From The Expert: Men’s Self-Tan Tips

Inexperienced applications of at-home tans can be as risky as a gamble at the roulette table. However, on this wheel, it’s not red and black you’ll find, but everything from golden brown to tangerine orange.

The men that visit spray tanner to the stars James Harknett – whose clientèle includes Harry Styles – at the W Hotel in Leicester Square, London, can’t afford the high stakes of getting it wrong. That’s why they opt for Harknett’s extensive tanning menu, which includes services that can be washed off in as little as two hours, complete with muscle-defining contour techniques.

However, if you aren’t able to book in with the Tom Ford of tanning, it’s important to learn how to turn that risky roulette punt into a sure-fire bet that’s going to pay dividends for your look. Here are Harknett’s top tips for achieving a fresh from the Côte d’Azur glow in the comfort of your own bathroom.

1. The Giveaway: Your Face

When it comes to tanning, the face is the biggest giveaway, so it needs to be subtle. If the response to your glow you’re after is “you look well” rather than “which product did you use?”, Harknett recommends applying your tan like you would your daily facial moisturiser.

“Choose a tanning product that has a dark guide colour like Tom Ford’s Bronzing Gel, so there is no fear of missing a single area, thus no streaks or blotches,” he says.

“Work it in as you would your daily moisturiser and blend gently into the hairline, then use a tissue to remove any product from the eyebrows. Cleanse and shower in the morning for an effortless, subtle glow.”

Tom Ford Bronzing GelTom Ford Bronzing Gel – Click To Buy

2. Tanning With Stubble

A warm tan can help define the shape of a beard as well as make it look fuller and darker. However, gel, mousse and lotion self-tans can cling to the hairs, leaving a sticky, wet residue, giving your whiskers a ginger tinge – not a good look. This is when a mist-based product should come into play, says Harknett.

“A few short bursts across the face with a product like Sienna X Tanning Mist does the trick. This can also be applied in the morning after moisturising for an instant tan.

“After application, brush away any residue with a beard brush, smoothing down the face. A boar hair beard brush is ideal.”

Men's Recommended Beard Tanning Products

Sienna X Tanning Mist - Click To Buy MURDOCK GROOMING WOOD BEARD BRUSH - Click To Buy

3. Exercise vs Tan

Perspiration produced from physical activity such as going to the gym can mottle the colour of even the best self- and spray tans if unmanaged. Salty sweat causes the product to separate or ‘tear’ on certain areas of the body. Harknett’s fix?

“Use a fast drying moisturiser first thing in the morning, after a warm shower, then sprinkle some talc from the likes of Taylor’s of Bond St, onto a soft shaving brush and dust it around the pectorals, underarms and any particular areas you know that are prone to perspiring.”

“Another area to dust is the inner arm joins and backs of knees. These areas are constantly bending and can tear away at the tan. The talc helps avoid this common problem and keeps you drier and the tan more intact,” he adds.

Taylor's of Bond St Talcum PowderTaylor’s of Bond St Talcum Powder – Click To Buy

4. Gathering And Staining

A common problem that arises when self-tanning at home is gathering of product on areas such as wrists, along with stains on the palms and fingers.

How can you expect to shake hands with the boss in your next big meeting if you’re sporting an orange glove? If this happens, Harknett says the first port of call should be attempting to lift the colour.

“First apply a little Aromatherapy Associates beard or body oil and work in gently with a nail brush. Continue by adding a salt scrub or exfoliator and working into the tanning stain. Finish with some Blanx whitening toothpaste and rinse with hand-wash.”

Men's Recommended Self-Tan Removing Products

Aromatherapy Associates body oil - Click To Buy Blanx whitening toothpaste - Click To Buy

The Alternative: Going Pro

The rate at which men are queuing up to stand in front of a gun held by Harknett shows the extent of booming man tan market, and there are obvious benefits to letting a professional do the work.

From celebrities to city workers and the everyday men in between, all whom receive the same A-list treatment, each will have with their own anxieties first time. Many won’t want to look obviously tanned, while others worry the treatment will stick to their clothes and stain them.

“A professional expertly applied spray tan defines muscles, creates a more toned silhouette shape to the body and evens out skin tone,” says Harknett. “As well as being the safest way to glow, it is fast, easy and affordable, meaning doing it yourself isn’t the only option.”

Harknett’s Top Tips For Going Pro

  • Shower before your treatment to create a clear base for the tan to cling evenly and do not reapply deodorant, body lotion or moisturiser.
  • Shave or wax 24-hours before your appointment. Shaving exfoliates the skin and if done after the treatment, you will lose colour.
  • Ensure you have a consultation with the therapist to get the right shade for your look.
  • Most salons dry the skin after the spray treatment, allowing you to get dressed and go about your day or evening, but wear something loose and avoid a white shirt.
  • If you’re worried about feeling self-conscious of the colour back in the office or on the bus home, ask for a gentle dusting of product on the face.

Bookings for a James Harknett spray tan at the Away Spa, where prices start from £40, can be made online or by calling +44 (0)20 7758 1071.


Away Spa W London,

Leicester Square,

10 Wardour Street,



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