In the last few years, an increasing number of men have swapped sunbeds and sun loungers for a tan from a bottle, tube or spray nozzle. Safer, faster and more fashionable than ever, the fake tan has become the way to get bronzed.

So popular has faking it become that according to market researchers Mintel, nearly a third of men aged between 16-25 have experimented with a self-tanning product. And it’s easy to see why. As well as allowing us to cheat unpredictable weather, a fake tan can hide a multitude of imperfections, make us less self-conscious when we hit the beach and even make us look a little buffer (as celebrity tanner James Read puts it, “If you can’t tone it, tan it!”).

What’s more, a recent survey by TanOrganic revealed that 58 per cent of us feel sexier with a tan and that nearly 90 per cent of us reckon we’re more attractive with one too. But the fact remains that few grooming activities terrify men more than applying fake tan, in part because we fear we’ll botch the job and end up a shade that’s somewhere between Oompa Loompa and mahogany headboard.

But with advancing technology and application methods, the days of streaky, fake-looking fake tans are long gone. So, whether you’re thinking about a spray tan or you fancy having a go at home, here’s what to do.

The Tan Commandments

1. Do A Patch Test If You’re Nervous

Applying a little fake tan to a part of your body most people don’t see is a good way to experiment with application, test the colour of the tan, and see whether you have any skin sensitivity to its ingredients.

2. Choose Your Weapon

“You can use creams but sprays, liquids and mousses are especially good for men as they are lighter on the skin and don’t stick to body hair,” says James Read.

Worth investigating are Read’s own Clear Bronzing Mist and St Tropez’s Self Tan Body Spray. With 360-degree nozzle technology, they allow you to spray at any angle, making it easier to reach those tricky bits.

Some others, like Sienna X Express Tanning Mist and Fake Bake’s Airbrush Instant Self Tan, provide an instant ‘cosmetic’ colour on the skin that allows you to see where you’ve applied – a bit like those ceiling paints that go on blue but dry white.

JAMES READ Clear Bronzing Mist Face & Body 200ml St.Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Spray 200ml Sienna X Express Tanning Mist 150ml Fake Bake Airbrush Instant Self-Tan, 207ml

3. Go Gradual

If you’re worried about turning up at the office paper white one day, and the colour of Valentino Garavani himself the next, then avoid deep mahogany self-tanners and start by using a light tone product like Garnier Ambre Solaire Light Glow No Streaks Bronzer For Fair Skin. “You can always build up the colour,” says Read.

If you’re particularly trepidatious, or just want a subtle colour, try using gradual tans like James Read Dry Body Gradual Tan, Fake Bake’s Fair Gradual Tan Lotion or St Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan For the Body, which all build up gradually the more you use.

Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Self-Tanning Body Mist Light James Read DAY TAN BODY Fake Bake Fair Self-Tan Lotion St.Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan Body

4. Exfoliate

The most common mistake men make when using a self-tanner is not exfoliating the skin beforehand. Fail to exfoliate and you’ll likely get patchy, uneven results so it’s always worth sloughing off dead skin cells with a body or face scrub before you tan. Exfoliating skin also ensures the active agent in fake tans, dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, bonds properly with the skin.

For another analogy, it’s a bit like using gloss paint on an uneven surface: sand down that surface first and you’ll get much better results. Make sure you rinse skin thoroughly with clean water afterwards, though, as soap residues can affect the colour of the tan.

5. Moisturise Your Dry Bits

Since the wrists, elbows, knees, heels and ankles (where skin tends be drier) are likely to absorb fake tan better, it’s worth applying a little moisturiser to these regions before using the self-tanner and to use the tanning product sparingly in these areas.

6. Get The Face Right

According to Read, the face should always be slightly lighter than the rest of your body, so he suggests applying a little moisturiser to your face before applying your fake tan.

Ideally, you’ll also want to apply your tan when clean-shaven – simply rub a little moisturiser into your sideburns and eyebrows before applying your tan or, to protect them completely, a little petroleum jelly.

