How to get the most natural-looking spray tan

Bridget March
Photo credit: David Slijper for Harper's Bazaar

From Harper's BAZAAR

Sun’s out, guns out. Spray tan guns, that is. But before you book in for a faux glow for your next holiday, festival, wedding or whatever summer soirée you might be attending, take heed of this advice from James Harknett – the king of a natural-looking, sophisticated spray tan.

Over the last 10 years working in beauty, I have probably visited Harknett around 50 times, and sent twice as many people his way. Not once has the result been less than perfect, by which I mean realistic and even-looking, for the tan's entirety (which is a good week or more). Using either Sienna X, Fake Bake or Xen-Tan, like a second skin it's undetectable to those who don't see me daily (and some who do) – think 'no make-up' make-up that makes you look alive, Harknett's tan is the 'non-fake' fake tan. Barely there, but boosting my confidence immeasurably.

While you're guaranteed the same (always bespoke) result via an appointment with Harknett at the W Hotel's Away Spa, whether you can get to him or not, here he shares his knack for making a spray tan infallible – and fade naturally.

So glow on (and on) with these essential tips for your most natural spray tan yet:

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Harknett says, to ensure the best spray tan results, “as well as post-tan maintenance and care it’s essential to be mindful of the ultimate prep to the body.” And here are his golden rules.

Exfoliation

“Firstly, endless days of exfoliating 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, clings onto to darken the skin. Try and do a gentle exfoliation, a good 12-hours before your spray tan application and then leave the skin bare and free from any form of body lotion, moisturiser and oil. Feedback from 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 the spray tan application.”

Hair removal

“Hair removal is also a vital thing 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.”

Clothing and footwear

“On the day of your spray tan 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 and cause patchiness. Flip flops or pumps are ideal, but if you are wearing shoes ask your therapist to sprinkle a little talc over your feet if you’re putting socks back on.”

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article

Once you have 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”. See below.

Getting dry and dressed

“Once tanned, your therapist should dry you down with warm air. If not, ask them for a blast of cold air from a hairdryer. Concentrate under the bottom, behind the knees and under the arms. If it’s a warm or clammy evening, 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 summer’s 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 which you can buy from Boots. Another option for warmer months is to ask for an express spray tan that can be washed off in an hour or two. Fake Bake’s 60 Minutes can be washed off after an hour for a gentle glow, or after two hours for a darker finish.”

Baths and showers

“Once tanned, avoid having long soaks in the bath and keep showers short and cool. Use a lightweight shower cream or gel that doesn’t contains sulphates.”

Moisturising

“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.

Facial skincare

“To keep the tan glowing longer on the face avoid any facial products with AHAs as they can remove the colour prematurely. Also avoid make-up remover wipes and opt for a gentle cleansing water or foaming cleanser. I swear by Ren Rosa Centifolia 3-in-1 Cleansing Water for my clients.”

Exercising

“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.”

Book in with James Harknett at the W Hotel's Away Spa, £50, or for an at-home visit, £100, via Jamesharknett.co.uk.

('You Might Also Like',)