Let’s be real for a moment. Getting a tan isn’t thaaat complicated (for most of us, at least), but getting a faux-tan to look real — now, that’s a challenge. And just when you thought you’ve perfected the application technique, you notice (or more embarrassingly, someone else notices) the streaks on your legs, buildup on your knees and elbows, strange color in between your fingers and toes, patches on your wrists … must we go on? Oh, and you missed a spot (or 10). Okay, so you don’t look like a glowing goddess just yet, but you will because we’ve managed to get this this tanning business down to a science. Follow these tips and tricks for the perfect tan — every time!
1. Find the right tanning formula. Not all tanning products are created equal. Unfortunately, the only way to really find “the one” is by research, reviews, and trial and error. Do a little online digging and see what others think — keeping color payoff, scent and price in mind. Once you find one that doesn’t stink (ugh, the dreaded tan smell!) or come out orange, you’re in luck! Need a little help? Here’s how to find the best sunless tanner for your skin tone.
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2. Use a water-based moisturizer before. Have you ever noticed how certain areas get darker than others? Self-tanner saturates dry areas like knees and elbows — which is why you need to moisturize your body beforehand for a consistent tan. It’s important that you stick to a water-based or aloe vera–based moisturizer ONLY, since creams with oils will act as a barrier to your skin and cause the self-tanner to streak. Make sure you let the moisturizer completely absorb into your skin before applying any tanning agents!
3. Exfoliate and shave the morning of. To ensure an even tan, shower, exfoliate and shave before you tan. This rule goes for professional spray tans also! Exfoliating and shaving will both remove dry, dead skin cells that can cause your tan to come out patchy. Doing this afterwards will only break down your tan and leave your skin lookin’ like a streaky mess.
4. Remove any traces of deodorant, makeup or perfume. Again, these products act as a barrier to your faux-tan and can even cause mild irritation, so be sure to remove them before you get your glow on.
5. Apply the product in a dry, cool environment. You just got out of the shower and you’re in the bathroom naked anyway, so you think now would be the perfect time to apply your tanning solution. Wrong. The heat and steam in the room will prevent your skin from adequately drying, which is a big no-no when applying self-tanner.
6. The best time to apply tanning solution is before bed. Because you can just apply it, let it dry within a few minutes and hit the hay. There’s no worrying about any factors or rules, plus it takes about eight hours for the tan to fully develop, so you can just wake up and head out with your tan self!
7. Use a tanning mit or disposable gloves. Two words — orange palms. That is all.
8. Start from your ankles and work your way up. Start just above your feet and work your way up your legs to avoid missing any spots. Starting from top to bottom could cause patchiness and streaks when you bend over to apply product to your legs.
9. Use smooth upward and downward motions. No rubbing! Long, even strokes — that’s the key to a natural-looking tan! Aggressively rubbing the product into your skin won’t make it work better, but it will leave you with an uneven tan.
10. Add a little leftover color to the tops of your feet and hands. For a natural look, wipe whatever is left from your application mit or glove on the tops of your hands and feet (not in between fingers and toes). Orange fingers and toes won’t fool anyone!
About the Author: Diana creates on-trend beauty content for Makeup.com readers. She stays up-to-date on the latest beauty news and product launches and tests every makeup item that comes through the door. As an employee of L’Oréal, Diana writes stories about beauty products across the entire brand portfolio.