7. Man-up With A Mitt

Whatever product you’re using, applying with a tanning mitt like Tan Organic’s Luxury Application Glove will help you get more even results and, if you’re on the hairier side, ensure the tan makes contact with the skin properly.

Use long, smooth and gentle strokes (“Over rubbing will make your tan look uneven,” warns Read) and don’t over apply – you can always top up your tan at a later date with a further application.

If you’re doing your own back, Read suggests spraying the tan over your shoulders and bending forwards to let it settle evenly on your back. Ideally, though, a willing assistant is the best option if you’re after an all-over, even tan.


8. Allow The Tan To Dry

Once you’ve finished, wait until your self-tan is dry to the touch before dressing, try to stay cool (sweat can interfere with the results) and avoid tight clothing for a few hours afterwards. Don’t use eau de toilettes on the skin for eight hours afterwards either.

9. Wash Hands Immediately After Using

Bronze glow? Great. Hands that look like brown gloves? Not so much.

10. Correct Any Mistakes

If you go wrong and end up with dark patches or streaks, you can remove some of the tan with a tan removal product like White To Brown Sunless Tan Removal Wipes or the Bronze Buffer Self Tan Remover.

Alternatively, for DIY removal, try Read’s tip of soaking a dried out wet wipe in lemon, or lime, juice and rubbing it over the offending area.

Whitetobrown Sunless Tan Removal Wipes Pack of 80 Bronze Buffer Self Tan Remover 2Pieces

Moisturise To Maintain

Since DHA – the tanning agent in fake tan – can make skin dry, aftercare is important once you’ve applied your product.

“The best way to maintain your tan and keep skin in tip top condition is by moisturising daily with an oil-free body moisturiser,” says tanning expert James Harknett. He also advises against taking very hot showers or using body exfoliators for several days afterwards, and recommends you gently pat, rather than rub, your skin dry with a towel.

Consider Wash-Offs

Want some colour but don’t want to risk a self-tanner? Then fake rude health with a wash-off product like St Tropez Instant Glow Wash Off Face Lotion or James Read Wash Off Tan instead. Unlike fake tans, the results are instant and because they wash off, you’re in total control of the colour.

They’re great for filling in tan lines or perking up skin for things like wedding photos, job interviews or important dates. A small amount is all you need to give skin a hint of colour and you apply them as you would a moisturiser.


Don’t Spray & Pray – Pay Instead

Still don’t have the confidence to try a fake tan at home? Then consider having a professional spray tan instead. Prices vary depending on the salon and the part of the country you live in but expect to pay in the region of £20-40 for a full body tan (a full body tan at The Station Spa in Covent Garden, using Sienna X products, is £40 for example).

The main advantage is that they’re quick (taking around thirty minutes) and there won’t be any missed spots. The bad news is you’ll have to wear disposable pants (provided) or bring your own pants/trunks, but ensure they’re of a dark material.

It’s a good idea to exfoliate from top to toe before you go and to skip deodorant, fragrance and moisturiser on the day as they can interfere with the product. And don’t head off to the gym afterwards either – as we mentioned earlier, profuse sweating can affect the results too.

The best way to find a good tanner is to ask around and choose by reputation. Ensure you’ve exfoliated before your appointment (unless it’s part of the package) and don’t be afraid to discuss exactly what kind of colour you’re after with the therapist.

You can even create the illusion of muscles with a spray tan, where an all-over base tan is followed up with careful shading of specific areas to define contours and emphasise muscles. You have to have something vaguely resembling muscles to begin with and results are only as good as the skill of the therapist, but if your six pack has slumped a little lately, then it might be an option worth considering.

Final Word

Don’t forget that a fake tan doesn’t provide any protection against sun damage, so always remember your sunscreen. Or, if you want to tan skin and protect it at the same time, try something like James Read’s Day Tan SPF15.

Do you have any self-tanning tips?

Share them using the comments box below.