As temperatures rise, so does our desire for effortless, sun-kissed skin. The good news? These days, there are countless ways to nab a natural-looking sunless tan, no matter what your bronzing goals are. And when it comes to self-tanning your face, there’s no better person to learn from than tanning legend James Read (who, BTW, counts celebs like Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Cara Delevingne as clients). Here, Read shares his top tips for mastering the ultimate glow.

Level up your skincare

The simplest way to incorporate a faux glow into your current routine? Opt for a skincare-self-tan hybrid that works double duty on your face. For one, it’s the easiest way to get a buildable colour (extra important if you want to avoid any shade-matching mishaps). Second, it’s a quick way to brighten up your skin without piling on the product. The catch? Skincare-infused tanning products are notoriously hard to formulate. Thankfully, our fake-bake prayers have been answered. New to the self-tan game is Glow20, a clear (aka mess-free) tan serum that includes an encapsulated form of vitamin C along with hydrating hyaluronic acid, to grant you glowing skin in more ways than one. Apply for 20, 60, or 90 minutes, depending how deep you want your colour to be.

Eliminate build-up

The trick to achieving a non-streaky look is to begin with a clean canvas. Read recommends applying a retinol or exfoliating acid (he loves Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50) the evening before you tan – especially if you already have some colour. “That will get rid of any old self-tanner and prepare your skin to tan again,” he says. Favour a bronzed look year-round? Incorporate an exfoliating treatment mid-week to keep your glow going indefinitely. “Treat it like a cycle. You’re renewing your skin cells on your face, allowing the skin to stay tanned, Monday to Sunday.”

Prep is everything

For a flawless application, try this super-simple step pre-tan: first, dampen a face cloth and pop it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Once it’s semi-frozen, carefully press it onto your face. Finish by patting your skin with a dry cloth. Beyond the ultra-refreshing sensation, this trick helps to shrink visible pores and lends a more even-looking finish, says Read.

Start from the top (no, really!)

When tanning your body, most experts advise to start from your feet and work your way up for best results. When you’re bronzing your face, try the opposite. “Start from the hairline and then work your way downwards, smoothing the product in,” says Read. And remember: less is more. If you have excess product, lightly press it around the t-zone, eyelids, ears, neck, and hairline: all places you’re likely to miss.

To revive your glow 

Need to refresh your colour in a pinch? Try this sheek mask hack. Take a bit of hyaluronic acid into the palm of your hands, add a couple of tanning drops (we love TopGlow’s formula), mix them together, sealing everything in with a sheet mask. “It will pop the life back into your self-tan,” says Read. “Even if you leave it on there for just 30 minutes, your skin will get an instant lift.”

For extra definition

One of the biggest bronzing trends as of late? Tan contouring. By concentrating on the areas where the sun naturally hits your face, you can sculpt your features and add extra definition. On day one, apply a bronzing mousse, like Coola’s Sunless Tan Express Sculpting Mousse, and leave it on for a few hours to build your base. The next morning, take a self-tan infused bronzer (check out Read’s Tantour), or add a few tanning drops into your moisturizer, using a makeup brush to work the product into your hairline, jawline and cheekbones. Take it to the shoulders and decollete for a super-summery, just-left-the-beach look.

Try “double-dipping”

“Double-dipping is all about combining your self-tan products to achieve long-lasting colour,” says Read. He recommends adding tanning drops into your moisturizer, then spraying a water-based bronzing mist on top. “You’ll get better penetration and your tan will be much deeper while still looking quite natural.” This step extra also helps your tan fade more evenly, he says.

Embrace the no-compromise tan

Gone are the days of orange-stained sheets and eight-hour tanning marathons – easy-application formulas that offer quick results are here for the long haul. “The thing about tanning now is that it’s much more about achieving a tan that fits with your lifestyle. Work your tan around your fashion choices,” says Read. If you’re showing off your arms, tan your arms. Stuck on zoom all day? Focus on your face and neck. “This allows you to carry on with your beauty routine without compromise,” he says. “When everyone gets back to normal, people are going to cherish every moment.” So don’t forget to have fun with it!


James Read Glow20 Facial Tanning Serum

Glow20 Facial Tanning Serum, James Read

Price: $44

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50T

Lotion P50T, Biologique Recherche

Price: $72

TopGlow Self-Tanning Serum

Self-Tanning Serum, TopGlow

Price: $36