Self-tanner gives us that healthy glow without having to subject our skin to the sun's damaging rays. And we're all thankful for that. But let's face it, we’re also all too familiar with the streaking, patchiness and orange cast that can result from applying it, as well as the constant attention it needs to stay looking natural. So we turned to Fiona Locke, St. Tropez's skin-finishing expert and the woman who bronzes the bods of Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Stone, for her best pre- and post-self-tanner tips.
BEFORE GETTING BRONZED
Plan Out Your Hair Removal. Tanned gams that are also stubbly? We don’t think so! Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the ingredient that lays down that beautiful bronze, can cling to hairs, creating uneven coloration. And shaving and waxing can strip away the color in self-tanner. To prevent either conundrum, shave at least 12 hours prior to applying self-tanner and, if you choose to wax, Locke suggests doing so at least 24 hours before you self-tan.
Exfoliate. When you apply self-tanner, DHA darkens your outermost layer of skin, which is composed of dead skin cells that naturally slough off. To ensure your self-tan lasts as long as possible (typically 7 to 10 days) and sheds evenly, Locke recommends “exfoliating your entire body while paying close attention to any dry areas (typically hands, feet, elbows and knees). It’s best to exfoliate using medium pressure with your hands moving in circular motions.” When picking out an exfoliator, Locke says to steer clear of oil-based formulas and irregularly shaped granules. Oils can act as a barrier to the self-tanner, and abrasive granules can irritate skin. You want to be bronzed, not red!
Strategize Your Pre-Glow Moisturizer Application. With the exception of applying a little bit to hands, feet, ankles, elbows and knees, where the skin may be more dry, Locke prefers to avoid using moisturizers prior to applying self-tanner. Moisturizers, especially those containing oils, tend to act as a barrier to DHA.
AFTER GETTING BRONZED
Be Patient. Locke says her clients tend to self-tan later in the day. This allows the glow to develop overnight, when people aren’t saddled with activities that can interfere with the absorption of the DHA. “You must wait a minimum of six to eight hours before showering, perspiring excessively (including going to the gym) or swimming," she says. "But you can get dressed within 5 to 10 minutes after applying your self-tanner.”
Dress Smart. Avoid tight clothing while your tan develops. If you’re worried about the guide color—the darker tint that shows where you have applied the solution—rubbing off on your clothes, choose dark and loose-fitting garments to minimize any unsightly staining.
Maintain, Maintain, Maintain. Now that you’re bronzed to perfection, make that glow last! Yes, skin does shed. Keeping moisturized, however, will help to slow the process. “Make sure to avoid oil-based products because they will remove your tan,” Locke says. When you shower, she suggests slicking on a little bit of hair conditioner to legs before shaving them. “This softens hair and allows you to skim over your legs, which helps to prevent removing your self-tanner.” And, after your shower, pat yourself dry. “Excessive rubbing with a towel can adversely affect your tan,” Locke says.
What are your tips for ensuring that faux glow is for show?