10 Ways to a Perfect Self Tan
Thinking about bronzing your body? Opt for a moisturizer that gradually builds a subtle tan with dihydroxy-acetone (DHA), a chemical that produces a darker color in the upper layers of skin. Apply it every day and within a week you'll see a slightly deeper hue emerge.
Jergens Natural Glow amp Protect moisturizer, SPF 20, $9; at drugstores.
Prep Your Body
Shower and shave a few hours before self-tanning, then smooth the skin's surface with an exfoliator so the color goes on evenly. Use a non-oil-based scrub: Anything greasy will leave a residue that can prevent the formula from penetrating, says N.Y.C. tanning guru Anna Stankiewicz. She likes St. Ives Fresh Skin apricot scrub ($5; at drugstores).
Moisturize Dry Spots
Don't forget to rub a little lotion on your elbows, knees, and feet. "Since those areas tend to be super-dry, they grab more color and can wind up darker than the rest of your body," says Stankiewicz. One to try: Vaseline Total Moisture Aloe Fresh ($4; at drugstores). And be sure you're not wearing deodorant or perfume, which can mix with the tanner and cause discoloration, says Stankiewicz.
Find Your Formula
A lotion with DHA is a good bet for beginners since it's easier to spread than a spray. Worried about streaks? Look for a tanner with a temporary tint—that way, you can tell whether you've missed spots. Pros love this St. Tropez version, which develops into a deep bronze. To avoid orange hands, wear plastic gloves while working.
Self Tan bronzing lotion, $40; sephora.com.
Hit Your Back
Unless you've got Gumby arms, try this long tool to get at hard-to-reach places, like between your shoulder blades. Its sponge-applicator pads help spread your color. Or ask a pal to mist on a spray formula.
Xen-Tan Hard to Reach, $18; at Neiman Marcus.
Brighten Up Fast
Want to give your complexion a quick pick-me-up? Slip two fingers into the back pocket of one of these pads and gently rub it over your face. The cloth surface exfoliates while depositing an invisible DHA-infused solution. You'll get a subtle tan in as little as four hours—no mess, no streaks. It's a no-brainer!
Somerville360° Face self-tanning pads, $45/12; katesomerville.com.
Though self-tanner can give you a nice, healthy glow, it often erases the natural shadows that give your face definition, says N.Y.C. makeup pro Kimara Ahnert. Add dimension with a powder bronzer that's one shade darker than your tanned skin. Using a fan brush, dust it along the cheekbones, sides of the nose, hairline, and jawline.
Bobbi Brown Bronzing powder in Deep, $35; bobbibrown.com.
Pick the Right Outfit
If you're bronzing at a salon, wear loose, long-sleeve loungewear, says Ahnert, who offers tanning services in her N.Y.C. makeup studio. Besides the delayed glow from DHA, most formulas also deliver a temporary tint that can wash off. So, "the more covered-up you are afterward, the less likely it is that your new color will rub off on anything." And stick with dark clothing—if there are any smudges, they'll be less obvious.
Cotton-modal V-neck, Splendid, $50; splendid.com.
Polyester-cotton sweatpants, Splendid, $94; splendid.com.
Got streaks? You can exfoliate too-dark areas to even things out. But if you want to remove the faux glow completely, smooth baby oil over your skin, then exfoliate. "Oil will lift the color fast," explains Gigi Zunjic, owner of Tan2U, a mobile tanning service in Miami. Try Johnson's baby oil ($2; at drugstores).
EcoTools Recycled Bath amp Shower gloves, $4; at Target.
Self-tanners can leave skin dry, says Ahnert, so slather on a moisturizer every day. If you tan on a regular basis, exfoliate three days after each application to ensure that your color always looks consistent, says makeup pro Melanie Mills, who created this body makeup that doubles as a hydrator.
Gleam Body Radiance, $40/3.5 oz.; gleambymelaniemills.com.