dry before the tan to make super sure your pores are closed. And finally, prep-wise, make sure that you wipe off any deodorant under the arms—it can react with the natural tan ingredients and go a bit green. You have been warned.

Mistake #2: Rushing

If you're rushing your tan, like most things in life, you will make mistakes. You might miss bits, overwork others and smudge all your hard work.

Golden Glow Solution: Rushed for time? Book in for a spray tan at a top tanner, because a session with a professional will take just 20 minutes. All you have to do is pop on the paper pants/hair cap combo and let them take care of the rest.

If you are going for a DIY approach, and why not, products like Sienna X Deep Self Tan ($19) are amazing, then make sure you give yourself at least 30 minutes tanning time. Standing in front of a mirror, use a mitt and your reflection to work color from neck to toe, using wiping motions until the color is evenly covering you. Leave face, feet, and hands until the end, not adding more product to the mitt, but merely using the excess to apply limited color so you don't look too done. Finally, make sure you clean up—use a baby wipe to clean off palms, between the fingers and the toenails and fingernails—all those places you'd never tan!

Fake Tan Mistake #3: Shade Selection

Going too dark or not dark enough can leave you wishing that you hadn't bothered tanning at all while giving you flashbacks to when you first tried to color-match your foundation. Sob.

Golden Glow Solution: Go shopping and invest in a top tanner. The good brands these days have created formulas that react with your natural pH balance and skin tone, meaning we each get our own bespoke glow to go. Don't be tempted by cheap offerings, they will give you a cheap-looking tan. My current fave for at-home tanning is Sienna X Q10 Bronzing Mousse ($19) as it gives a great sunkissed result, plus is super hydrating to skin thanks to the Q10 complex more commonly found in pricey facial skincare.

And don't be tempted to laden on tan to get a deeper color, because you will just end up looking dirty. Instead, do one application, let it develop, rinse off the guide color, then do a section application. Building up the color this way gives your skin the chance to absorb the color and the finish will be like you went on a fancy holiday to Miami.

Mistake #4: Rough Buffing

You've nailed an even, all-over glow with your own fair hands, or thanks to the expert hand of a tan gun-waving specialist. But then you go and spoil it all by being less than gentle with your tan—rubbing too hard with a towel or clothes.

Golden Glow Solution: As soon as you've finished tanning, put on loose clothes—joggers, T-shirt or even a onesie—they had to be good for something! Bear in mind you shouldn't wear a bra for at least an hour after tanning—the wires and straps can dent your color. Anything too tight will pull and smudge your tan. Keep things loose for at least eight hours, and on the off-chance you do see any patches or marks, grab the Sienna X Luxury Self Tan Mitt ($5) and press/pat over the color, as if you're pushing your body away—that kind of motion. In serious cases, add a little more tan until it looks even again. When showering at the end of your tan's development time, rinse off, don't use any shower gels, don't scrub in the shower and when you're done, pat rather than rub yourself dry. Towels can be pesky at messing up color, so go gently. Or run around naked until you're dry—the choice is yours.

Mistake #5: Forgetting Finishing Touches

Just like with your makeup, if you don't add little extras at the end once your tan is safely in place, it can look less than luxe and fade at super-speed. Maintenance is key. 

Golden Glow Solution: Switch to a tinted body balm (Ed. note: We love Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Sunkissed Tint Body Lotion, $20); it will look after your color and blur everything as your tan starts to fade. You can also keep your tan topped up with Sienna X Gradual Self Tan Lotion, $13. Use it every other day to make your eight-day tan last weeks!

You can follow Hobbs on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter @carlytoptip.

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