Celebrity Tanning Expert James Read Explains Why Men Should Start ‘Tantouring’

"I don't do orange."

James Read

James Read Tan’s bronzing mousse on vacation (Photo: James Read Instagram).

James Read, a “tanning expert” and the founder of James Read Tan, creates unique products for those looking for a summertime bronze before they hit the beach. Mr. Read is a proponent of the “accented tan,” a far cry from the fully bronzed bodies people think of when self-tanning comes to mind. His product line, James Read Tan, has an Instagram account that will inspire you to book a beach vacation; celebrity clients include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J and Lady Gaga, who are all artfully bronzed by Mr. Read before red carpet appearances.

Mr. Read, a veteran of the UK tanning industry, believes the worst, and most prominent, self-tanning mistake is over-applying for that orange, Oompa Loompa glow. (Luckily, he offers tips on how to avoid it.) After having his own tanning menu at the Agua Spa in London he opened his own studios in Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols, where he started the trend of layering tans and “tantouring,” or contouring with tanning products. The Observer caught up with Mr. Read to find out how New York women (and men) can begin tanning before sundress season starts.

Tanning expert James Read

UK tanning expert James Read (Photo: Courtesy James Read).

With spring coming, should people start slowly when it comes to using self-tanner, or is there an easy, effective way to get loads of color at once? Self tanning is so advanced now that people tan all year round, but like fashion the look changes—spring is about the natural tan. Go for a self tanner that contains skincare ingredients. Gradual tans are great to build up over two days.

Can you describe how your tanning sleep masks work overnight? The sleep mask tan is designed to hydrate the skin and tan you while you sleep. It does not transfer onto your bedding and doesn’t smell. We have the original Sleep Mask, which you use over a few days to design your tan look or the new Sleep Mask Tan Go Darker, which gives you a golden tan after one application. Both have added skincare ingredients that are designed to keep moisturizing days after application, which helps your tan fade evenly. Both sleep masks tans are designed for all skin tones so it looks natural on everyone. I don’t do orange!

Rosie Huntington-Whitely, fully tantoured

Rosie Huntington-Whitely, fully tantoured by Mr. Read, especially on her clavicles (Photo: James Read Instagram).

What should men know about self-tanning? Tanning has become huge with men over the last two or three years. Over tanning the face with stubble is a no no as the stubble can turn ginger. Always go for a light tan for the face and wipe over the stubble with a dry hand towel after applying the tan. Always use a tanning mitt to make sure the tan goes through the hair instead of sitting on the top of the hair. Bronzing sprays are great for guys. I have found my sleep mask tan is popular with men as it applies clear and does not turn hair orange, also it works through hair which is a bonus.

How can someone create their own accented tan? Tantouring is the best way to add definition to your skin. Apply the tan on day one, then on the second day stand on a towel in front of the mirror and use a bronzing spray to mist over the areas where the light hits. For men, spray over the chest area, top of the shoulders, top of the arms and the lines of the tummy. Leave the tan on for three to four hours then shower. The trick is to just add a slight depth to the skin without tanning more.  

self tan

The bronzing mousse continues its vacation (Photo: James Read Instagram).


Always exfoliate days beforehand

“Start by exfoliating two days prior to applying to self tan. Apply the self tan on day one, moisturize to extend the life of the tan and exfoliate after four days to help it fade evenly.”

Be mindful after tanning

“Don’t wash your hands for six to seven hours after tanning so you don’t get the white hands and brown arms look and use a straw when drinking so the top lip doesn’t turn white.”

Don’t apply directly

“Always use a tanning mitt to apply your tan and work the excess product from the arms onto the hands and then legs onto the feet and ankles. Don’t apply directly to these areas. Doing a wet shave a few days after tanning is another mistake, use an electric shaver which will only remove the top hair and not your self tan.

Celebrity Tanning Expert James Read Explains Why Men Should Start ‘Tantouring’