Fake Tanning For Mummies

Tanning for Mummies for Sanctuary Spa

Half fake, half France.

So, the fake tan season seems to have thrust itself upon us, all of a sudden. Another step in the endless drudgery of trying not to look undead on the school run, or the annual chance to blossom a little? However you see it, here are some do’s and don’t’s for the self-tanning mother.

Beware “Marmite-dipped Hands” and “Lucozade Legs”

Like me, you may have run the fake tan gauntlet many a summer before having a baby. It’s a tricksy business – I have made all the mistakes: the “hands dipped in Marmite” look, the “Liquorice Allsort arm” (a perfect line between the stripe of tan on top and pearly white beneath), the “Lucozade legs” (orangey splashes all over the shins), the “handmarks of Help! Can’t quite reach!” on my back. But being a mum adds a new layer of fraughtness to fake tanning.


Know your limits. Kids are *fairly* time-consuming. If you are willing to slather yourself daily, go for one of the everyday sun products and enjoy the gently deepening colour. If you’re more of a “bestir yourself once a week for the greater good” kinda girl (like me), make it count. Slap on something that may look a little vivid on the first day, but will quickly settle down and give you a lovely glow till you can next be bothered to apply (I like St Tropez’s mousse, Sienna X’s express mist and Ambre Solaire’s dry body mist). (This is not a sponsored post. These guys are my summer armour.)

Wait till the kids are in bed. I had a spray tan for a birthday treat the other day, taking the only appointment that my lovely mobile beauty therapist could offer: 6pm. Then I looked at the filthy urchins that were my children and realised I couldn’t get away with skipping a bath. So I had to bathe them wearing rubber gloves and an extra-stern expression to repel any of the usual splashanigans.

Remember to do both legs. I once had to buy a pair of trousers on the way to work, after I looked down on the Tube (where I’d been sitting for nearly an HOUR) and realised I’d tanned one leg twice, and the other not at all. Baby Brain 1, My Dignity 0.


Tan when you’re due to breastfeed. Never mind bath-splashes on your leave-overnight tan – try breastmilk rivulets. Oh yes, not only with my first baby, but my second too, I had a let-down incident, where I decided to do a tan, only to go to feed the wee one and leak milk all over myself, creating an effect a bit like the Cadbury swirl on the advert.

Cuddle a damp child mid-tan-development: After the rubber-glove bath mentioned above, I of course had to get the baby out. He loves a good snuggle after a bath, and so do I – I sat there feeling his saturated hair against my chest thinking “Ahhh”. And then “ARGH!” as I realised he was soaking off my carefully applied tan, leaving me with a white sun (or, indeed, son)-shape on my chest.

Forget to moisturize: Unless you’re channelling the Komodo dragon look. Exfoliation is also key to getting the smoothest result – elbows and knees are often cited as the key dry areas, but if you’ve spend all winter in skinny jeans and Uggs, like me, your shins will be ragged too. If you have one of those shower squeegee things that is a great, quick way to slough off the dead skin cells. But a good old rough scrub will prep your skin and help avoid the streaks of shame. I love The Sanctuary Spa’s 4-Day Moisture Oil scrub – which is an exfoliant and moisturizer in one, and the softening effects of the oil really do last several days. Best of all, its classic Sanctuary Spa scent takes me back to my pre-wedding pamper day at the mothership spa on Floral Street. (Again, not sponsored, just love.)

Bother*. You will smell so much like a biscuit another mum may try to eat you. *Except for special occasions, of course. 

Why Look Good All The Time, Anyway?

There are three reasons why I don’t fake tan all year round: my oldest, middle and youngest boys. But also:

#1 You get no sympathy. I don’t particularly need or deserve sympathy, but sometimes, when I’m sweating and pleading my way through a post-school emergency milk dash in Tesco, if there were any spare sympathy floating around at that point, it would be nice to bag some, rather than a load of tutting. But if you’re tanned, who’s gonna care? You look like either you’ve got time to tan, are disgustingly healthy or – worst of all – have just got off a plane. Definitely no sympathy for you.

