Self-tanning as self-care: our guide to using fake tan in winter

It was the first night of ‘Lockdown 2.0’ in Melbourne. Two episodes into a marathon of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, my housemate turns to me and says, “We should try fake tanning!”. Coincidentally – I had the exact same thought. There’s something about having a gorgeous glow all over your skin (and the self-care ritual of applying self-tan) that inspires an inner warmth and sense of contentment – which is exactly what we need right now. As Isle of Paradise founder and Instagram dance sensation Jules Von Hep calls it, it’s his “cloak of confidence”. As he explains: “I love the confidence that tanning gives me—it makes me feel like me when I look in the mirror. I look in the mirror and go ‘(sighs) here I am.’”

But in winter the change in environmental conditions (both outside and inside with artificial heating) has a noticeable impact on your skin, which in turn impacts the result of your usual self-tanning methods. As a winter tanning newbie, I’ve enlisted the help of some incredible MECCA team members (as well as getting inside knowledge from brand founders) to teach us the best ways to self-tan through winter with the finalist tanning products for our MECCA Beauty Election 2020. Come with me on my tanning research journey to discover the best tips for applying and maintain fake tan through winter.


Dry patches on both the face and body is a deterrent when it comes to fake tan as the product can react with these dry spots and result in an uneven finish. Luckily, the MECCA family has some tips to keep your skin hydrated for an even tan.

For face, store host and tanning guru Ben from MECCA Maxima Charlestown recommends the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops as they can be added into your winter skincare routine for a gradual colour that boosts your skin’s moisture levels.

“Try adding tanning drops into a hydrating serum rather than a moisturiser for deeper-penetrating hydration,” says Ben. “When followed by a moisturiser, your skin will be completely nourished – no dry patches here!”

Tanning drops can also be added to your favourite body lotions for a gradual glow all over. MECCA HQ resident tanning queen Jemma adds the natural-oil-infused Mecca Cosmetica Self-Tan Drops to a rich body butter, something ultra-hydrating to combat common winter dry spots like elbows and knees. Or, for an even more gradual colour in just one product, she recommends trying the Luna Bronze Glow Gradual Tanning Moisturiser: “It’s is a super-hydrating two-in-one that slowly adds colour every day whilst still feeling like a nourishing body moisturiser – plus, it never streaks.”


Think of dryness or flakiness that can be found in places like around the knees – that’s dead skin. For your tan to be even these patches of flaking must must must be buffed away with an exfoliator, whether it’s a chemical exfoliant of a physical scrub.

Jules Von Hep from Isle of Paradise recommends exfoliating 24 hours before applying your tan with their Over It Magic Self Tan Eraser, which uses glycolic acid to “create a beautiful skin surface before the tan is applied.”

For those that prefer a physical exfoliant, the Spray Aus Exfoliating Mitt works great with any hydrating body wash to remove flaky dry patches quickly.

With the skin on your face being far too delicate for body exfoliants, something more specialised is required. Jemma from MECCA HQ’s favourite is the Alpha Beta Glow Pad Intense Glow Self Tanner for Face from Dr. Dennis Gross as it exfoliates with alpha and beta hydroxy acids to remove dead skin cells and tans in one go for a flawless, streak-free facial tan.

Jemma says, “it’s the best skincare-tanning combo product. It makes your face look like you've been on holiday and it means you can wear a lighter coverage foundation (I also sometimes use the pads to top up my hands and feet which fade faster).”


Having been stuck inside for several months, my natural skin tone is lighter than it would be normally (even compared to previous winters). That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a light touch with the self-tan this winter, building up gradually and avoid dramatic ‘tell-tale’ jumps in colour.

Either the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops or Mecca Cosmetica Self-Tan Drops are ideal for moderating your fake-tan as you can directly control the depth with how many drops you mix into your face or body products.

Another great buildable option is The Tan by Elle Effect, a local favourite that can go from lightly sun-kissed to bronze beach goddess.

Jemma from MECCA HQ recommends this one for all year round, saying, “it’s super customisable so you can go lighter than you normally would without having to change brands.”


For so many of us, we want a fake tan product that makes us feel good in every way and a huge part of this is the way that it smells. My self-care ritual generally involves a deliciously scented candle (and a bottle of wine), so a funky fake tan smell would ruin that vibe. Fortunately, our range of self-tanning products are formulated with this exact thought in mind.

Speaking about their easy-to-use Self-Tanning Water, Jules Von Hep says “waters are so refreshing, that’s why Isle of Paradise smells like eucalyptus, and cucumber and peppermint, because I feel like if you’re naked, you want to feel refreshed.”

MECCA HQ’s Jemma also loves the Self-Tanning Water as it’s easy to apply by spraying and dries down quickly, saying “it’s best in the cold winter months if you don’t want to stand naked in the bathroom for too long.”

Luna Bronze founders Madeleine Balderson and Rhiannon Hall say of their Glow Gradual Tanning Moisturiser, “it doesn’t smell like fake tan! Think more of a day spa experience thanks to our unique natural essential oil blend of lemon myrtle, orange blossom and mandarin.”

For a delicate scent as part of a self-care moment, MECCA Maxima Charlestown’s Ben loves The Tan from Elle Effect, saying, “it’s the most perfect tan for winter because it smells like roses, so when you’re cuddling up it smells like you’re wearing a bougie fragrance!”

For everything you need to know about MECCA Beauty Election 2020, click here.

To vote for your favourites, click here.


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