Self-Tanning Tips: 5 Secrets to a Streak-Free Fake Tan

woman with a tan in her kitchen

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There is no doubt that having a tan makes you feel thinner, sexier and healthier. But these days, it's much safer (hello melanoma and early onset wrinkles!) to use self-tanners than to bake in the sun. To achieve the best results, follow these five self-tanning tips, guaranteed to leave you with a streak-free fake tan. 

Tip #1: Salon Tans Are Your Best Bet

If you want a flawless, professional application and can afford the price, head to a spa or salon.

For upwards of $60, you can get one of many options: Full body exfoliation and professional application of self-tanner, airbrush bronzing (where an aesthetician sprays a fine mist of tanner over your entire body), or your least expensive option: spray tanning. You can step into a booth and get sprayed on all sides for about $20 a session or more. Check out Hollywood Tans and Mystic Tans, two popular spray tan chains.

Tip #2: How to Use Self-Tanner on Your Face

Tanning your face can be a fun way to add color to your skin all year round, making you look younger, refreshed and as if you just came back from a week in Hawaii. 

You can opt for a self-tanner that gradually adds color or one with immediate color. See this list of the Best Self Tanners

Here's how to apply self-tanner, which is a five-step process.

  1. Put hair up in a ponytail before you start so you don't miss any parts. According to InStyle magazine, makeup artist Scott Barnes once missed a spot on Jennifer Lopez's ear because he forgot to pull her hair up.
  2. Prep skin by gently cleansing and exfoliating. To exfoliate the face, I like to put a pinch of brown sugar in my hand and add a bit of coconut oil. I massage my face with this. You can also use a warm washcloth dipped in coconut oil for a similar effect. The idea is to get rid of any scaly bits. 
  3. Apply under-eye cream. If you don't have this, try moisturizer. According to Barnes in InStyle, you want the color of your skin to be lighter under the eyes, it makes you look younger.
  4. Blend a few drops of self-tanner and equal parts moisturizer in the palm of your hand, then apply over face and neck. Don't forget to smooth remaining tanner over earlobes and upper ears. You only want to go one shade darker than your natural color.
  5. Let color develop for three hours and follow up with a sweep of bronzer on forehead, cheeks, and nose: areas where the sun naturally shines.

Wash hands thoroughly. Don't skip the sunscreen.

Tip #3: How to Self-Tan Your Body

When tanning your body, follow this basic map:

  • Apply tanner limb by limb, starting with your legs. Apply over the shin and calf of a leg, sweeping tanner down over your ankle, foot, and toes.
  • Next, apply tanner to your thigh from front to back, using the excess to cover your knee. Repeat on your other leg.
  • For the final step, apply tanner to your hips, stomach, and torso, following with your shoulders and arms.

I usually suggest waiting at least half an hour before putting clothes on or hopping into bed. In fact, I recommend self-tanning the night before a big event. This gives the tanner time to develop. In the morning, shower taking care not to exfoliate or scrub too much. Apply oil to legs for extra glow.

To create fake fab abs, create a contour with the tanner. InStyle suggests flexing your stomach muscles in front of a mirror, leaning to the side to see where your "ab line" is, then tracing the outside of your muscle with a bit of tanner on your finger. Do the same to the other side. Once it dries, do an all-over coat.

Check out more tips on self-tanning the body in How to Apply Self-Tanner to Your Body.

Tip #4: Pick the Right Tanner

There are several types of tanners: Tanners created just for the face, airbrush tanners, cream tans, bronzing gel, tinted tans, and tan enhancers. There are body shimmer and bronzing powders. You can layer tanners as colors fade. How? Apply a lotion, then follow with bronzing powder or shimmer. Just be careful not to go too dark.

Tip #5: So You Messed Up, Uh-Oh!

If you end up with a streaky tan, you can fix with an astringent toner or even toothpaste. Exfoliate to even out a patchy application. Not dark enough? Repeat the procedure. Just make sure you gave the tan enough time to develop.

Some sun can actually be good for you. But you have to tan safely.

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