The expert tips for fake tanning your face

We guarantee you haven’t heard of a few of these before!

Beauty Crew Editor / May 25 2017

When it comes to fake tanning, there are a few golden rules for achieving a natural, flawless finish: always exfoliate and shave a day before; layer the colour slowly for an even finish; and blend, blend, blend and blend some more. (If you’re looking for more tips on achieve a flawless application, you can read our beginner’s guide to fake tanning.) 

But the waters seem a little murkier when it comes to anything north of your neck. Fake tanning your face is a little scarier, mainly because there are ears, eyes, a nose, and a mouth to contend with, and nowhere to hide any mistakes. It feels like so much could go wrong. 

So we spoke to fake tan pro James Read, the man behind his popular namesake tanning range, to get his top tips on how to get your face tan right every single time. 

#1 / Close your pores

For a seamless face tan that doesn’t look ‘spotty’, Read suggests heading to your freezer. “A good trick is always rubbing an ice cube over the face first to seal the pores,” says Read. “Or alternatively, soak your face in cold water [in the sink] and it will close your pores.” This little trick will also help prevent any tanning formulations from clogging your pores and leading to breakouts. Just make sure you dry your face completely before applying your tan. 

#2 / Protect your brows

Before applying your face tan, gently wipe some moisturiser along your brows to prevent product from being applied here to protect their natural colour. 

#3 / Start lightly

If you’re nervous about applying fake tan to your face, Read recommends diluting the formula. “If you don’t want to go too dark, mix a bit of self-tanning product with some moisturiser so that you dilute it slightly so that it gives a bit of a flush to the skin.” 

Alternatively, look for gradual face tanners like St. Tropez Gradual Face Tan Lotion, James Read Tan H2O Tan Mist, or Bondi Sands Everyday Face Gradual Tanning Milk, which all work to slowly build up the colour of your tan.

St. Tropez Gradual Face Tan Lotion

James Read Tan H2O Tan Mist

Sands Everyday Face Gradual Tanning Milk

#4 / Use leftover product on your ears

Instead of applying a whole heap of your face tan directly onto your ears, smooth any leftover product over them. This will help give them colour, without applying too much. Just make sure to smooth the product over your ear lobes and around the back of your ears. 

#5 / Prevent the dreaded tan hair line

If you’ve ever fake tanned your face and discovered you’ve got a very noticeable line around your hairline, follow Read’s advice: “Once you put a tan on, if it’s a lotion rather than spray, always rub it into the hairline with a little bit of toner to stop the tan line.” 

#6 / Use a straw when drinking

Drinking directly from a glass or bottle straight after tanning can leave you with lines or streaks around your mouth, so Read suggests drinking with a straw until your formula is completely set. And an absolute no-no is cupping your hand and drinking water from it – that’ll leave you with a “white lip.” 

#7 / Wipe your neck

If you fake tan your face regularly, be sure to give your neck a good clean with a cleansing wipe before you begin the tanning process. Your face always fades quickly because you cleanse it twice a day, but the tan on your neck always seems to stay longer. So when you tan, you basically always have an over-tanned neck and a tanned face.” Read recommends a face wipe that has some alcohol in it, as this is what will help get rid of the old tan on your neck so you start the tanning process with an even tone across your face and neck.


If you’re now feeling confident about fake tanning your face, check out our picks of the top face tanners

Image credit: @rosiehw

Carli is BEAUTYcrew’s Editor and has been since the site launched in 2016. She is currently on a quest to find the perfect medium-coverage foundation for combination skin, is trying to narrow down her mascara collection to just three, and is embracing the power of AHAs. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.