Holidays are like Netflix binges: unless you quit your job, sooner or later they have to come to an end.
But while returning home might rob you of your happiness, it needn’t rob you of your holiday tan. By following a few golden rules, putting to work a solid grooming regime and learning some clever tricks, it’s easy to get extra air miles out of your colour.
Here’s your ticket to getting the perfect tan (and keeping it).
What Is A Tan?
First, the science: A tan occurs when sun exposure causes the skin to produce a brown pigment known as melanin in the epidermis (that’s the two outer layers of your skin, by the way). This is the body’s way of protecting itself from damage caused by UVA rays (which age your skin) and UVB rays (which cause sunburn).
But because skin naturally sheds and generates millions of cells every day, the average life expectancy of a tan is only around 7-10 days once back under grey skies.
1. Prepare And Maintain
The key to prolonging a tan starts before you even get one. Scrubbing an already milky pallor might seem like it’d put you on the back foot, but exfoliating helps slough off old skin cells so that the sun can shine on new cells at the beginning of their life cycle.
“Using a daily exfoliating body wash two weeks prior to your holiday, and on every day on your trip will prepare your skin for prolonged sun exposure and ensure a deeper, more even tan,” advises Kiehl’s education executive Bianca Blum.
Once back on home soil, continue exfoliating every two to three days to avoid a buildup of dead cells that can make skin look dull and lacklustre.
“A natural tan is much deeper in the skin compared to a fake tan,” explains skincare expert Andy Millward. “So unless you’re using strong acids or physical exfoliation daily, then your holiday tan won’t be affected.”
2. Tan Safe
The temptation, particularly if you’re only away for a week, is to rush a tan by laying on a sun lounger until you look like old parchment. However, as Millward points out, cooking yourself alive isn’t the answer to a cover model tan.
“Our skin is very intelligent,” he says. “If it has been burnt it will start to repair the damage by creating new cells as fast as possible and shedding the damaged ones before they can turn cancerous. This is when the skin peels and you actually lose your tan faster.”
To avoid the lizard-man look, always use a broad spectrum SPF (one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays) ideally between 30 and 50. Anything below 15 is about as much use as a concrete parachute.
3. Cool Off
Everything can feel a bit frigid after coming back from sunnier climes, prompting most to turn up the shower’s temperature dial to get their skin feeling warm again.
But as good as it might feel, near-scalding water is bad news for your tan. It damages the skin’s natural barrier function and strips the body of all the oils that help lock-in your holiday glow.
“Hot showers contribute to skin dryness, which is a tan’s worst nightmare because it can bring about peeling,” says Escentual skincare expert Emma Leslie. “Keep showers cool, and use products that focus on moisturising.”
If they aren’t already in your grooming arsenal, stock up on products rich in skin-saving ingredients such as aloe vera, shea butter and jojoba oil.
4. Optimise Results
There are a number of tablets, oils and lotions on the market that claim to be able to not only accelerate tanning, but help maintain it too. These usually work by artificially stimulating melanin production, but they’re not products dermatologists can get down with.
“I don’t recommend these products as they can lead to an increase in dark spots and hyperpigmentation due to the melanin which has been stimulated clustering together in the sun,” says Blum.
If on the lookout for a pre-holiday primer, opt for supplements that support the body’s ability to tan by boosting normal cell function. Or look for after-sun lotions that contain self-tanning agents – a great way to safely add extra colour long after you’ve packed up the beach towel.
5. Stay Moisturised
The most vital step in fending off the fade is to keep skin slick with moisturiser.
“Skin needs to be moisturised daily regardless of sun exposure, but if you have been out in the sun you may find that your skin has become sensitive, dryer and more dehydrated,” says Sally Penford, education manager at the International Dermal Institute.
It’s also worth switching that poolside pint of lager for water, and plenty of it, if you want that beach body to stay brown.
The safest and quickest way to get a tan without looking like Iggy Pop is to fake it. The UK’s leading spray tanner James Harknett, whose past clients include the likes of Harry Styles, says 15 minutes in his spa can also help eke out a natural tan for an extra 7-10 days.
“Wait until you notice you’re only slightly darker than your pre-holiday shade, then get a spray tan to boost the colour,” says Harknett. “Natural tans don’t always disappear evenly but a professional will be able to identify where it has faded quickest – such as on the face – and even it out.”
7. Cheat With Your Clothes
A tan can fade as quickly as it appeared, so knowing which colours work to give it extra mileage is essential. This goes beyond the old trick of wearing white, says David Gandy’s go-to stylist Joe Ottaway.
“Any pastel colour from blue to pale pink is going to help maximise your tan as these [hues] help increase the warm tones in your skin. For chaps who have dark hair and a deep olive tone to their tan, wearing black will highlight the golden tones.”