Self-Tanning Beginners Guide: How to Self Tan

6 Sep, 2022

Nothing transforms your body and mind like a great looking tan. It makes you feel more confident and your skin looks healthy and radiant. And we all know when it comes tanning, self tan is the safest and easiest way to get your golden glow on. But if you’re not sure how to self tan then panic not, because we have put together a fool-proof guide for tanning beginners that will ensure your James Read tan looks perfect, natural and gorgeous every time. We sat down with James to get his professional tanning advice and these are his top 13 self tanning tips on how to apply fake tan correctly.

Self Tanning Tips from James

When it comes to knowing how to get a perfect tan it’s best to follow expert advice rather than just doing your own thing and hoping for the best. After all who knows how to create a natural looking glow better than someone who has been doing it for more than 15 years? Which is why James has put together his pro self tanning tips just for you.

“If you haven’t self tanned before then it is really important to follow a few tips before you put any product on as well as knowing a couple of application tricks to make sure the end result looks flawless and natural,” explains James. “I promise if you follow my advice you will be so happy with your tan and you will wonder why you didn’t get your James Read tan on before!”

James’ 11 self tanning tips for beginners

Schedule shaving

“It’s really important to do any hair removal at least 24 hours before applying your tan. When you shave or wax, the hair follicles open so you need to give them time to close again to avoid the tan collecting in the follicle and looking speckled. If you do hair removal after self tanning it will take the product off with the hairs and your tan won’t last as long.”


“The day before you want to tan, exfoliate your skin from head-to-toe. This will not only create a super smooth surface so your tan looks more even, but also removes dead skin cells, which can make tan look patchy.”

Moisturising musts

“After exfoliating, moisturise your skin paying particular attention to the areas that get really dehydrated – such as ankles, wrists, knuckles, elbows and along your hairline. By giving these areas that little bit more moisture, you will avoid your tan settling into the cracks of parched skin and looking darker.”

Choose the right tan

“When choosing the best self tan for you think about how much time you have and how quickly you want your tan to develop, this will help you find the right product. If you are looking for an instant effect or want to show off your tan quickly then choose a product from my Instant or Express range. If you want your tan to develop over a few hours or overnight then choose a product from my Gradual Tan range. Deciding which consistency works best for you is really down to personal preference. My tanning drops are great for adding to your favourite moisturiser and body lotion whereas my tanning serums are your skincare and tan combined into a light texture that feels invisible on the skin. I also have airy tanning mousses , light tanning mists you spritz onto the skin, silky gels and buttery creams .

Mitt up

“Using a tanning mitt, rather than your hands, means the product will glide onto the skin plus it’s much easier for you to control the application. If you’re using a gel, cream or a mousse, apply the product straight onto the mitt and then onto the skin. If you’re using a spray or mist, spray your skin and then use the mitt to buff the product in. And remember to put the mitt in the washing machine after every few uses so you don’t get product build-up on it.”

Long and sweeping motions

“Once you’ve either got your tanning product on the mitt or applied your mist or spray to your skin, sweep the mitt along the section you’re working on in long, fluid movements. I always recommend working towards the heart, so when you’re tanning your arms and chest sweep down and when you’re tanning your tummy and legs sweep upwards.”

Areas to remember

“There are a couple of areas that are easy to miss when self tanning so make sure to sweep a little product over the tops of ears, back of hands, back of neck and the top of feet.”

Wash your hands

“Even if you’ve been using a mitt, wash your hands after tanning paying particular attention to the skin between your fingers and your palms to make sure you remove any excess product.”

Dry time

“Once you’ve finished applying your self tan give yourself a couple of minutes to let it dry. If you’re in a hurry, grab your hairdryer, put it on a warm setting and lightly waft it over your skin.”

Go baggy

“If your tan needs time to develop then it’s best if you put on baggy clothes afterwards, rather than anything too tight that might rub it off.”

Fragrance free

“Deodorant and perfume contain alcohol which can turn freshly applied self tan green. Not a good look! Swerve both until your tan has fully developed.”

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