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I Tried Fake Tan Bronzer & I Might Just Ditch Foundation This Summer

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
With the warm weather in full force, you might want to tweak the makeup routine that saw you through winter. Full-coverage foundation is making way for lightweight skin tints, while beauty influencers are strategically layering moisturiser and primer for smoother skin sans an inch of makeup. But there's only one seriously smart trend taking over TikTok this heatwave.
Enter: fake tan bronzer.
In a video with an impressive 11.2 million views, TikToker @abbybaffoe showed her followers how self-tan contouring lends dull skin a semi-permanent glow that means you can skip foundation and bronzer altogether. "I just recently started doing this and it's amazing because you trick yourself every morning that that's what you look like," she says. Abby uses a Beautyblender to apply tanning mousse, starting with her cheeks. "It does not matter if it's not perfect," she says, referring to any harsh lines. "Keep in mind you're just going to let it sit on and then wash it off." Applying the tan just underneath your hairline "gives that nice sun-kissed shadow," says Abby, "and last but not least," she continues, "I go in and heavily snatch up my jawline. I promise it looks a little hectic and blotchy, but in the morning it'll be perfect."
Lo and behold, the result the next day is so subtle, natural and glowy. Abby enhances her skin with a touch of Charlotte Tilbury's Flawless Filter, £36, but says the radiant finish is pretty much all tan. She isn't the only TikToker to try fake tan in place of foundation and bronzer. @dionysian.girl, @tidarat.mclachlan and @theplasticboy have all gone viral with the hack, racking up thousands of views.
@tidarat.mclachlan At least my face isn’t blue 🤷‍♀️ #faketan #fyp @hondroutwins ♬ I dont want you no longer know - vivi
R29 regulars will know that this isn't the first time fake tan has set tongues wagging on TikTok. Last year, beauty obsessives went viral for using the product as semi-permanent lip liner. Yes, really. It sounds ridiculous (and looks it, at first) but there's actually method to the madness, and the trick eventually convinced me to get rid of my lip pencil for a while. (Until I discovered the incredible VIEVE Modern Lip Definer, £15, that is.)
I was intrigued, especially as I'm trying to wean myself off heavy foundation this summer. So I picked up a Beautyblender, £17, and Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam in Dark, £15.99. This tan is virtually flawless when I use it on my body and it lends skin more of an olive tone, rather than that dreaded orange tinge. My first mistake? Wetting the sponge. I struggled to pick up enough tan and it ended up considerably patchy. Luckily I have a couple of makeup sponges on rotation so I grabbed another.
Though I was wary of messing things up and being left with splodges everywhere, it was surprisingly easy to bounce the tan-soaked sponge around my face and I managed to define my cheekbones in just a couple of seconds. I moved on to my hairline, ensuring I brought the colour down low enough so that it wouldn't look like I had a single streak across my face, then on to my Cupid's bow and my jawline.
If you haven't used fake tan before, just know that it develops over time — which means it gets darker and darker. What I'm trying to say is: don't make the same mistake as me and realise a couple of hours in that you have some errands to run. I ended up having to head out and as you can imagine, earned myself some hesitant looks.
I like my tan relatively subtle and so let it work its magic for just six hours. But as tan tends to dry down, you could totally sleep in it overnight (provided you have a dark pillowcase). You can rinse it off with water or face wash but I went with CeraVe Micellar Cleansing Water, £10.
The moment of truth wasn't as nerve-racking as I'd envisaged. Though the finish on my forehead was slightly blotchy, my cheekbones came out pretty even — like I'd gone in with a light dusting of powder bronzer. Next time I wouldn't go as low, though, because I wanted more of a lifted effect. The tan did accentuate some of my spots and blemishes initially but another once-over with micellar water rectified that.
I don't want to shelve my makeup completely this summer and the Flawless Filter which Abby used is a little too shiny on my oily skin. So I filled in the lighter areas with a bit of concealer and finished off my effortless look with eyeliner, mascara and lipstick. The result was so much more natural than I could've imagined — like I'd been on a long holiday and caught the sun in all the right places.
The next day my bronzed skin looked even better. Or so I thought. A friend commented on my 'unblended makeup' along my jawline, which I realised was a streak of tan I hadn't dabbed in well enough. If I were to do anything differently next time, I'd probably avoid this area entirely as it's really hard to get right. That, and rethink the application along my cheekbones.
After three or so days my colour began to fade and became quite uneven but I put that down to washing my face twice a day and using an exfoliating mask — a rookie error, as it lifts away tan pigment. Still, it's nothing a fresh coat of tan (or bronzer to fill in the gaps) won't fix.
For aesthetician and fake tan advocate Alicia Lartey, fake tan bronzer just makes sense. Aside from lending an all-over glow, she says that fake tan is mainly used to contour. "As part of fake tan training, we learn to contour things like the collarbone and even abs, or any areas that you want to enhance." That includes the face. To avoid any dubious marks, Alicia suggests enlisting a dense flat top brush rather than a sponge to blend the tan into the skin.
Tan also works really well on darker skin, says Alicia. But there's a knack to it. "You should always build up your tan using a couple of colours," explains Alicia. "I would start with a tanning product that's a bit more olive-based," like Sienna X Express Q10 Tinted Self Tan Mousse, £23.99. Then introduce something a bit warmer, says Alicia. Try Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam, £18.99. As a rule of thumb? "Just because you have dark skin doesn't mean you have to go for a tan that is super dark straightaway. Tan develops over time."
As well as contouring, fake tan can be beneficial for evening out skin tone. "On any areas which are hypopigmented (lighter than others) I would add a deeper tan," says Alicia. "To the surrounding areas I would add a lighter tan just as a once-over coat."
Fake tan bronzer seems like a faff but it might just be worth it in the end with a bit of practice. If you're headed on holiday and don't want to pack makeup, or the thought of applying anything in scorching hot weather puts you off, this is a clever alternative. I think I'm sold.
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