1. Choose the solution that’s best for your skin type
Dermatologist David E. Bank, author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age and founder/director of The Center For Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, New York, says that certain types of products are better for different skin types. If you have oily skin, he recommends light, non-greasy, noncomedogenic formulas. People with dry skin should get self-tanners with moisturizing ingredients; and for sensitive skin, it's best to use a mild, hypoallergenic formula.
2. Match the self-tanner to your skin tone
Dr. Bank gives this simple advice: If you're fair skinned, go light; for olive skin, use a medium shade; and if you fall in the bronze/brown/dark zone, you can use a darker shade. Everyone should stay away from "extra dark" formulas, he says, which can leave skin looking too orange.
3. Exfoliation is key, people
Dr. Bank recommends exfoliating in the shower using a washcloth, and then smoothing on moisturizer. You can also try exfoliating with a salt or sugar scrub, which is something beauty expert Cherie Corso recommends. She loves Hey Sugar, Lookin' Good. “It works great and it’s organic,” she says (Gillysorganics.com, $25).
Another great exfoliating tool is the Dermasuri Deep Exfoliating Mitt, which works to reveal new, smooth skin by sloughing off flaky, dead skin from the skin’s surface with the mitt’s unique fabric (Dermasuri.com, $20).
4. Wait 20 minutes after your shower before you apply self-tanner
Why? Dr. Bank says the heat in the shower causes your pores to dilate, which can make your tanner streak.
5. Prep your freckles and dark spots
If you have freckles or dark spots on your skin, Cherie recommends covering them up before you apply the self-tanner, so they don’t get darker. “You don't want to look like a spotted leopard,” she says. Fair point, Cherie. She recommends the multi-use G2 Organics Hickey Stick, a cover-stick with zinc and moisturizing ingredients. Dab it on freckles and moles before you apply your self-tanner. (Bonus: Cherie says it will cover and heal cuts and pimples, too!) (g2organics.com, $25).
6. Strategically moisturize
Cherie recommends prepping your heels, elbows and armpits with a little moisturizer, so those spots don’t get too dark.
7. Use surgical rubber gloves
You can get them at CVS or any drugstore, and you won’t have to worry about orange palms.
8. After you apply, use a blow dryer set on cool to dry your skin.
Cherie recommends staying naked for 15 to 20 minutes before you put your clothes back on.
9. If you made any mistakes...
You can take care of them with a Bronze Buffer! This self-tanner remover sponge gently wipes away streaks and splotches, even after the self-tanner has developed. You can also use it to lighten areas that got too dark, get between your toes and fingers and remove buildup on your knees and ankles. (Sephora, $10)
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