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Self-Tanning: The Best Tips On How To Avoid Looking Fake

Eugenie Bouchard

Healthy Skin And Hair

Self-Tanning: The Best Tips On How To Avoid Looking Fake

With only a few more weeks ’til summer, it’s now or never to get some color before hitting the pools and beaches. And the quickest, easiest – not to mention SAFEST – way to get that beautiful, natural-looking bronzed look beforehand is to use a self-tanning lotion.

With so many products available, which do you choose? Well, the aerosols are the quickest and easiest to apply, and they dry quickly; mousse gives you good control and also dries quickly; lotions take more finesse to apply, but the results can last up to ten days vs. five days for the other formulas. Also, tinted products are much easier to work with since you can actually see where you have applied it.

Nearly every major cosmetic company offers a tan-in-a-can option, but according to fashion and consumer report sites, the self-tanning brands that consistently make the cut are Fake Bake, St. Tropez, Clarins, and Estee Lauder. I can vouch for good results with Fake Bake, as I personally use and LOVE their “Fake Bake Flawless”!

All the deets.

If you haven’t tried a self-tanner before, it isn’t a process to rush through. You’ll need at least an hour from start to finish. Most experts – including make-up artists – recommend the following steps for best results. PLEASE READ THROUGH THE ENTIRE POST BEFORE YOU GET STARTED.

Shower, exfoliate and shave first. To avoid those nasty blotches, you’ll need a nice smooth surface to start the tanning process. In the shower, exfoliate and shave, then exfoliate again for the smoothest result. There are all sorts of products out there that will get your skin smooth like sponges, loofahs, and body scrubs – all of which can be purchased pretty much at any place that sells regular body soap.

Be sure that your skin is totally dry if you are tanning right after your shower. After toweling off, use your hair dryer (on low setting) and blow along your legs, arms, and torso, just to be sure.

Moisturize sparingly on knees, feet, elbows and any areas of particularly dry skin (like an eczema patch). These areas soak up self-tanning products more quickly and can become much darker than the rest of your skin, and a little will help prevent the build up. (A NOTE: You may want to skip these areas completely when you reapply tanner.)

One of the biggest drawbacks of self-tanning is color build-up on your hands, nails, and cuticles. Some self-tanning products now come with reusable mitts or disposable gloves, but if yours does not, pick up a cheap package of gloves at your local drugstore to keep with your tanner. If you tan without gloves, be sure and dab some Vaseline on the cuticles on your fingers and toes.

You’re ready to tan.

Gently massage your tanner of choice in a circular motion. A few additional tips and tricks include:

  • Start at the bottom and work up. Work in sections – feet, legs, torso, arms, chest, face – and if you are applying without gloves, wash hands thoroughly between each section.
  • Use a sufficient amount of product. Streaks generally result from too little, rather than too much product.
  • Mix the tanner with a little moisturizer and apply to your face. No special facial product is necessary.
  • If you use bare hands to apply tanner, really scrub your palms and cuticles when you finish. There are also tan removers available for purchase, such as the Tan Wise Tan Remover.
  • If you find streaks once your color has cured, products are available, such as a self-tan remover mitt.
  • If you missed a spot, simply reapply to the area.
  • If gravity is having its way with your skin, flex your wrists and knees to get good coverage. Extend your neck as you smooth on the product, and pay special attention to your décolleté.
  • Wait to dress for at least 15 minutes, and then wear loose clothing like a light robe or sundress – NOTHING WHITE. Avoid any activities that make you sweat for at least 6-10 hours.

Maintain that golden glow.

Experts recommend reapplying your tanner every day until you reach your optimum color. Lightly exfoliate every 2-3 days and moisturize liberally for a smooth, buffed finish.

The color produced by a sunless tanning product won’t protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. It is not a base tan. If you spend time outdoors, sunscreen remains essential.

Tanning No-Nos:

  • Skip the tanning beds. Tanning beds emit concentrated UVA rays that might increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
  • Pass on the sunless tanning pills, which typically contain the color additive canthaxanthin, are unsafe and possibly fatal.
  • While not a strict no-no, take precautions if you spray tan. Protect your eyes, mouth, and nose and avoid inhaling the product.

BONUS: A great video by Youtuber Gena M, who not only walks you through every step of the self-tanning application process including a short demo, but she gives great advice on how to avoid uneven and streaky tanning. If you are a self-tanning newbie, you’ll feel much more confident after watching, and it’s not a bad refresher for veteran fake-bakers … lots of good tips including how to do your back without the help of someone else.

** I’m still on the hunt for any videos that demonstrate the best ways to better blend in our tennis tan lines, and the dreaded “sock tan”, lol! If you know of any, please send us the link(s) so we can share it :-)

4.5 USTA rated/open champion level tennis player, vegan, fitness freak, animal lover, and smart ass who firmly believes that champagne is anathema for all ills. Right now I'm either up to my eyeballs in paint swatches and fabric samples, or kicking some butt on a tennis court (hopefully the latter).

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Caryl Anne

    December 30, 2014 at 8:23 am

    There are a ton of insightful and helpful points mentioned within here! Thanks so much for sharing!

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