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How To Make Your Summer Tan Look Believable, According To An Expert

It's safe to say summer 2020 hasn't turned out quite as we had hoped.  

Because if you're going to take tanning advice from anyone, it should be Michaella Bolder...

Let's be honest: the chances of any of us flying abroad to a far-flung, sun-soaked destination this summer are slim to none. If, like me, you rely on a summer holiday every year for that boost of Vitamin D and time to destress, it may be a tough reality to be facing. But fear not, as there are ways to make you feel summery without actually stepping foot onto white sands (sob).

It may not be a patch on the real thing, but self-tan will not only make it look you've spent the past two weeks on a beach in the south of France but it brings with it a plethora of mood-enhancing benefits. Much like makeup has the power to raise spirits when we're feeling down, painting on a golden bronze hue will allow us all to feel much less zombie-like as we get to grips with our new reality and make it that bit easier to step out of our loungewear and slip into a breezy summer dress. 

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So much so that self-tan sales have skyrocketed since lockdown with brands like Bali Body reporting a 450% surge in demand for its Ultra Dark Self Tanning Mousse. So, with that in mind, we asked celebrity tanning expert, Michaella Bolder (who counts the likes of Elle McPherson, the cast of Strictly Come Dancing and Olivia Munn as loyal clients), for her top tanning tips for applying and mastering the perfect tan for any skin tone. Because what's the point of buying all those bottles of tan if you have no clue how to apply it without streaking. 

"Prep work is essential when it comes to tan," says Michaella. "This can result in streaks and uneven fading in colour. Put in the effort before your tan and you’ll reap the rewards during your self-tan's lifecycle.”

Here are Michaella Bolder's top five fake tan tips for making sure you glow from head to toe, whether it’s the middle of summer or the middle of winter. And if it goes wrong the first time? Keep scrolling because we've got you covered.

preparation is key

"Prep work is essential when it comes to tan. Exfoliating before you apply tan is key to a believable looking tan, you need to remove the dead skin so that when the tan lays, it lays smoothly and evenly.

To get the best tan, prep the skin in the shower 24 hours before you apply your tan. Use an exfoliating glove or a really strong exfoliant with exfoliating crystals. Then, whether you use a spray, mousse, gel or oil - always apply with a mitt. Then wash the tan off after it’s recommended setting time and moisturise the skin every single day with a body butter and exfoliate the skin on day 3 and top it up on day 7 or eight."

chose your shade selectively 

"Using a tan that’s too dark for your skin is by far the worst tanning mistake you can make. 

When it comes to choosing your tan, be really selective and most importantly be honest with yourself when it comes to selecting your shade in tan. You may want to be ultra dark but the truth is you’re a light medium and that’s okay, selecting a tan that reflects your skin tone gives far more of a radiant glow and believable tan than one that is miles too dark for you."

moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

"When you apply moisturiser before tan, apply it everywhere - not just in notoriously tricky areas like your hands, elbow and feet - but especially in places where you’re particularly dry. Just make sure it’s an oil-free moisturiser.

However, if you have really dry areas in places like your hands, knees, elbows - try mixing in body butter with the tan. What that does is it dilutes the tanning solution so it means the colour will be lighter than everywhere else on your body so you’re not left with dark patches."


"When applying tan to the hands, only ever use the leftover tan that’s on the mitt. Never, ever use an extra pump for your hands. Do your entire body first with the mitt, when you’re finished just take the mitt and with the leftover product on just buff it ever so slightly onto the hands. At the time, you might think there’s not enough product but trust me, let it develop and it will be dark enough."

it's all about the tecnique

"You want the body to look 3D, not 2D. If you apply tan the same way across your entire body, you’ll look 2D. So wherever the sun hits the body, that's where you want to have your best, dark tan. It should be lighter in places where the sun doesn’t naturally hit."

don't panic if you've made a mistake

"If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Tan has become increasingly easier to remove with a tonne of specialised tan removing products out there to help. To remove tan, use a complete tan remover like the St Tropez fake tan remover and primer mousse (€19.99). Apply that all over the tanned area, wait five minutes and jump in the shower and scrub the skin with an exfoliating mitt and it will come off beautifully."

Main image by @michaellabolder on Instagram

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