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

woman with a tan in her kitchen

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While nothing makes us feel as sexy as having sun-kissed skin, 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 no matter the season.

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. Check out a few of our favorites below:

Coola Sunless Tan
Coola Organic Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Face Serum $54
Face Tan Drops
James Read Tan H2O Tan Drops Face $28
Self Tanner
Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops $49

Here's how to apply self-tanner in five simple steps:

  1. Put hair up in a ponytail before you start so you don't miss any parts.
  2. Prep your skin by gently cleansing and exfoliating. To exfoliate the face, put a pinch of baking soda in your hand and add a bit of coconut oil. 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 on hand, try moisturizer.
  4. Blend a few drops of self-tanner and equal parts moisturizer in the palm of your hand, then apply over your face and neck. Don't forget to smooth the remaining tanner over your 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 the areas where the sun naturally shines, which includes your forehead, cheeks, and nose.

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after you apply the self-tanner. And just because self-tanning is a safer alternative to baking in the sun, it doesn't mean you can skip the sunscreen.

Tip #3: How to Self-Tan Your Body

When tanning your body, follow this basic blueprint:

  • 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.

It's best to wait at least half an hour before putting clothes on or hopping into bed. If you have a big event coming up, consider self-tanning the night before. This gives the tanner time to develop. In the morning, shower, taking care not to exfoliate or scrub too much. Apply your favorite body oil to your legs for an extra J.Lo-worthy glow.

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 also 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 but make sure you gave the tan enough time to develop.

You must tan safely. Let these self-tanning tips and tricks be your go-to guide for transforming yourself into a bronze bombshell.

Article Sources
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  1. Ciriminna R, Fidalgo A, Ilharco LM, Pagliaro M. Dihydroxyacetone: an updated insight into an important bioproductChemistryOpen. 2018;7(3):233-236. doi:10.1002/open.201700201

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