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How to: Avoid Fake Tan Faux-Pas (A Cautionary Tale)

Wed, 21 November 2012 12:54PM

We’ve chatted before here about the benefits and shortcomings of self tan. Some of you are spray-obsessed, keeping weekly appointments more religiously than most meetings in your diary. Others are pale skin-pro, shunning the often-orange side effects of these products, as poor Lindsay Lohan (who would so much prettier au naturel) advertises here:

Then there are those of you who, like me, dabble in D.I.Y.  I’ll go through winter sporting naturally pale limbs (who sees them, anyway?) then, as the weather warms up, I’ll dust off my trusty St. Tropez and pretend I’m a little more bronzed than I was born with.

And I’ve been doing this for, what, 15 years? More, perhaps. I even remember buying my first bottle of Ella Baché Great Tan Without Sun from the salon down the road when I was in high school.

Over the years, thankfully for us part-time tanners, the formulas have become less blotchy and more believable, easier to apply and (comparatively) sweeter smelling. And, trust me, I’ve done the research. I’ve sampled lotions, sprays, creams and wipes. Mousse is my favourite, for its simple-to-spread, virtually foolproof properties. But as part of my job is to test out the latest options on the market, I often need to stray from my regular go-tos. As I did last night. Which was my first mistake.

Now, Primpers, I’m not going to divulge the product in question here. Why? Because I think it could actually be quite good, indeed. In safer, smarter hands than mine were yesterday. The truth is I made so many rookie errors I’m actually ashamed of myself. And that ‘ain’t the tanner’s fault.

I knew things were bad when I woke up this morning to my boyfriend staring at me. Not in the loving, tender way you’d want. In a horrified way. He said, “You look like you’ve got a disease.” Sure enough, I was streaked from top to toe. Blotchy arms; a half-pale, stripy tummy; orange feet. But my legs had borne the brunt. White knees, brown calves, smudged thighs – the works. It was an epic fail – and one that, as a fake tanning regular, I was unused to dealing with.

But, here’s where I went wrong. Take heed, D.I.Yers:

1. It was late. We’ve all been there. After a couple of wines in front of Homeland, you suddenly remember you’ve got an event the next day you’d like to be a bit more glowy for. This is never, ever a good idea. If it does turn out fine, you’ve been lucky. Don’t tempt fate.

2. I tried a new formula. Not all tans are created equal. And each version requires slightly different application techniques and amount. Always do a patch test if you’re switching formulas or trying a new type. Or go all out, but never before an important day and preferably one on which you can hide indoors, or under clothes, should the need arise.

3. I used a mitt. Don’t get me wrong, those velour applicators are amazing for mousse. In fact, I’d never apply a foamy formula without one as they make it so much simpler. However, I was using a tinted gel this time. I don’t care what anyone says – mitts and gel don’t mix. They just don’t.

4. I didn’t concentrate. As a seasoned fake tanner, I normally don’t even think about what I’m doing when bronzing these days. But with a new formula, you must follow all the steps. Exfoliate well, first (I skipped it). Lightly moisturise any dry bits, like feet, knees and elbows (I didn’t). Apply slowly from your feet and work your way up, blending evenly but not too vigorously to prevent streaks. I simply slapped it on willy-nilly. And guess what? The worst happened. Be warned.

5.  I went straight to bed. If all of the above wasn’t enough, I put myself straight to bed, minutes after applying. I know! My legs got sheet marks and I won’t even discuss the dire situation of my poor, white bed linen. Serves me right.

So, if you’re a part-time tanner, please use my offhandedness as your example. While you might’ve been whacking it on for years, you never know when you might slip up. And then you’ll have to spend half-an-hour in the shower, as I did this morning, with the incredible EcoTan Extreme Exfoliant, $19.50, 1300 596 118 (an absolute must-have), trying to scrub away the evidence, with mixed success.

Tell me, Primpers, have you had a fake tan disaster like me? How did you fix it? And did it put you off forever?

– Emily x

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  • Posted by: adriennne Master Fan // Wed, 21 November 2012 02:19pm

    No real disasters. But I remember one year I used it way too much and I didn’t smell all that great.

    On another note, these days I’m mostly pale and don’t tend to go for a bronzed look BUT I did buy myself a bottle of EcoTan Organic Winter Skin and I quite like it. I don’t go overboard as I just want a nice wash of colour, and it gives me what I want after only one application. Doesn’t smell horrific either.

  • Posted by: daylight dancer Master Fan // Wed, 21 November 2012 03:13pm

    I fake tan sometimes. My cousins use the ella bache one all the time. Ive tanned with a mitt and mousse and it worked well but ill remember not to mitt and gel combine.
    Im usually all natural now. Just no time for committment to tan.

  • Posted by: misschris Master Fan // Wed, 21 November 2012 05:38pm

    My disaster wasn’t from a DIY job, it was from a salon. I asked for a subtle glow, but got a dark unnatural looking tan.

  • Posted by: melg Master Fan // Mon, 26 November 2012 07:40pm

    I’ve only ever had disasters, I’m just too darn pale to go brown

  • Posted by: cwingy83 Enthusiast // Wed, 28 November 2012 02:44pm

    not me..but i have a tutor in uni ..she looks like oopa loompa once with all the fake tan gone wrong

  • Posted by: loopylexy Master Fan // Wed, 28 November 2012 05:57pm

    Is it bad that this made me laugh? You poor thing!
    I don’t use fake tan so nothing exciting to tell, but when I see blotchy back-of-leg tans at uni, many a cringe occurs.

  • Posted by: MissJo Devotee // Tue, 4 December 2012 05:46pm

    You had me in stitches re the Homeland excuse! But I’ve never tried a home or salon tan. I’ve never met one that doesn’t look fake.

  • Posted by: anitas.artistry Master Fan // Fri, 25 January 2013 12:58pm

    This is why I avoid it!

  • Posted by: jo77 Master Fan // Mon, 8 April 2013 10:23am

    I’ve had a few ankle and knee dilemas, but nothing I couldn’t remedy with jeans!

  • Posted by: diva89 Master Fan // Sun, 12 May 2013 02:50pm

    nop i didnt really have disasters from DIY tan

  • Posted by: Erin-1312272625 Master Fan // Sat, 8 June 2013 04:57pm

    I never wear my tan to bed. I’m too scared.

  • Posted by: beautiful87 Master Fan // Wed, 10 July 2013 08:39pm

    Ella Bache brand has great tans, i love St Tropez too :)

  • Posted by: talkalot Master Fan // Thu, 28 May 2015 06:20pm

    I try and do everything correctly so my sunless tan looks flawless, so easy to mess up the application if you don’t heed beauty rules.

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