I have never used a facial self-tanner. When I was exfoliating three times a day (morning: glycolic acid and Dermalogica Microfoliant; evening: glycolic acid), there didn't seem to be much point. But now that I need less exfoliation (fewer breakouts, thank God), I can try, right? So when I chatted with two skin-finishing experts whose celebrity client lists include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Hugh Jackman, I asked for tips on how to self-tan your face.
Below, find key advice from James Read, whose James Read Tan Sleep Mask overnight facial self-tanner is on everyone's wish list. And in our video, St. Tropez pro Sophie Evans shows us how it's done with two types of products: a new self-tanning face oil and a self-tanning lotion.
how to self-tan your face flawlessly: prep
Start with clean skin, says Sophie Evans, who's worked with Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Hugh Jackman. "We would like you to exfoliate because the tan will last longer," she says. And you probably want to do your facial self-tanning before bed so the colour has time to develop smoothly.
"Run an ice cube all over your face before you start," says James Read, whose clients have included Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lady Gaga. "It stops the self-tanner from settling into pores."
how to self-tan your face flawlessly: apply
"Lots of people put tan on their faces then drink something or clean their teeth – and get a white lip rim," says James. "Always tan after you've had your drink and brushed your teeth."
If you have fair, bleached blonde, or pale grey or white hair, protect your hairline with moisturizer first, "as a barrier cream," says Sophie, who has very light salon-blonde hair herself. Self-tanner will stain light hair; it won't wash out. "You'll have to wait for it to grow out," Sophie warns.
Apply self-tanner everywhere, from hairline to jawline, tips of the ears, and down the neck too. "Definitely under the eyes as well, or you'll look like a back-to-front panda," says Sophie. "A little self-tanner can camouflage dark circles, and you'll need less makeup."
If you're using a body self-tanner spray, apply moisturizer and eye cream first to ensure the colour doesn't go too dark. Then hold the spray upright, about six inches from the face, and spray in a sweep from hairline to throat down one side, then down the middle, then down the other side. Lift your chin and spray a light mist across your neck, following the curve of your jawline (video demo here!). "It's the quickest way to tan your face," says Sophie, who does her own facial self-tanning this way – and she can do it without looking in the mirror! Afterward, avoid washing your face for six hours or so (hence the do-this-before-bed suggestion).
James Read took the overnight directive one step further with a night treatment with self-tanning properties. His James Read Sleep Mask Tan ($46 at sephora.ca and $38 at sephora.com) is hugely popular, partly because "sleep mask" rides the current obsession with Korea-inspired skincare. Along with DHA, ingredients include hyaluronic acid, Q10, red algae, cucumber extract and aloe vera. And the serum delivers customizeable glow you can deepen over two or three nights."It's not colour where you notice if you've made a mistake, like forgetting your neck the first night," says James. "It looks healthy, like you've had a really good sleep. Like Lara Stone – I did Lara for the Calvin Klein ads. She's very porcelain; she wants a subtle colour that looks great, she wants people to comment that 'you look well, what have you done?' not comment on the fake tan."
Also new for many of us is powder self-tanner, such as Vita Liberata Trystal Self-Tanning Bronzing Mineral Powder ($56 at sephora.ca and $45 at sephora.com). I haven't tried this yet; apparently you simply blend the minerals with a kubuki brush over moisturizer or foundation (and neck and decollete). Colour gradually develops if you wear the powder daily. If you have a naturally deeper skintone you want to intensify, you can put on a good coat in the morning and let colour develop throughout the day. Good for contouring, I think – but that's the next post!
how to self-tan your face flawlessly: aftercare
"Moisturize daily, exfoliate after three or four days to make sure colour stays even, and you'll have a good clear base for your next application," says James Read.
how to self-tan your face flawlessly: video
Here's our video with always engaging St. Tropez pro Sophie Evans:
Here's what Sophie used on lovely Chelsea in the video:
St. Tropez Applicator Mitt for Face ($12 at thebay.com); St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Facial Oil with brazil nut oil ($43 at murale.ca and $35 at sephora.com); St. Tropez Self-Tan Bronzing Lotion for Face ($38 at thebay.com and $38 at sephora.com).
Do you self-tan your face? If not, are you inspired to try? Have you already tried any of these formulas? And you know you can contour your face with self-tanner too, right?
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