By Tracey Strange

Beauty has a reputation for weird treatments. The latest is using Coke (as in the soft drink) as self-tan and/or tan enhancer. Coca-Cola contains a caramel dye, which when applied to the skin, turns it brown. Not so different to your standard fake tan? The colour in traditional self-tanners does indeed come from sugar - mainly dihydroxyacetone or DHA (the smelly ingredient in self-tans), which is notoriously difficult to stabilise. The sugar in Coke isn't intended to turn anyone brown, therefore it's more likely to be patchy than a self-tanner. But the main problem is that it's acidic, so acts like an exfoliator. Dousing yourself in the stuff and going out into the sun is quite literally playing with fire. It's a simple equation: exfoliating + sunlight (without sunscreen) = madness.

But spring is here, your skin (to reference the Brothers Grimm) is snow white, and even just a touch of extra colour - let alone a full-body bronze - will make you look healthier and feel more alive.

First things first

It's pretty impossible to get a completely natural-looking fake tan. As the skin sloughs, marks appear, and any tan can look more orange. Clothes, too, play their part in making you look less than naturally sun-kissed. Try to get dressed while your self-tan is even slightly damp and you'll get tan "demarcation" lines. But natural tans also have their issues (apart from the obvious health ones). They, too, result in tan marks, but you can also add to that peeling skin and sunburn. A fake tan is always the safer option.

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Here's how to get yours looking as good as possible.

1 Exfoliate gently, as abrasive exfoliation will only worsen patchiness.
2 Let the skin dry then moisturise, ideally giving yourself 10 minutes or so to let the moisturiser dry.
3 Apply self-tan from the "ground up", i.e. from your toes to your face.
4 Help avoid tell-tale marks by reapplying moisturiser to those areas the sun doesn't ordinarily reach - back of ankles, knees and inner wrists.
5 Choose formulas that offer light or medium tans - too dark, they look less natural.
6 Once dry, a cuticle remover can take care of "mistakes" like dirty knuckles. Keeping your skin well moisturised will also delay the skin's natural cell-shedding process.
7 Apply self-tanner to your face before going to bed. You'll need far less makeup (concealer/foundation/highlighter) in the morning.
8 Use sunscreen. (But you knew that.)

Three tans worth trying

1. SugarBaby Sun-Believable Self-Tan Mousse ($28)

This easy-to-apply tanner takes about two hours to fully deepen. It's packed with moisturiser, which will leave your skin looking beautiful while extending the length of your tan.

2. Le Tan Wash Off ($23)

If you're in a rush, this is genius. It dries in a minute and leaves skin glowing. Wash it off with soap and warm water.

3. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Mist ($25)

Mist or mousse? Neither is better. Mousses are probably easier; mists or sprays are arguably better at covering hard-to-reach areas. If you're a beginner, I'd stick
with lotion. This spray is packed with moisturising vitamin E and has a nice coco-nutty smell.

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