#2 You have nowhere to go. I mean this both literally – I go “out out” maybe thrice a year – and figuratively. I play the long game with my appearance. Looking like a worn-out hag for nine months of the year is intentional. It’s to provide a foil to my fake-tanned, slightly-less-frightful, incarnation. Thus in the summer months, I emerge from the cocoon of my Uggs and mummy-parka like a butterfly, eliciting cries of, “You look nice!?!” from amazed peers, who have to bite their tongues not to ask if I’ve lost weight, had a face lift, changed my hair or “had my colours done”. Such is the power of the tan. If I looked like that all the time, there would be nowhere to go, short of actually having plastic surgery, hair extensions and a strict diet. To look your best all the time is to rob others of the chance to compliment you when you do make an effort. That’s my excuse, anyway.

#3 I simply CANNOT be bothered.

That “Bathroom Door Shut” Moment

Vanity is something we mums rarely get to indulge. We all need that “bathroom door shut” moment, when our Yeti legs cannot wait a moment longer. Whatever your tanning profile – perma-tanner, ne’er-do-tan or occasionally-orange – seize your moment of peace in your smallest room! Lay Smarties outside the door if necessary. Just watch out for the nip drips.

Related posts: What To Wear To BritMums Live? Caught between a tart and a frump.

Oh October – Season of Shinrot! The Return of the Ugg My Uggs – the Rosetta Stone in sheepskin.


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  • Does it damage my ‘women credentials’ if I admit I have never used fake tan?? i’m just so pale and ginger it would be pointless, unless I could go in a swimming pool of the stuff. Oh, my ex-housemate once accidentally fake-tanned my feet though (she used to spray it in the bathroom constantly) – does that count? x

  • My name is Judith and I’m a fake tan addict, albeit in remission. I’ve been pale now for 3.5 years – no it’s not a coincidence.that I decided to make like a milk bottle as soon as my son was born. The summer of August 2010 was pale and interesting and I’ve never had time to tan since. Great post. x

  • Great post! I’ve been through all of the fake tan disasters myself. I have my own spray tan machine now, I had planned on doing a course and doing spray tanning on the side but I mainly use it for my own tan, so once a week I entrust my skin colour to my hubby, he’s a tanning pro now haha!

  • Love this post!!!
    I imagine that i will be falling straight in the ‘no sympathy’ category when Im back in the UK for a visit haha!
    I saw this post pop up on twitter yesterday and my first thought was about how much room for error there is with fake tanning anyway let alone with kids involved!! Loved (and died a little bit for you) the one leg tanning incident! xx

  • Older Mum says:

    Leave smarties outside the door – LOL!!!! I must admit, I have never fake tanned myself. I would look terrible if I did it myself, and I don’t fancy my chances with a shop tan either :o(. Fab post my dear! :o). X

  • I love it! I have never been good at self tanner only have actually braved it twice before and both times went horribly wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing and nodding through all of this tonight. Thank you ever so much for the advice, the entertainment and linking up to Share With Me. I love your humor and your lovely, lovely blog! #sharewithme

  • Coombe Mill says:

    Funny, I have never mastered the art of a smooth tan myself, its the post swim streaky effect that really kills the look for me.

  • Great post! I really want to get a bit of colour to make me feel human again after all these sleepless nights with a baby! So these are great tips! Pocolo

  • Lovely post. Although I am absolutely sh*t at fake tan. I am dead pale, but not just that I have like proper corn beef skin. So fake tan looks awful on me. The last time I tried it, I was about 15 and we did cross country running (I walked all the way) in the rain for PE. You can guess the rest.
    Despite this, your post has inspired me to fake tan. I might get someone to spray tan me then I can blame them when it goes horribly wrong. I stand out like a sore thumb in Liverpool with no tan! It’s not fair, Wry…thanks for helping me fix this! xxx

  • I’ve braved self-tanning once – and whilst I quite liked it, I don’t think I could do it again! Great post 🙂 Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  • jenny says:

    Always remember you have tan on when you get up to comfort baby in the night. I once accidentally tanned one side of my newborns face……

  • I’vs self-tanning. Really good job on the site, Thanks for guide!
    Karen Barnett recently posted…Designer Skin Pretty and Reckless Tanning Lotion ReviewMy Profile

  • larissa says:

    This is such an awesome post! There is never enough time and trying to apply any sort of self tanner on a time constraint is impending doom but you definitely list some good tips to help get some time away from the kids and spend a little time pampering yourself!

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