In London-where the skies are gray and it rains and rains-James Read is the god of sun and light (Apollo, who?). The celebrity spray-tanner is known as the "tan tailor" for his customized bronzes, which Brit socials and pop royalty, including Lady Gaga, are fans of. Read recently opened up the new Aqua Spa in the Sanderson Hotel, just in time to reap the benefits of the infamous tanning-bed fallout of 2009, in which the WHO equated artificial UV rays with the carcinogens found in cigarettes (for shame, Daria!) Here, he talks about how to avoid streaking, the importance of moisturizer, plus the eight products he can't live without.
What did you do before getting involved with spray tanning?
I was an actor, trained in theater, which helps when it comes to talking to people in my current profession.
Because you're so used to already imagining them naked, I presume. So, how do you "tailor" your tans?
I mix and match brands for different skin tones. So for fair skin, I use a gradual tanner, as it contains a small amount of DHA. I like He-Shi Day to Day Gradual Tan the best. For tan virgins who have never faux-tanned before, I like the brand's wash-off One Day Tan.
What about for darker complexions?
For medium skin with yellow undertones, I go for a spray or mousse like Clarins new Delectable Self Tanning Mouse and L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Express Pro. My technique is to finely layer these on the body, so they don't build up and fade evenly. On olive skin, I prefer lotion formulas as they deliver a deep tint and usually last for about seven to ten days. I would recommend Xen Tan Dark Lotion Absolute Luxe. Also, people don't realize that self-tanners are great on African-American skin, too. They even out the tone and add a glow that reflects the light. So for very dark skin tones, I like St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Spray and St. Tropez Skin Illuminator cream-they give off a gorgeous iridescent blue sheen.
Is there a universal product that looks good on everyone?
Bronzers are great to give anyone a lift. I use Laura Mercier's Pressed Powder in Golden Bronze all over.
Some people steer clear of self-tanner because of the laborious (and messy) at-home process. Any tips to make things quick and painless?
Right! A few pointers: Wax 48 hours before so skin is bare, and exfoliate or shave 24 hours before to create a smooth canvas. Then, make sure you apply moisturizer on dry areas, like hands, feet, knees, elbows, wrists, heels, and the palms of your hands, so the tanner doesn't pool there. Cover your hair and feet with a towel, too. Then, just start from the top of your body and work down, leaving the hands and feet until the end. Map out your body in stages so you don't miss bits. Once you're done, buff around the feet and wrists with a mitt and wipe any excess tanner off your brows and nails, making sure they look perfect.
How long does it usually take for the tanner to take?
Leave it for at least eight hours, but for best results I recommend you sleep with it.
Whoa. That's commitment.
Well, one of the reasons you sit with it for so long is that you shouldn't wash your hands for eight hours; otherwise, you will have brown arms and white hands. Not a good look. Once it's safe to rinse off, you should moisturize your body-it's important to do this every day to make the bronze last and not flake off. And after three days, try to exfoliate to ensure that the tan fades uniformly.
Any common goofs you can help us avoid?
If you think you might turn too dark, apply a small amount of moisturizer all over your body beforeputting on the self-tanner. It's a buffer that will lighten up your tan.
By Kari Molvar
Photo: Ben Hassett for Vogue Paris, May 2010
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