There's really no such thing as a 'fool-proof fake tan'. But here's how you can come close.

This wonderful nugget of beauty wisdom comes courtesy of Mamamia’s shiny new beauty podcast, You BeautyTo ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to You Beauty here. It’s a blast.

Almost no beauty endeavour is as perilous as figuring out how to fake tan.

Whether you’re a complete novice or tan every single Thursday, it’s really, really easy to stuff it up.

Like, really easy.

Cue streaky legs, blotchy forearms, crusty ankles and random white patches on your back where you couldn’t reach.

Then there’s the sheer ocean of fake tan formulas to wade through – lotion, foam, mousse, water, spray, gel, gradual tanner, oh my!

Despite what the writing on the packaging might read, Mamamia’s executive editor and beauty journalist of 15 years Leigh Campbell reckons there’s no such thing as a ‘fool-proof’ fake tan.

“We’ve come a long way with fake tans, but I used to work in magazines and it would annoy me when we’d say ‘this is a fool-proof tan’, because no fake tan is foolproof. It’s a whole bloody [thing] to get it on,” she told told co-host Kelly McCarren on the You Beauty podcast. (Get it in your ears below…)

After many years of tanning ups and downs, here are Leigh’s suggestions for getting as close to this mystical ‘fool-proof’ tan as possible:

The day before…

“Do your hair removal – wax, shave or do whatever you want to do. Also, exfoliate. Don’t use a scrub, most scrubs are oil based so it’ll add a barrier and your tan won’t be able to get in. I use those those exfoliating mits from the supermarket,” Leigh said.


“I shave, scrub, get out of the shower, and normally you’d put your body cream on but don’t do that – you want to be dry and cold, you want your pores to have closed otherwise you get those little dots from where you’ve shaved.

“I would suggest using a lotion on your dry bits – I always do under my arms, knees, elbows, and ankles and feet”

Choosing your fake tan formula.

“It’s very personal [which tan you choose], I prefer a foam when I’m in a hurry and a lotion when I need extra hydration,” Leigh said.

Here recommendations are:

St Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse
St Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse. Image: Priceline.
Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam 1 Hour Express
Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam 1 Hour Express. Image: Bondi Sands.
Pure Tan Instant Tanning Lotion
Pure Tan Instant Tanning Lotion. Image: Pure Tan.
St Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Water Mousse Purity
St Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Water Mousse Purity. Image: Chemist Warehouse.
Eco Tan Face Tan Water
EcoTan Face Tan Water. Image: EcoTan.

Extra fake tanning tips.

  • Kelly uses a big buffing makeup brush to buff the tan into places where fake tan tends to get a bit patchy (hands, wrists and knees).
  • Leigh uses one tanning mit on each hand when she needs to tan her back but no one is around to help her.
  • Rapid tans are great if you have dry skin or don't want to sleep in your tan - put on a couple of hours before bed, shower and then moisturise.
  • If you don't mind sleeping in your tan, Kelly recommends getting yourself a 'tanning blanket' to sleep on when you've tanned to protect your sheets.

Happy tanning!

You Beauty Cheat Sheet

Other questions Leigh and Kelly answered, as well as products mentioned in passing, and their ‘spendys’ and ‘saveys’ (and where you can buy them).

"Have either of you tried an at-home light therapy mask? Do you think it works?"

  • Kelly recommended the FOREO UFO as her Spendy last week.
  • Leigh's used the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask Kit:
    • It looked a bit like a plastic hockey mask and had glasses inside. It's $70 (but can find on sale) and that was really good and quite effective - 10 minutes a day, 30 uses in each power pack ($30 but again, can find on sale).
  • In Leigh's opinion, it's not quite as effective as going in salon and getting an Omnilux treatment, much like any at-home salon alternative, but does work and is worth adding to your routine.
  • Neutrogena are doing a light treatment pen soon, you hold it on like a torch on the pimples, we haven't tried it yet but it's exciting.
  • We're going to see a lot more of light therapy products from brands, which is great to make the therapy more accessible, especially if you want to fight acne, anti-ageing or a dull complexion.

Spendy and Savey

Leigh's Savey: Essano Superfoods Turmeric Illuminating Facial Oil, $30.


Why she loves it:

  • Many asked for more affordable face oil options after hearing about Tash Sefton's Spendy one.
  • Turmeric is known to balance skin, which is good for oily/combination skin, and is great for inflammation and anti-ageing.
  • Leigh used at night in place of a serum and popped a night cream on top.
  • The next morning, she couldn't get over how soft and radiant her skin was.
  • $30 is pretty good for a face oil that's decent.

Kelly's Savey: Australis Metallix Cream Eyeshadow, $9.95. (Currently on sale for $2.99!)

Image: Australis.

Why she loves it:

  • It's a little pot with a cream eyeshadow that's kind of like a metallic highlighter.
  • Dupe for more expensive pots, they don't crease, and they give a beautiful wash of colour.
  • Really good for girls who want something easy because it's an on-the-go product.
  • Kelly loves the gold and champagne tones, it's kind of like your eyes, but way more metallic and sparkly.

Leigh's Spendy: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, $22.99 - $42.99.


Why she loves it:

  • A favourite of Leigh's for many years - two years ago, she stopped cleansing her skin and replaced it with micellar water.
  • You can use it on a cotton pad and it takes off all your makeup, it cleans the skin but doesn't strip it.
  • Looks like water, but inside are micelles, which are teeny, tiny drops of oil suspended in the water that clean your skin.
  • A very close second is the Garnier Micellar All In One Cleansing Water, $11.99.

Kelly's Spendy: Glam Glow's Supermud Clearing TreatmentThirstyMud Hydrating Treatment, and GravityMud Firming Treatment masks, starting from $35.

Image: Mecca.

Why she loves it:

  • These are pot masks, so aren't single use and will last you a couple of months.
  • The charcoal one (in silver tub) looks like mud, cleans out your pores and Kelly uses it as a direct spot treatment.
  • Kelly puts the hydrating one (in the blue tub) on before makeup for plump skin.
  • The tightening one (in purple tub) makes you look like tin man because it's a thick, silver one, tightens and brightens the skin.
  • You can also multi-mask with them - Kelly puts SuperMud on her chin and nose, ThirstyMud on eyes and forehead, and GravityMud one on my cheeks.

Until next week, stay lovely.

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