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 • Opinion  • Our Beauty Diaries  • How Harry Styles’ Tan Artist Taught Me to Embrace the Faux Glow

How Harry Styles’ Tan Artist Taught Me to Embrace the Faux Glow

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Main image – Courtesy of writer

December tis traditionally the season to celebrate hard. 

Whether it’s the office Christmas party, formal NYE bash or casual cocktails, it all requires setting aside smart casual go-to dress codes and going all out showstopper.

And the cherry on the party season cake? A head to toe glow to the skin.


My self-tanning journey

Now even at the start of my career as a beauty editor, fake tan for me personally always carried with it connotations of effectively the worst beauty mishaps known to mankind (still trying to shake off Ross from friends being AN EIGHT!). 

Back in my early twenties, a near mention of the prospect of the biscuit-smelling formulas and you’d see me running to the nearest exit. 


Beauty editor Rosie Underwood with a fake tan

Beauty editor Rosie was tan averse before she met an A-list tan artist. Image – Courtesy of writer


My fear of not fool-proofing a tint meant as the winter months drained every last drop of sun kissed glow from my skin the 100 deniers came out, despite dying to nail that golden tone in the face of winter’s grey, cold dark skies. And I knew I wasn’t alone in my way of thinking. 

It was around this time in my very early twenties I started working as a beauty journalist for the X Factor in the UK. 

Backstage at the London studios, as the nights drew in and the hype around the show exploded in unison with party season and my winter pallor, I watched as the likes of Harry Styles and Liam Payne formed an orderly line to a strange looking tent set up in hair and make-up. 


Journalist Rosie Underwood

Rosie backstage at the height of her beauty journalism career. Image – Courtesy of writer


Naturally I asked the then budding contestants what all the fuss was about, and a very preppy looking Harry Styles responded explaining that they were about to get a spray tan. (And, yes, I’m still kicking myself to this day that this was the extent of my conversation with the world’s most famous person. It may or may not have come up in therapy.) 

At this stage, it was my job to try whatever the contestants were trying beauty wise, so I got in line behind Harry.


How Harry Styles’ tan artist changed everything

It was then that I was introduced to ‘the man who tans,’ James Harknett, now dubbed ‘the Tom Ford of tanning’. 

What I witnessed that day is what I can only describe as an art form. I couldn’t quite believe what my naïve eyes were witnessing as I watched a very sleep deprived Matt Cardle go from carpenter to front man you’d want to marry in a heartbeat. 

He didn’t look ‘tanned,’ he just looked healthy. Glowing. A better version of himself. He looked like a star. 


Tan artist James Harknett

Tan artist James Harknett is an A-lister favourite. Image – Courtesy of writer


If I remember rightly, I cut the queue I was so fascinated. And yes that’ll be the only time in history that I’d have the nerve to bombard past One Direction in the name of a tan. But beauty is pain, right? 

Harknett was an ex dancer, so the way he moved his spray gun to contour my cheek bones, my collar bones, my whole body, was something that needs to be experienced to be believed. I looked alive again! 

My tired complexion needed no makeup to lift it. My eyes looked brighter offset against the olive tone of my skin. My teeth looked whiter and my posture improved as a result of the confidence boost. From a tan!? No wonder the contestants were more excited about this than Cheryl Cole’s new dance moves.  

As I moved up to become Beauty Director for OK! Magazine soon after, I started to get invited to the big events. Award season landed every year as winter peaked in its bleakness. 


Journalist Rosie Underwood

Rosie after discovering James’s tanning services. Image – Courtesy of writer


I would find myself banging down the door of Harknett’s new location in the W Hotel, waving invites at him to the Oscars, The Baftas, and Fashion week shows with a combination of imposter syndrome and a very VERY pasty complexion.  Possibly the worst combination of factors, both of which Harknett would sort for me in around ten minutes. 

Now it’s important to make the distinction that as a beauty journalist, the polarities between your work life (walking the red carpet with the a-list) and your home life (one bed studio flat so small you could barely swing a cat in) are so big that any help in the way of looking the part comes as VERY welcome. 


Rosie Underwood

Rosie at an A-List event. Image – Courtesy of writer


But when travel was involved and my trusty spray artist not at hand, he’d give me these tips to achieve the winter glow myself.

And now I’ve spoken to Harknett again to put together a list of tips to perfect your self tan this party season.

After all, why should the A-list have all the fun?


James Harknett’s self-tanning tips

1. Up the ante

The self-tanning game is an advancing breed these days, and the last few years we’ve seen products addressing individuality in skin tone, just like Harknett did for me over the years.  That means you can pick a product that not only tans but cares for your skin too.

Skincare is becoming so sophisticated now, and as a result, self-tanning brands have worked tirelessly to keep up with what modern beauty fanatics require from their products,” says Harknett.

Three Warriors Face Tan Aqua Mist is great if you want to moisture drench your skin whilst your tan develops, with a streak free finish,” he recommends.


Rosie Underwood

Rosie is now a fake tan convert. Image – Courtesy of writer


2. Go easy

Build slowly and always wait for one layer of colour to develop before going for a second. 

Harknett gives two options here. ‘The first option comes in the form of Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster For Body– these are drops you can add to any body moisturiser to create the perfect, long-lasting shade for you, with added aloe Vera to calm winter skin,” he explains.

He goes on, “The second option is St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse, which is a wonderful tanning multi-tasker. 

“This pump style foam is easy to apply, and you can leave it on for an hour for a subtle look and up to three hours for a deeper shade. This fast-working formula is an added bonus during party season.”


3. Hydrate

This point can’t be emphasised enough. Dehydrated skin rejects a tan like no tomorrow, and moisturised skin helps to maintain a tan. 

The health coach in me would take it one step further by saying drink plenty of water on top of that, especially as central heating gets amped up. 

“It’s said time and time again but keep your body moisturised daily,” says Harknett.

“As well as giving longevity to your winter glow, it allows tanned skin to look less matte or flat. It gives extra dimension to the glow and helps avoid that taught, dry feeling.” 

And any quick tips?  “Use a spray on moisturiser. Vaseline Aloe Smooth in a can is tan sealant. It dries fast and takes the hassle out of daily moisturising.”


The takeaway

Physically speaking, a tan emphasises contrast and definition.  Emotionally speaking, it makes me feel more confident. 

I can feel my eyes get wider, my smile get bigger and my shoulders melt down my back.

My fake tan story in my eyes is up there with a platonic, modern day romance novel; with guest appearances from Harry Styles and other X Factor names. 

It’s a beauty lesson that’s saved me over the years and an ever-evolving story I’ll always hold close to my heart. 

Hopefully it will help you perfect your self-tanning techniques too.


Meet the expert

James Harknett started his tanning career in the late 90s when he joined the now iconic St Tropez, helping to launch key products such as the Bronzing Mousse and Mist. He was personally trained how to spray tan by the founder of St Tropez back in 2002.  James went on to create his own bespoke spray tan services at the WLondon Away Spa. He is the winner of a GQ wellness award, regularly works with the likes of L’Oreal, Garnier, Xen Tan Sienna X and is the Global Creative Consultant for Fakebake.


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Freelance beauty writer

Rosie Underwood is a beauty journalist and the former Beauty Director of OK! Magazine.  She is also a teacher and specialist in Vinyasa flow and has worked with experts like Deepak Chopra, Gabriella Bernstein and Doctor Andrew Weil.  She regularly features in the likes of Grazia and Vogue.

Expertise: Skincare, body care
Education: Kingston University

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