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Salon-Style Self-Tanning Results at Home

Want a salon-style tan? We can help. Use our tips to get a salon-quality self tan

Get perfect results from self tanning lotion with our tips

It’s unlikely that anyone’s first attempt at using a self tanner at home resulted in a perfect, Kim Kardashian-style tan that they proudly showed off on Instagram. It’s more likely that their first attempt resulted in—if not total disaster—at least a few streaks and some dark patches on the knees and elbows. Most of us, over time and by learning from our mistakes, learned to at least get passable sunless tanning results at home, but we still know better than to expect the same results we’d get from a salon spray tan.

Is there really a way we can get the quality of a salon spray tan from the comfort and inexpensive of our own home?

Here’s how to get the most out of your self tanner:

Prepare With a Pre-Shave

Don’t try to shave immediately before or after you apply your self tanner. Shaving should be done the day before you self-tan. Shaving can leave tiny openings in the skin that need time to close before you apply your tanner. DHA, the active ingredient in self-tanners, is FDA approved for topical use, but should not come in contact with any nicks or cuts. Also, both shaving and waxing your skin will open the pores which can result in your tanner pooling into the enlarged pores and empty hair follicles creating uneven patches in your tan. If you shave or wax, do so eight to 24 hours before applying a sunless tanner.

Don’t shave for 24 hours or more after a self-tan. Because the tanner works by a chemical reaction in your top, dead skin cells, shaving them off means that you are shaving off some of your tan, which will result in streaking.

Exfoliate First!

The active ingredient in all self-tanners works by causing a chemical reaction with the amino acids in dead skin cells in your skin’s top layer. If you gently exfoliate first, you will help the oldest dead cells to slough off, leaving longer-lasting ones exposed for your tan to develop. This will help your tan to develop smoothly, without streaks, and will also give your self-tan an extra day or two of longevity.

Selectively Pre-Moisturize

Don’t pre-moisturize your entire body before applying your tanner. Instead, moisturize the day before. Then, directly before your self-tanning session, apply a moisturizer to your ankles, elbows, knees and knuckles. Moisturizer builds a protective barrier between your skin and the tanner which will interfere with the tanning effect. This is something you don’t want on your skin as a whole, but this effect can be helpful in keeping the product from over-acting on rough areas as it naturally tends to do. Also, wiping the tanner off of your knees and elbows five minutes after applying will help to minimize the over-action of coloration in those areas.

Save the Shower

Don’t shower or bathe immediately before applying your tanner. The warmth of hot water opens pores, and this will cause your tanning product to pool inside your pores, resulting in an uneven look. Also, don’t shower immediately after applying your tanning product because (duh) it will wash it off before it reaches its full effect.

Work Your Way up From the Bottom

When you apply a self-tanner, it’s best to start at your feet and work your way upward. Otherwise, you may get a strange crease at your waistline if you tan your torso first and then bend to reach your legs.

Torso Trio

Apply your sunless tanner to your torso in three sections. Do the front and back of your torso in the middle sections first, and then apply tanner to your sides. Do your arms last, going lightly on your armpits, where all deodorant should first be removed. If you want to tan your wrists and inner forearms, go very lightly. This is an area that doesn’t naturally tan well, so it can look unnatural to have a dark tan there.

It’s Best to Stay Undressed

It’s a good idea to remain undressed for at least twenty minutes after applying your sunless tanner in order to get the most professional-appearing, streak-free self-tan results at home. When you do put your clothes on, it’s best to wear loose-fitting clothing that won’t rub your newly applied tanner.

Resources — Cosmopolitan, Allure, Self

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