When it comes to self-tanning, perfecting a golden glow from a bottle poses a myriad of faux pas. From missed bits to darker knuckles, it’s no wonder so many of us shy away from even attempting to give it a go. But self-tanning products have come a long way from biscuit smells and orange hues – at Tropic, we’ve developed a range that’s laden with nourishing ingredients, such as coconut oil and mango butter, to keep skin hydrated and healthy. 

But, for the self-tanning novices among us, we asked award-winning resident tanner at W Hotel’s Away Spa, James Harknett, for his top tips on achieving a professional-looking golden glow.


“When it comes to prepping the skin before and during self-tan, it’s best to avoid active ingredients like retinoids and acids which can disrupt the end result. DHA (the tanning agent), works by binding with the outer layer of cells of the epidermis, so gentle exfoliation with an Exfoliating Mitt is perfect at resetting the skin ready for self-tan. Concentrate on areas like elbows, knees and feet, which tend to be rougher. Focus on areas where bras sit too – underwear can trap and build up the dead skin, causing the tan to appear darker on these areas.

Before self-tanning, it’s vital to moisturise – without it, you’ll end up uneven and stripy. But, only moisturise the thinner, dryer parts of skin like knees, elbows, hands and feet. Apply a thin layer over the brows and around the hairline if you are blonde.”


“If you’re new to self-tanning, opt for a product with a guide colour (like Sun Drench Overnight Tanning Mousse), so you can see where you’ve applied. The first place to start is the legs. Using a Tanning Mitt, drag your tan from the tops of the thigh downwards. It’s worth lifting your leg up to the side of the bath or a closed toilet seat to open the creases of the knee cap, avoiding white circles when you sit down. Disperse less product towards the heels and feet, as the dryer skin collects and over-absorbs.

Next is the torso. Drag your tanning mitt from the top of the shoulder down towards the wrist for that even and natural fade to the hand. Work in sections for a contoured effect. If you don’t have a back applicator, or don’t feel you can stretch the arms back, ask someone at home to mitt the back for you. Use the remnants of tan left on the mitt for the hands. If you’re looking for a more intense glow, re-apply the next day, or top-up with a gradual tan like the Summer Skin Gradual Tanning Lotion. That extra application can be contoured down the legs, making the legs look visibly toned.”


“If you’re tanning on a warm night at home, blast your tan instantly with some cool air to help set and dry it. To ensure the tan stays on for longer and for an even fade, hydration is a must. Apply a hydrating formula (like the Whipped Body Velvet Intensely Rich Buttermelt) generously on the chest and where bikini straps and bras can rub away at the tan. The ingredients help maintain your colour and keep it locked on the skin for longer. “

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