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Your Guide to a SUBTLE Winter Glow

You Beauty by Gemma Watts is a column dedicated to bringing your skin, your body, your hair ... your vanity, the best of Australian-made beauty

In lockdown, I’ll do just about anything to boost my mood and lift my spirits.

Where many will endorse the mood-boosting powers of a bold lip (a regular fixture in corporate Zoom calls and on those who are able to leave their home sans mask… sorry, jealousy is not a good shade on me), however my beauty mood-booster of choice is a golden tan.

Is it that a seemingly sunkissed glow delivers the illusion of someone who has just returned from a holiday (remember those?)? Is that a tan makes one’s eyes look brighter, teeth whiter, their tracksuit more expensive? Is there a psychological element that tricks me into thinking we’re in the middle of Summer? Trick question- it’s all of the above.

I have been called many, many things in my time, but the two safest for publication are a “tanning addict” and, by my friends and family, an “SPF bully.” The two may seem contradictory, which is where one of my most beloved beauty categories comes in- false tan. As it’s name suggests, a false tan is entirely fake, however many wish to maintain the illusion of a “real” sun tan and therefore reserve their deeper, darker tanning formulas for the summer months. In winter, those after a realistic looking tan prefer a more subtle glow, the appearance of skin that has only been very gently kissed by the sun. While many will recommend a gradual tanning moisturiser to achieve such a glow, I prefer to follow a slightly more thorough routine for winter tanning. Rather than using a gradual tanner and build up the desired shade, I love using a tanning mousse for an instant faux glow, then using a gradual tanning moisturiser to maintain the colour.

This is mind, there are a few essential steps one must follow to ensure their tanning mousse of choice stays firmly within the realm of winter colour. Read on for my guide to keeping your faux glow looking subtle and natural.

Prepare your skin

To master the art of fake tan, it’s important to understand just how tanning solutions work. The shortest possible overview- self tan formulas contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone, known as DHA, that reacts with dead and dry skin cells and makes them darker. The colour that comes straight out of the bottle? This is simply a “guide colour,” there to show you where you’ve applied your tan so you can ensure it’s even. This colour rinses away when you shower, while the DHA will continue to develop your tan depending on its concentration and how long you’ve left it on your skin for.

Given that this is how tanning products work, it’s essential that your skin is completely even in texture in order to avoid dark patches. If you’re aiming for a subtle, winter glow, you want to make an extra effort to really ensure you’ve removed any patches of particularly dry skin to avoid your tan looking too dark. To do this, use an exfoliating mitt and tan removal solution to give your skin a good scrub, ideally 24 hours prior to tanning.

Immediately prior to tanning, apply a body lotion from top to toe. Most tanning brands will advise that you do not do this, as it can a barrier between the tanning solution and your skin, however this is perfect for those who wish to achieve a subtle glow as the moisturiser will slightly dilute the formula.

Apply the tan

Regardless of how light and seemingly natural you want your tan to look, you have no reason to be afraid of tanning mousses. For a light glow, I like to apply a tanning mousse (like Luna Bronze’s Eclipse Tanning Mousse in Medium) to completely clean and dry skin. Shave an hour off the advised rinsing time (for example, if the bottle advises you to leave the product on the skin for 6 to 8 hours, hop in the shower after 5). Don’t panic as you see the colour vanishing from your skin and down the drain- remember, this is just the guide colour! The DHA will remain on your skin and will continue to subtly develop over the next 24 hours.

Maintain your glow

This is where the weapon-of-choice of subtle-winter-glow-lovers comes in really handy. Gradual Tanning Moisturisers are great for giving the skin a wash of really subtle colour, however the clear formulas make it easy to miss patches of skin and leave you with an uneven tan. This is why I personally favour tanning mousses.

What I love to use tanning moisturisers, like Luna Bronze’s Gradual Glow Tanning Moisturiser, for is maintaining the colour I’ve developed using the aforementioned mousse. To get the most out of your tanning moisturiser, apply it to dry skin after you’ve showered, beginning the day after tanning. Applying your moisturiser after showering will allow you to lock in any excess post-shower moisture, and well hydrated skin equates to a tan that fades evenly and doesn’t come off in telltale chunks. The gradual tanning moisturiser will extend the life of your tan and help it fade evenly, meaning your skin will be in perfect condition the next time you decide to tan.

If you’re anything like me, the beauty of, well, beauty, is that it can lift your mood and boost your confidence. This winter, swap out your bold lipsticks and bright eyeshadows for a day and give my tried and tested mood-boosting beauty hack a go.


Described by VOGUE Australia as being “at the top of the beauty game,” Gemma Watts has been a part of Australia’s media landscape since early 2012, working as a journalist and MC across the fashion and beauty spheres. 2016 saw Gemma launch Glow Journal, a multi-faceted beauty media platform consisting of, an editorial platform, Glow Journal Creative, a beauty copywriting and consultancy agency, and the Glow Journal podcast, a series of conversations with the biggest names in beauty. Gemma is passionate about sharing the stories behind the local brands we know and love, and is thrilled to be bringing those stories to Buy Aussie Now.

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