Insider Interviews: James Read: Tanning Expert

Having built a reputation as one of the UK's go-to tanners, Read launched his eponymous product line in 2012. It has since amassed a global following. We spoke to him to find out how he got into the world of tanning, the failsafe tips he swears by & the grooming & wellness experts he sees.

by Amy Wilson Wyles

The Backstory

I first knew I wanted to get into tanning when I realised I could not live without self-tan myself! I’d been using it since I was 13 years old and loved how easy it was to do and how much confidence it added.

My big break came when one of the bosses from MAC makeup joined St Tropez as the CEO – Michelle Feeney. Michelle really saw the potential in me and I became their main tanning expert, tanning the likes of Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Rihanna. It was a great part of my life and I learnt a lot about PR/how to market yourself to achieve great things. I left St Tropez and opened the world’s first bespoke tanning salon. To me it was about an experience.

I knew I needed to set up my own self tan brand when I watched the September Issue about American Vogue’s Anna Wintour. There was a moment when her dad said ‘What do you want to do when you are older’… she said she ‘wanted to be editor of American Vogue’ and she did. That inspired me to do whatever I could to achieve my dreams. Years later I was in New York for a launch with Net-A-Porter and the Beauty Director of American Vogue informed me that I was in the April issue with a whole page devoted to my Sleep Mask Tan. When she walked off I cried as that was the moment I thought I had achieved something – never give up on your dreams!

The biggest tanning mistake is over applying self-tan, not exfoliating and not allowing your tan to fade evenly. But there are fewer mistakes now since tanning has moved on and people are more knowledgeable about the process to achieve a great tan.

I attribute my success to hard work, never giving up and having the best people around me that give me honest advice and keep me grounded. I believe you should always stay humble. My family and friends have always been the best support.

I’d love to be able to invent the first self-tan that does not contain DHA. To me innovation is so important. There are a few other ideas but my lips are sealed HAHA!

The Advice

My 5 Golden Tanning Rules

1) Pick a gradual tan for the face as it’s more natural and allows you to then build colour up. It’s always better to be too light than over tanned.

2) Always use a tanning mitt when applying self-tan so the tan looks natural and streak-free.

3) Exfoliate 24 hours before tanning and then 3/4 days after so your tan fades evenly.

4) Once the tan has dried, avoid washing your hands for a couple of hours afterwards. No one wants the white hands/brown arms look.

5) Moisturise daily so your tan lasts longer.

The Kit

1) James Read Instant Mist: This is great for shoots to tan models/top up a tan or contour areas of the body.

2) James Read Body Foundation Wash Off Tan: My secret quick fix to looking tanned.

3) Tanning Mitt: Helps makes the tan application flawless.

4) Superdrug Biodegradable Cleansing wipes Face: Helps remove self-tan.

5) Charlotte Tilbury’s Genius Magic Powder: Blurs any imperfections, it’s quite literally magic!

The Experts

Facialist: I have Biologique Recherche facials at One 2 One Studio in Toronto, Canada. I always have Veronika G, who is one of the best facialist I have used – my skin is amazing for weeks. I use the products as well.

Grooming/Wet Shave Destination: Do it myself 😊

Tanning Expert: I only trust myself! Haha!

Workout Spot/Exercise Class: Virgin Gym, Chiswick West London

Manicurist/Pedicurist: Margaret Dabbs

Masseuse: Agua Spa at Sea Containers London

Favourite Spa Destination: Agua Spa at Sea Containers London 


Get In Touch

Featured Elsewhere