How to make your fake tan last longer

There are many factors determining natural looking results with fake tan, and a gradual fade is one of them. However, making your faux glow last longer while fading evenly isn't as straightforward as it should be.

Struggling? These essential tips from James Harknett – London's king of the sophisticated spray tan – should guarantee your longest-lasting fake tan yet (whether professionally applied or DIY'ed), and one that looks natural from beginning to end.



Harknett says to ensure the best results it pays to be mindful of skin prep – and here are his golden rules.


“Endless days of exfoliating before tanning is not going to do you any favours. It’s actually important that you haven’t sloughed away all your dead skin, as this is what DHA (the tanning agent in fake tan formulas) clings onto to darken the skin. Try and do a gentle exfoliation a good 12-hours before your spray or self-tan application and then leave the skin bare and free from any form of body lotion, moisturiser and oil. My clients at the W Away Spa have commented that their tans were darker and seamless when they didn’t over-scrub too close to a spray tan application.”

Hair removal

“Hair removal is also vital to time effectively. Waxing and shaving both strip the skin and leave pores open. Guide colour from the spray solution can therefore sit in the pores and look noticeable, so shave a good 24 hours before tanning. When it comes to waxing, do it even more in advance as the wax can leave a barrier on the skin that blocks the tan from penetrating evenly.”

Barrier cream

"For the most natural result, on areas like the hands, elbows, knees and feet, spot-apply a thin layer of moisturiser as a barrier to stop the tan from grabbing too much and, therefore, developing too dark. The skin is prone to being drier and more delicate in these areas, and can pick up the colour more readily."


"At the end of a spray tan, a good therapist should remove the tan from your fingernails, toenails, and the palms of your hands using a cleansing cloth or similar. This way you won't get stained nails or palms." Follow suit at home if you've used a formula that might have settled onto these areas.

Clothing and footwear

“After tanning wear something loose and flowing. Go braless if possible, so that while your tan is developing the straps don’t get warm and rub against the skin causing patchiness. Flip flops or pumps are ideal, but if you need to wear shoes sprinkle a little body powder over your feet if you’re putting socks back on.”



Once you have achieved your perfect glow, Harkentt says you can keep the colour looking it’s best “for a good week,” and has ways “to ensure a natural and gradual fade down”.

Getting dry and dressed

“Once tanned, you (or your therapist) can dry the skin down with a blast of cool air from a hairdryer. Concentrate under the bottom, behind the knees and under the arms. If it’s warm or clammy, a little power under the arms and in the joints of the inner arms will help give you slip and movement, and prevent perspiration mottling the tan in its first crucial hours of activation.”

Handling bedtime

“If it’s a warm night, sleep with a fan over you, and if you’re prone to sleeping with your hand in between your legs or touching your face, try wearing lightweight cotton gloves. Another option is to use an express fake tan that can be washed off in an hour or two. Professionally, I use an organic express tan by Three Warriors which can be washed off after three hours, and for at-home use I recommend the St Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse.”

Colour correcting (if needed)

“The guide colour of your fake tan will always look darker than the finished result once washed off, but if during its development your tan seems way too dark, trust your instinct and wash it off a little earlier, such as five hours in, instead of the six-to-eight hours normally advised. If your tan feels too dark the following day, try having three hot showers to help bring it down to a more natural colour.”

Bathing and moisturising

“Generally speaking, avoid having long soaks in the bath and keep showers short and cool to ensure your tan lasts. Use a lightweight shower cream or gel that doesn’t contains sulphates. Then, always moisturise twice a day with an oil-free formula, or stick to a natural oil like coconut or almond oil.” Try the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture Express Body Mist.

Navigating facial skincare

“To keep the tan glowing longer on the face avoid any facial products with exfoliating AHAs as they can remove the colour prematurely. Also avoid make-up remover wipes and opt for a gentle cleansing water or foaming cleanser.” We recommend the Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water followed by a hyaluronic acid-based serum or cream.


“If you exercise regularly and are prone to perspiring use a mineral powder like Dr. Hauschka Silk Body Powder. Sprinkle it in your sports bra and on the areas of the body that can rub skin against skin like inner arms and elbows to avoid the tan breaking-up in those areas.”

Topping up your tan

“When your tan does start to fade, reach for the organic Three Warriors Body Mist. It instantly hydrates and adds dimension to your existing glow. First, prep dryer areas such as elbows and hands with a dab of moisture, then apply the tan from the shoulders downwards to illuminate the skin and prolong your colour.”

You can book in with James Harknett at London's W Hotel's Away Spa via

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