How To Get a Summer Glow (Without a Smidgen of Sun)

Holiday sun tans are, for me, like hair cuts. It’s highly frustrating to return from having a chop and not get your new ‘do noticed by a friend or colleague, and it’s similarly annoying if nobody clocks your post-holiday glow after you’ve been away.

But the trouble is, we all know that lying in the sun for hours is very much Not A Good Thing. Disregarding how uncomfortable it is to lie back and fry yourself (sweat, sunstroke, sunburn – yuck), it’s all round bad to expose your skin to the sun’s harmful rays, so I am a huge fan of both the shade, a big hat and good old trusty factor 50.

Which often meant that, on trips gone by, I would return from my holidays whiter than when I departed. Not ideal.

No longer! Coming home from Greece recently I had nothing but “ooh, have you been on holiday?”, “the colour of you!!” and “wow, check out your holiday glow!” from my friends – no post-hols pasty frustration on my part this time.

So where did the glow come from? From the colour of me you’d think I was a sun worshipper, but it rained 4 of the 7 days we were in Greece and for the remaining 3 I sat steadfastly in the shade with my sunblock. There’ll be no premature ageing over here, thanks.

I faked it.

how to get a summer glow

I’ve been using tanning products ever since I was a 16 year old using my fake ID to get into the local Wetherspoons, and thankfully tan technology has come on leaps and bounds since (back then my skin colour would best be described at ‘Oompah Loompa’). In my opinion St Tropez products still give some of the best results, though there are some excellent cheaper alternatives around, as well as some products that provide additional skincare benefits, too (I’ve literally tried THEM ALL). Alongside St Tropez I rate St Moritz gel as well as Clarins, and have just discovered the brilliant ByTerry CC glow serum, which is so expensive my children may now not get an inheritance – but SO worth it.

Here’s how I’ve been getting the best non-sun sun tan.

how to get a summer glow

Step 1: exfoliate 
Obviously a really important part of the tanning process is getting rid of the top layer of dead, dull skin. I have recently discovered the Korean Italy Exfoliator Towel, the cheapest and most effective exfoliator I’ve ever used. You basically lie in a hot bath and rub yourself all over with one of these, emerging with alarmingly dirty water but skin softer than a baby’s bottom.

Step 2: base tan
I always give myself a good base tan a day or two before I go on holiday. After moisturising (I love Soap and Glory The Body Butter) I use St Moritz medium gel, a super-good value product – currently £4.80 on Amazon – that I really rate. I use my hands to apply all-over (including face), and after washing the palms use a mitt to buff the gel into ankles, knees and fingers/toes. It gives a genuinely lovely colour: dark enough to make you look glow-y but not artificial or orange. And this is on someone who is convinced the undertone colour of her skin is ‘awkward yellow’.

Step 2: maintain the tan
When on holiday I use St Tropez Gradual Tan plus Sculpt and Glow (currently £6 off on Amazon, so £12) in lieu of aftersun, as I rationalise I’m not getting that many rays anyway. This is a lovely moisturising product that builds a gradual tan and adds a little glow: I love it. I can’t speak for its sculpting properties, but doesn’t a tan make everything look a little less wobbly anyway? I’m in.

Step 3: the face
I use different gradual tanning products for my face. I’ve long extolled the virtues of Clarins’ Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster (£29 on Amazon, or pick it up in Duty Free for a little cheaper) and I use it year-round, a couple of drops in my morning moisturiser (currently the amazing Zelens 3T Anti-Aging Creme). Then, come evening as I’m getting ready to go out, I return to my favourite St Tropez with their Tinted Moisturiser and Primer (again, £6 off on Amazon). I apply this over my evening facial oil/serum – Leahlani Champagne Serum is brilliant, I’m on my second bottle – and enjoy the glow.

how to get a summer glow

Step 4: the make-up
I say ‘make-up’ but when I’m all glow-y and tanned I rarely wear foundation: the light reflecting properties of a tan seem to hide a multitude of sins. I’ve recently discovered ByTerry’s Cellularose Brightening CC Serum (£61 – I use the shade ‘Sunny Flash’) and though spendy it really is brilliant. It smooths imperfections and creates the loveliest glow; I enhance this by using BECCA’s Shimmering Skin Perfector (£32) on my browbones and tops of my cheekbones. A touch of Clarins’s bronzer and a slick of mascara – Elizabeth Arden’s Grand Entrance is the best – and I am good to go!

For the days where I’m tired, spotty or simply not so tanned, Clinique’s Even Better Glow is the best foundation I have used in a while – I’m on my fourth bottle. Like their standard ‘Even Better’ foundation, which I’ve used for a long time it gives medium buildable coverage but with an additional glow.

Step 5: exfoliate
As I learned to my detriment lately, if you don’t continue on your exfoliation routine post-holiday you’ll soon look like some kind of scaley fish/orange Donald Trump hybrid. Not chic. To counter the weird patches of tan flaking off I use Soap and Glory’s The Scrub of Your Life a couple of times a week in the shower: it does the job admirably, and I follow by applying the St Tropez Gradual tan a couple of times a week to maintain my colour.

And there you have it! A holiday tan without the tanning. The best way to do it, in my opinion.


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