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According to Elle Ferguson, the fake tan 'contour' trend will take minutes off your makeup routine

January 1 | 3 minute read

Elle Ferguson sitting down smiling with her hair down and curled

Words by Cjay Aksoyoglu

Originally published on | October 16

There’s nothing like the glow of a contoured face: lifted cheekbones, a defined jawline and brightened features that all provide a naturally sunkissed-looking complexion. But with it, comes a sometimes-too-elaborate makeup routine that you just don’t have time or energy to put on daily. 

TikTok’s latest contouring trend is music to the ears of ‘low maintenance' beauty people everywhere – even if it sounds a little high maintenance to begin with! Contouring the face with self-tan is a way to get a natural, undetectable-looking contour that will have Beyonce’s ‘I woke up like this’ lyric ringing true for you daily. The best part? It won’t require an inch of makeup and lasts for days. 

If self-tan for the face seems daunting, there’s nobody better to demystify the process than ELEFFECT founder Elle Ferguson who talks us through her tips to nailing the contouring with self-tan trend. Here’s how!


What skin prep should you do before self-tanning the face?

Just like the usual body self-tan routine, skin prep is crucial to ensuring an even and natural-looking glow. “The cleaner your base is, the more perfect the end result will be,” tells Ferguson.

In the days leading up to face tanning, Ferguson uses the Emma Lewisham Iluminating Oil Cleanser followed by the Illuminating Exfoliant as it’s “super gentle and the beads don’t scratch the skin at all meaning the tan won’t ‘grab’ when applied”.

Lastly (and perhaps most importantly!), keeping the skin moisturised and hydrated is key to a lasting, non-blotchy face tan. “Remember this is all prep, so none of the above is to be done right before you tan,” Ferguson warns. On the day of tanning, be sure to have a completely clean, dry, bare face with no product!


Where do you apply self-tan on the face?

To contour, you’re going to need a tanning mousse and blending brush (or sponge) for application. Ferguson uses ELEFFECT’s The Tan, which “has a guide colour, meaning I can see where I’m applying the tan and can control how much I apply and see where I’m applying it unlike a tan water or drops.”

Pump some tannning mousse onto a mitt before dipping your brush into a small amount of tan and working it into the skin in a circular blending motion. No mitt? No worries. “I like to pump the mousse onto a plate so I don’t pump the product directly onto the brush,” says Ferguson. “Remember less is more in the beginning – the idea is to apply the tan just like you would a bronzer.”

Using the same principles as makeup contouring, apply your tan to the areas where the sun naturally hits: the temples along the forehead, under the cheekbones towards your earlobes and the jawline. “From here, I lightly contour my nose. I run two lines on either side of my nose, leaving the bridge with no tan," says Ferguson, which allows the area to look naturally highlighted.

"To end, I like to wipe my application brush on some paper towel and then just go back and blend any edges on my face.” This is the time to blend down the jawline into the neck and even out any blotchy spots. “This step is not about applying more product but instead smoothing out edges,” reminds Ferguson. Remember: the finished application should look like you’ve just applied bronzer – blended enough that if you stepped out for the day, nobody would notice!

Leave the tan on for at least a couple of hours or overnight, rinsing off with cold water.


How do you make the contour last?

To keep your tan fresh, stay away from oils, retinol and exfoliating actives which can all make the tan wash off more quickly and become blotchy. Instead, simply keep the skin moisturised and hydrated. “Just like your body tan, to prolongue your face tan you want to keep your skin hydrated,” tells Ferguson.


How often should you re-apply face tan?

Reapplication will depend on how quickly your tan fades, but a good rule of thumb is once a week. “I love to tan my face once a week on ‘Tan Thursday!’ A great reason to face tan and contour regularly is the fact that you’ll be wearing less makeup – and, when you head to the beach your contour won’t wash off in the water,” says Ferguson.

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