It’s  a hard blow to live with the fact that, while you look a million times better with a tan,  you have pale, freckly skin that stubbornly refuses to change colour when you go outside in the sun.

Unfortunately, that’s the hand of cards that’s been dealt to me, which is especially weird given that, when I look back at pictures from my summer days in primary school, I’m rocking a goddess-tan that even J.Lo would be envious of.

You just don’t appreciate these things when you’re seven, do you?

(Admittedly I did look weird in other ways)

Anyway, now I’m stuck in the world of a the pale, a place I really don’t want to inhabit, and it means I’ve had no choice but to master the art of fake tan (what else could I have learnt in that time? A language? A craft?).

Here are my lessons…

1.Always, ALWAYS use a mitt

I know there used to be a time (years, in fact) when I just slapped fake tan on with my hands and hoped for the best, but Lord knows it didn’t turn out too well. The discovery of fake tanning mitts probably goes down as one of the most seismic events of my life. Just kidding (kinda…)

2. Tinted mousses are the greatest if you’re not a pro

Which probably means about 99.9% of the fake tanning population, right? I love a mousse, whether it’s a pricey Fake Bake one, or Rimmel’s rather excellent Sun Shimmer Self Tan mousse. The consistency makes it really easy to apply, and actually being able to see where you’re putting it stops you from looking like you’ve been painted with creocote by a 5-year-old.

3. Green tan still works 

If you’re a beauty hoarder like me, there will be some low points at which you’ve had WAY too many bottles of fake tan in the house. Then, after several months of neglect, you’ve squirted one out only to find it’s changed a rather weird shade of green (this is something to do with oxidation apparently).

There was a piece about this very phenomenon on the Mail Online a while ago, where some woman had kicked off because her St Tropez turned her entire face green. This is weird because I’ve found that, while the formula might be green when you apply it (and you will look like Mrs Shrek overnight), once you wash it off in the morning you are still a lovely shade of brown. Anyone agree?

4. Your mitt will also go green

Any experienced fake tanner will be familiar with this sight. I actually replace my fake tan mitts fairly often because I can’t imagine that such a damp, chemical-laden surface stays bacteria-free for very long (obviously if I was a good person I’d wash it, but DUH that would mean getting my newly applied tan wet).

5. Apply with long sweeping motions

I got this tip after watching a beauty vlog, even though I confidently started viewing thinking ‘Pah, what can I possibly have left to learn about fake tanning?’ Well, it turns out I was doing the actual application all wrong – my previous method was to rub the tan in with circular or scrubbing motions (what a FOOL), whereas in fact using long, sweeping strokes from, say, your knee to your ankle works way better. (Knees and ankles illustrated below)

6. Baby wipes are your BFF

I’ve read a million times about how you should apply Vaseline to your elbows and exfoliate thoroughly before fake tanning, but do I ever remember to do that? Of course not. What I find far more effective is simply to take a baby wipe or micellar water on a cotton pad after I’ve applied the tan, and gently swipe it over areas which tend to go darker: ankle bones, the heels of my hands, elbows, knees and, weirdly, the front of my ankles too.

7. Fake tanning your face is hard

All I’ve ever wanted in life is for my face and body to match, but jeez, it’s hard sometimes. When I’m really pale, I’m being sold too orange foundations at a various makeup counters  (no I am NOT NW25, Mac lady!), and when I’m tanned my face is a beacon of ghostliness at the top of my body. The trouble is, I’m so obsessed with cleansing my face that any fake tan product I apply is almost immediately removed, which means adding more on a daily basis (the best product I’ve found for doing this is James Read Sleep Mask Tan, FYI). Another option, and one which I often go for, is simply to bronze your face into a more acceptable shade during makeup application. Then it’s only your partner/housemates/dog who have to know the mismatched truth.

8. Use gradual tan as an inbetweener

The way I like to structure my tanning during the summer is to do one ‘big tan’ a week – i.e. tanning with a full-on dark mousse – and then top up with gradual tan as a post-shower moisturiser in between. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then take Tess Daly’s – I once interviewed her makeup artist, who told me that Tess uses Dove Summer Glow as a top up tan while she’s presenting Strictly. St Tropez Everyday Body Moisturiser is also ace.

9. Fake tanning is a right faff

I have a weird amount of respect for people who can be bothered to keep up their fake tanning regime all year round, because DEAR GOD it’s a hassle. I think the main problem is that as soon as I get out of the shower, my first thought is ‘get dry and get warm’, not ‘I fancy doing a really intricate paint job before standing round naked for 10 minutes in the cold’. However, as we all know, you’ve got to suffer for beauty, and I definitely think the benefits of a golden glow outweigh the annoyance of having to be a slave to my tanning regime during the summer. Except when it gets on the damn bed sheets.