self-tanning men

The essential guide to self-tanning for men

The expert's guide to achieving a sun-kissed look - no summer holiday required

When it comes to self-tanning there’s a fine line between an acceptably-tinted fake tan and looking a little too Trump for comfort. And, while a golden glow certainly isn’t the most important thing on our list of priorities during a global pandemic, here we find ourselves, a couple of months into a spring that has allowed few opportunities to get outside and a lot of time to idly stare in the mirror, toying with the idea of artificially getting our glow on.

But should men be embarrassed about reaching for the tanning mitt or stepping into the spray booth? Especially when double-digit growth in the sector suggests we’re all secretly reaching for the self-tan anyway. Leave any misgivings at the door. Fake tan has been coloured with connotations of reality television and budget high streets in recent years, but these are associations unfairly afforded. Rather than being a cop out, self-tanning is both a safer and easier alternative to spending hours out bathing in rays and trying to get equal coverage to every limb, fold and crease. We asked Chanel make-up artist Thom Walker for his take on the trend – and his tips for getting that subtle glow that no-one will ever guess isn’t natural.

man sunbathing swim shorts tanning

Why are men put off by the thought of fake tan?

I think in the past it has been thought of as more of a female beauty product, so it hasn’t been as widely spoken about in association with men, even though men have enjoyed using self-tan for many years. However with a change in male role models and gender stereotypes I think that is now changing and men are freely expressing their enjoyment of self-tan. So while it seems like this is a new trend for men it’s actually a pre-existing appreciation that’s now being heard

Should men be using specialist products?

Men’s skin generally produces more sebum (oil) than women’s – also men’s skin texture is usually around 25% thicker and tougher. Regular shaving exfoliates the upper skin layers and can lead to irritation, so using a product range that is catered more towards your own skin is preferable. To prepare my skin for tanning I look for a shaving cream, after shave lotion and moisturiser for face and beard that are designed to leave men’s skin feeling soft and supple. The Bleu de Chanel range is one of my favourites.

chanel shaving cream

Bleu de Chanel shaving cream


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murdock shave balm

Murdock London post shave balm


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saunders long moisturiser

Saunders & Long facial moisturiser


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How important is preparing your skin before tanning?

Prepping your skin before application is essential and there are a few steps to this:

  1. Exfoliate 24 hours before to remove any dryness and dead skin cells and especially focus on dry areas like elbows and knees. This creates a smooth surface for even application.
  2. Shave at least 24 hours before application so that skin has calmed and there is no inflammation.
  3. Moisturise any parts of the skin that are dryer than elsewhere and anywhere you don’t want colour to build up. On the body this is elbows, knees, behind knees, knuckles on fingers and toes (I only skim these areas with tan). On the face, put a bit of moisturiser over your brows to avoid potential discolouration.
tom ford exfoliator

Tom Ford Exfoliating energy scrub


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czech speake shaving set

Czech & Speake No. 88 shaving set


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hydrea exfoliating mitt

Hydrea London bamboo exfoliating mitt


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Which tanning products are best for beginners?

If you’re a beginner to self-tan using a product that gradually builds will suit you better. A tanning moisturiser, like Chanel Soleil Identite, is great as they’re designed to be used daily until your desired colour is achieved, then you simply reapply two to three times a week to prolong your tan. Chanel’s offering also helpfully comes in two shades for different skin tones and is enriched with fine coppery pearlescent pigments to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Once you have your desired all over tan, you can then accentuate parts of your face with a cream bronzer. I would sweep over the areas of the face the sun normally hits, so your forehead, the bridge of your nose, cheeks and jawline, to give your face a more natural bronzed depth. Deep all over tans are usually best left to the professionals but a more subtle full-body glow can be easily achieved at home with regular application of self-tanning moisturisers.

la roche posay self tan

La Roche-Posay Anthelios cream-gel self-tanner


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What are some common mistakes people make when applying self-tan? 

I’d say applying too much is a common mistake – if you start with less product you can’t really go wrong. I’d also recommend washing your hands straight after application to stop tan developing on your fingers and hands – don’t even wait a minute. Also, remember to go all the way up to your hairline and lightly over your ears, otherwise you can end up with a tell-tale line of self-tan.

One more thing, if you’re tanning your body and face, leave your face until the end – a natural tan is deeper on the body than the face.

Keeping things natural? These are the best SPF moisturisers to protect your skin…

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