The natural color of your skin should help determine the type of self tanner you buy. If you have pale skin, opt for subtle shades (look for the box that indicates fair or light skin). These shades will give you peachy-apricot coloring, rather than too orange. Bronzing when you're fair-haired and pale is all about getting a healthy glow without the color being too obvious. If you have medium or olive skin, most shades of bronzer will suit you; just choose the strength of tan you want (medium or deep).
Bronzers come in several formulas including creams, lotions, gels and sprays. Moisturizing cream and lotion formulas add hydration and can be easier to apply than sprays because they allow more control. Gels and sprays dry faster, makng them more convenient, and may work better for combination or oily skin types because they're not as heavy as cream formulas and therefore less likely to clog pores.
Here are a few tips to ensure your faux tan looks natural -- not streaky or uneven.
Exfoliate: Dry skin absorbs more color, so be sure to exfoliate the driest areas of your skin (knees, elbows) so they don't end up looking darker than the rest of your body.
Clean skin thoroughly: Skin should be free of soap and moisturizer residue before you apply tanner because soap can mix with DHA (the active ingredient in all self-tanners) and turn skin orange.
Less is more: Use only a quarter-sized amount (or less, depending on your size) for your lower leg, and the same amount for the thigh. Use any excess lotion on your knees, feet and elbows rather than over-applying, which can cause knees and elbows to turn a shade darker than the rest of your body.
Aim for smooth application: If you apply self tanner in streaks, you'll get streaks -- so use long, sweeping movements to ensure even coverage.
Repeat: Missing a spot is surprisingly easy and very frustrating. Go over the area again, using wide, circular movements to make sure you haven't overlooked anything.
Cover everything: To avoid lines, use a makeup sponge to apply a small amount from the top and back of your wrists to the top of your hands and anywhere else you may have missed (ankles, neckline, etc.)
Self tanning mistakes happen, so don't feel bad if you go a little overboard or end up with streaks. You can use gentle nail polish remover to eliminate mistakes on small areas such as feet, hands and ankles. To fix mistakes on larger areas, exfoliate your skin with a body scrub (repeat a few times if you're dealing with a particularly orange or too-dark patch). Alpha hydroxy acids or at-home lightening creams can help minimize mistakes by fading the darker or streaky spots.
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