The preparation routine for self-tanning is almost like a well-choreographed dance by this point. We've all been through the motions of exfoliating, blending the product, and waiting for the DHA to kick in, but when the bronzed goddess tone doesn't match the significantly-lighter tone of your face, it's a dead giveaway that your beach bunny finish isn't the real deal.
On top of that, applying a facial self-tanner is just more intimidating than using the summer staple on the rest of your body—there's no way to hide a mistake! But with the right preparation, buffing skills, and formula, you, too, can master the method for the face. That's why we put together a guide on everything you need to know before getting your glow on, the skin care products to avoid, and how to keep it going strong for days.
Start by picking your perfect formula. Since you won't (and shouldn't) be using any skin care beforehand, we recommend opting for a version with built-in actives, like Dr. Dennis Gross' Alpha Beta Glow Pads ($12; sephora.com). Gradual self-tanners, like James Read's BB Face Tan ($25; net-a-porter.com) and the BareMinerals Faux Tan Face also tend to be more forgiving if you're hesitant. Once you're home, pull your hair back, and use a gentle oil-free scrub to exfoliate yoru face, just as you would with your body. Dry your face completely, then use a moisturizer around the perimeter of your hairline, and on your eyebrows to prevent any noticeable lines.
Spread the formula over areas where the sun would normally hit, using circular motions as you would a moisturizer. Since self-tanner can develop quickly, be sure to wash your hands right after you finish to prevent stained palms. Allow the formula to dry. We recommend doing this at night to minimize the risk of any errors during the morning rush. Avoid any skin care products that can over-exfoliate your complexion, as this could strip the color, and make sure to use a super-moisturizing face lotion twice a day to extend the life of your glow.