Perfect Your Faux Glow

Try our step-by-step for a flawless at-home tan

self tanner tests

Photo by: Katarzyna Małecka/iStock

To get the most believable color, try these expert-tested tips.

Test it out The day before, rub a silver-dollar–sized area on the inside of your arm or inner thigh. If you get a rash, try another formula.

Get your timing right Wax (or tweeze, thread, or any other kind of hair removal that tears out the follicle) at least 24 hours in advance. Self-tanner can pool in open follicles, creating tiny dark spots. Plus, rubbing the active ingredient, DHA, on sensitized skin ups the odds of irritation.

Slough off old skin first To turn golden, the active ingredient interacts with the proteins in the very outer layer of your skin. Dry-brush before your shower or use an exfoliating mitt with an oil-free body wash.

Be bare Skip deodorant, antiperspirant, essential oils, perfume, or body lotion, all of which can cause skin to turn a green-gray color when used with a tanner.

Select the right color If you’re a newbie, start with a light formulation. Once you’ve gotten the application down pat, you can graduate to medium or dark (these last longer but streak more easily).

Start here Begin at your thighs and rub the self-tanner down the length of your legs. Then rub self-tanner on the front of your torso followed by your arms (starting with your shoulders). When you reach your wrists, the product should have thinned out.

Go easy on your hands Once you’ve finished the rest of your application, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and dry them; now you’re ready to apply self-tanner there. Curl your hand into a claw so the tanner will be less likely to pool in the creases of your knuckles. If you’re using a lotion or mousse, rub a bit on the back of your hand and then feather out any residue onto your fingers. (And, of course, avoid your palm.)

Buff trouble spots Finish by wiping cuticles with a tissue. Then take a dry washcloth and buff knuckles, elbows, knees, the insides of your wrists, and the backs of your heels with a few back-and-forth swipes to rub off any excess.

Catch streaks early If streaks do appear, scrub down the color (ideally within four hours) with a strong exfoliator. Or, tan again. Simply rub self-tanner on any areas that have turned out lighter, buffing or feathering it out so as not to create more lines.

Fend off odor Showering eight hours after you’ve put on self- tanner will minimize the smell by washing away any extra product.

Skip long swims (and showers) A self-tan lasts between four and 10 days, till the outer layer of your skin sheds—and your self-tan goes with it.

Keep skin hydrated The drier your skin, the faster your self-tan will flake off. Moisturize daily, and you’ll get more mileage out of your color.


Try these recommended products:

Victoria’s Secret Beach Sexy Airbrush Instant Bronze Body Spray

Fresh Sugar Acai Age-Delay Body Cream