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Self-Tanning Secrets From A Celebrity Tanner

Celebrity Skin Finishing Expert Sophie Evans has provided bespoke tans for Victoria Beckham, Zooey Deschanel, Kirsten Dunst, Sade, Elle Macpherson, Geri Halliwell, Dianna Agron and Rashida Jones, to name just a few. When she’s not flying to Paris to prep models for the catwalks of Chanel and Zac Posen, she’s jetting from her home-base in New York to Los Angeles to tan celebrities for red carpet premieres and events like the Oscars and the Emmys. For the last eight years, Sophie has been as a beauty expert for ST TROPEZ, the makers of some of our all-time favourite sunless tanning products (The company’s Gradual Everyday Face tanning spray is amazing! We often use it instead of foundation, especially in the summer). We talked to Sophie about the do’s and don’ts of applying sunless tanner at home. Her advice will surprise you!

Q. What tips/rules should we follow when applying self-tanner to our face at home? Is it better to use a spray for the face? What do we do about our hairline?

Sophie Evans: Firstly, you must exfoliate well beforehand and remove all products. Depending on your skin type, typically if you have dry, dehydrated or sensitive skin, you may wish to moisturize with all your regular products and serums first, but please avoid any products with mineral oils, aromatherapy oils and also avoid a heavy application. Allow your facial moisturizers to penetrate into the skin for at least 5 minutes before applying a self-tan. If you have normal to oily/combination skin, you may wish to skip any facial moisturizing, as the ST TROPEZ self-tanners are already hydrating enough for a non dry skin type.

For the hair line: If you have very bleached or grey hair, always apply a layer of moisturizer around the hair line to avoid the tan staining any fair hair. Dark or naturally fair hair is not a problem. I like to use an aerosol spray, as it’s the fastest hassle-free way to tan. Simply spray 6 inches away from face on a downward stroke (if you go up, the tan will go up the nose!). Work from one side to the other: 3 strokes normally does the front, then sweep a stroke over the sides and along the shoulder –- the ears will also pick up a little color which will look very natural. Arch the neck up, then sweep in the centre of the neck. Repeat all strokes if more glow is needed. The ST TROPEZ Bronzing Spray will dry in 60 seconds and I would allow the tan to develop over night. Then in the morning, if you didn’t want to wear any foundation (as you normally don’t need it as your skin is glowing) you could sweep a light layer onto the contours of the cheeks and under the chin for a super slimming sculpted effect.

If you are using a lotion, mousse or gel I would apply with clean hands, making sure every area is covered even around the eyes and around the lips. The biggest mistake I notice is people do not go close to the lip line or around the nostrils. Every area needs to be covered! Then take a little moisturizer and blend the tan into the hairline and on the tips of the ears to fade out any lines.With lotions, gels, mousses, etc. you can also dilute with a mineral-free moisturizer to make the tan slightly lighter, this is a good way to apply behind the ears if this area is always visible.

With all applications make sure you wipe the eyebrows with a Q-tip. I would also avoid wearing any heavy foundation when the tan is developing.

Q. How should we apply self-tanner to the body? Does a mousse work best? How can we be sure to get even coverage? Are there certain parts of the body that we should leave less tanned, like the forearms?

Sophie Evans: Follow the steps to always exfoliate well beforehand and remove all products — a tan is only as good as the skin you’re working on. If you are freshly waxed, avoid applying a self-tan for a day to avoid the colour going into any open hair follicles.

Always moisturize problem areas — the hands, back of wrists, elbows, knees, whole of the foot and back of the heel. If you have any severe dry skin, moisturize these as well. Self-tan will go darker on dry skin, hence we moisturize first. Always use a mineral oil-free moisturizer and avoid anything with aromatherapy oils.

To ensure an even coverage and to protect your palms from staining, use a ST TROPEZ Applicator Mitt. This will glide the product on evenly and hassle free. Just make sure every area is covered, so over lap certain areas if you have to. If you want the most natural looking result, it does look good if the forearms are lighter, as the real sun would not hit these places as well. Never apply a lighter layer — it is not about that, as the skin can only absorb a certain amount of tanning agent, so we always want you to apply liberally to guarantee an even coverage. If you want an area lighter, we simply dilute the self-tan with moisturizer. This is what the ST TROPEZ Body Moisturizer was designed for — to lighten, blend and fade the tan.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you see women make when they apply self-tanner at home?

