James Read, the charming, ebullient Brit who tans the likes of Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Mariah Carey and so forth, knows a thing or two about tanning. Along with his vast list of celebrity clients, also works at Fashion Week (for the likes of Tom Ford, Burberry and Sophia Webster no less) and has his own, innovative, all-encompassing tanning range, James Read Tan.

GRAZIA caught up with King of the tan to chat all things bronzed and burnished. Here, part one of our series; how to contour your body with tanning and the superior technique when it comes to the battle of the bronze.

GRAZIA: So, how do you avoid that ill-fated ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ colour?
JAMES: You layer it. I do it really fine; I go really fast and I also don’t press down fully on the gun, so it’s actually going down in fine mists, because when you go in the sun, you never go from light to dark straight away – you layer. So, it’s the same thing here, you’re layering so it makes the tan last longer, it makes it deeper but it makes it fade like a real tan will fade.

GRAZIA: So, you almost mimic the real pattern of sun tanning?
JAMES: Yeah, you’re basically building the DHA up in layers and it penetrates, and once it’s done it once, it keeps on penetrating. Then because it’s layered, it fades evenly. If you’ve got thick layers, the tan is really thick in certain areas so you get the patchiness, like around the neck and the arm pits. It wouldn’t do that because it’s thin layers.

GRAZIA: Is that a technique you learnt from someone?
JAMES: No, I just did it myself. Actually, I remember years ago when I worked for tanning brands they said, “Oh, layering doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t make your tan last longer,” but now everyone does it! I was the first one who started all the names for tanning, the trends. I worked for L’Oreal and we did this huge six-page spread in GRAZIA and it was about tanning trends and the front cover was ‘Fashion Tan’, and inside was all the different looks – the Retro Tan, the Mannequin Tan, and then that started the trend for brands doing fashion week crediting a tan for a season, like a name. So rather than just a spray tan, this season’s look is the ‘Fashion Tan”, next season’s look is the “Mannequin Tan” – which was that porcelain look with a slight pinch of colour. It was to make tanning fashionable. Then I started ‘Tanning Menus’ in salons; where people would go in and ask for a certain tan by the name of the tan, describing the look. So, a ‘Fashion Tan’ was half body parts that were on show, like when you’re at a fashion show, another was ‘Turn Up Your Tan’, like a destination tan. A weekend away was a glow with two layers, one week away was four layers, and then six layers for two weeks away. Before, you would just go in and ask for a simple spray tan. So it changed how people saw a tan, as an experience, like you do when you get a facial – it made it bespoke. My goal was to always make a tanning expert the same as a makeup artist or a hairdresser, to be seen in the same way, and now it is.

GRAZIA: Can you contour with tanning?
JAMES: Yeah, with the Bronzing Mist you can, here’s how:
1. Stand in front of the mirror.
2. You should highlight the top of your shoulders, down the fronts of the legs, the tops of the arms.
3. Leave it on for an hour and shower it off, and it will then just lift the colour without over-tanning it.
4. If you leave it on for a whole eight hours you’re going to have patchiness. You just want it so it lifts your highlighted areas.

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