Ghost limbs no more: fake tan tips for the perpetually pale

Sick of your winter pallor? Fake tan isn't out of reach, even for the palest among us — here's how to get it right


There's a lot of talk about "embracing the natural" these days. But for the porcelain-skinned among us, it's not that easy. Summer means our previously hibernated skin is being forced out to face the elements. Unfortunately, this also means that we have to maintain and upkeep that skin (read: apply fake tan), instead of letting it deteriorate into bristly white disarray, which it is for 70% of the year.

The perpetually pale among us are told to embrace our natural complexions. But, as us pale gals know, it's all LIES. "Oh, I'd love to have your skin!", they say looking like they're returned from three weeks in Bali. "Oh but you're a nice pale, you're like porcelain!" I literally can't tell if you're talking to me, because I'm that see-through.

These past few years, I'll admit I've become lazy.  I'm not a typical girl by twenty-something Dublin standards. I don't get my nails or eyelashes done, I don't dye my hair and I've never had a spray tan. Please be assured that this isn't out of some sort of disdain for these trends. I don't bother because most of those treatments look ridiculous on me. I would love to look like my pampered sisters out there, but I still want to look like me.


But readers I've learnt something. There is a look in between bristly disarray and terracotta plastic. It all starts with somewhat-human looking skin; supplied by a very small amount of fake tan. Fake tan is tricky territory, however, there is hope for the spectre-skinned. There are certain products and methods out there that actually achieve a healthy-looking glow, without looking like you've bathed in Heinz. It'll take some trial and error and a lot of patience, but together, we'll finally be able to join the ranks of the living this summer.

Prep Prep Prep

It should be no secret to tan experts how important preparation is for a great glow. You're going to want to shave and exfoliate your skin the day before you apply any sort of tan. Not the day of, unless you want those dreaded, tan-filled, blackhead-resembling pores all over your legs. After exfoliating, thoroughly moisturise all over, so your skin is nice and soft for application. Then comes the fun part - choosing your weapon.

Gradual Tan


I've been a fan of gradual tanning lotions ever since I was a teenager and walked around stinking of biscuits on a daily basis every summer. Rest assured, I've gotten better at it now. Gradual tanners are great because they're buildable, so you won't wake up mahogany and they have the benefit of nourishing your skin along the way. A good tip is to apply the lotion all over just before bed and have a shower the following morning. You won't smell of tan and any streaks can be easily washed off. Reapply as often or as little as you want.

In-Shower Tan

I've just become aware of the wonders of in-shower tan and feel the need to share it with the world. Another member of the gradual tan family, this St. Tropez number is great for pale girls who want the glow without the work. Simply shower as normal, turn off the water, apply the tanner all over (don't worry about being too exact), leave for three minutes (could always do a conditioning treatment while you're at it) then rinse off and pat dry. The result is a natural glow, perfect for spectre-skin.


Tanning Water

Tanning water is a contentious product among tanners. Many think it not strong enough. That makes it perfect for pale folk as its super light. It can be a little tricky to get right, as you can't see where you're applying the clear liquid, but the pay off is a natural peachy glow. Again, it's a good one to apply at night and shower off in the morning. If you want to go a little darker, just be sure to be liberal with the application.


Tanning Drops

One for the control freaks (myself included). Tanning drops are the new big thing, designed for those who want to control the exact amount of proverbial sun that hits their complexion. Grab your everyday moisturiser, add however many drops of tan you think you need and apply all over as normal.

Tan Eraser

For when it all goes wrong. If your inexperience in the world of tan has lead to disaster, no need to worry. Just get a good tan eraser and scrub away in the shower to remove the worst of it. If you're stuck in an emergency, remember that a good homemade scrub of sugar, coconut oil and lemon juice will work just as well.


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