Sophie Evans: Always the hands and the feet! The skin on the hands and feet is very different and the tan can go up to 10 times darker in these areas if the tan is not applied properly. So moisturize well beforehand and use an applicator mitt to protect the palms from staining.

For feet: Use the excess tan that is left on the mitt and glide over the pre-moisturized foot, making sure you blend in between the toes. Take a cleansing /wet wipe and wipe the nails (tan can stain the nails yellow). Apply more moisturizer up the back of the heel to blend for a natural finish and blend moisturizer over any corns or calluses just to be sure the tan won’t grab.

For hands: Same as the foot — make sure you blend in between the fingers and along the sides of the hand. Using a cleansing/wet wipe, wipe the palms and finger nails then blend a little moisturizer up the crease in the wrist for a natural seamless finish.

Q. What would you recommend a person do who accidentally put too much self-tanner on one spot of her body and now has a dark patch that stands out? Is there a way to tone a patch down after it’s already set in?

Sophie Evans: If it’s in the first 4 hours of application, you can simply use the ST TROPEZ Tan Remover, which will get it all off completely. If it has gone past the first 4 hours, the tan remover will lighten the colour, but if the patch is very dark, I would use a little hair removal cream or apply some neat lemon juice to the area then use a very hot face cloth to wipe. A few attempts will normally do the job, also neat acetone or tooth whitening cream can sometimes do the job.

Q. What’s your advice for applying self-tanner? Should you always use a glove, or is it ever okay to use your hands?

Sophie Evans: Never use your bare hands when you apply the self tan to the body unless you have the ST TROPEZ Tan Remover to use on the palms right away. And I mean right away. I still like to wear rubber gloves but make sure they fit your hands properly if they are to big it makes the application more of a pain. Applicator Mitts are great and the ST TROPEZ Applicator Mitt can be washed and reused. Also, the tan will look nice and even straight away.

Q. How do you recommend prepping the skin before applying tanner? Is it okay to apply self-tanner on top of moisturizer, or does that lessen the effect?

Sophie Evans: The tan is only as good as the skin you are working on, so the better the condition of the skin, the better the tan will look and last. Exfoliate well and moisturize daily. Make sure all waxing is completed 24 hours prior to tan application. Shaving isn’t bad as it’s a form of exfoliation. I have very strong hair on my legs and I actually shave the day after my tan has developed. I get a more flawless finish to the skin but it depends on the skin, everyone is different. You should only moisturize the problem areas which are hands, elbows, knees and feet and any other severe dry areas like patches of eczema. Moisturizing dilutes the color of the tan, hence why we use it to blend and fade for a perfect result.

Q. If we wanted to get a really dark tan using self-tanner, how would you recommend that we achieve that? Should it take a matter of days, or can we do it all at once by applying a lot?

Sophie Evans: You have to apply over consecutive days, which is known in the trade as double dip! So apply one day and then again the next. Applying loads of product in a first application does not make the tan any darker as the skin can only absorb a certain amount of tanning agent anyway.

Q. How would you recommend applying self-tanner to hard-to-reach places like the middle of our backs?

Sophie Evans: If you are very flexible you can simply apply the tan to the front of the hand with an applicator mitt and bend bend bend, but obviously this is not for everyone! Aerosol sprays are great for the back and the ST TROPEZ Bronzing Spray has a 360 degree spray technology which means it will spray upside down perfect for sweeping over the back.

Q. How does actual sunlight affect a self-tan? Will additional sunlight add to the tan? Does the self-tan act as a base?

Sophie Evans: When you are wearing a self-tan, you can still burn and tan as normal from the real sun. A self-tan will offer no protection what so ever so apply your SPF. A self-tan does not stimulate your pigmentation so it will have no benefit to you going darker if you were to tan in the real sun, which is becoming terribly old-fashioned .The trouble is, you may not notice any redness from burning as your skin will already be a gorgeous colour, so just make sure the SPF goes on.

Q. What would you recommend a person do who just wants to add a touch of colour to her skin with self-tanner without looking dramatically darker?

Sophie Evans: Try a gradual tan first which is formulated very light for this specific reason then use daily to build a color that you are happy with. ST TROPEZ Everyday Body is fantastic.

Photo Courtesy of: St Tropez

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