Tips to a Successful Sunless Tan

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Tips to a Successful Sunless Tan featured image

You can fake sun-kissed skin year-round by using sunless tanners, which have come a long way in the last few years to give a realistic, streak-free tan. But before you get started, read these step-by-step instructions to ensure your “faux glow” is flawless. 

We know that tanning is bad. Tan skin means damaged skin (getting a tan is actually the skin’s response to DNA damage) and tanning beds output more UVA rays than the sun, which scientists have linked to the rise in melanoma in recent years. So if you’re scared into the shade (and you really should be) follow these steps to fake it. 

1. Exfoliate. Before you self-tan or head out for a spray tan, make sure to exfoliate your skin to ensure an even tan. Avoid oil-based scrubs because they leave a barrier that can prevent self-tanner from developing evenly.

2. Take your time to make sure you apply an even layer and go light on areas that tend to pick up more color, such as the hands, knees, elbows and feet. You could even try wearing socks to shield them. Meredith Fish, self-tanning expert and owner of New York spray-tan salon Brownberry, suggests applying a light swipe of tanner from your feet to your ankles and your wrists to your arms. Then apply regular lotion over to “water it down” a bit. 

3. After applying tanner to your face, dampen a washcloth or tissue with water and dab around the outskirts of your nose as well as the tip. “The water will remove a little color without any trace and create a bit of a contour that looks more natural,” Fish says. To avoid any obvious difference in color between your face and scalp, apply self-tanner into your hairline (but do so sparingly).

4. Allow tanner to dry completely before getting dressed and opt for loose clothes for the rest of the day to prevent streaks and smears. From there, avoid showering or working out for eight hours when possible.

5. If you make a mistake, try an at-home facial bleach to fix it. “Mix the powder and cream together and allow it to sit on your fingers, palms or feet for five to 10 minutes. Rinse and your skin will return to its original color.”

Need help selecting a sunless tanner? We like the subtle-glow we get from the Kate Somerville’s Glow Kits ($18-$108), the streak-free finish of Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Face And Body Self Tanner ($37), the extra protection from Jergens Natural Glow & Protect with SPF 20 and the anti-aging benefits found in the Chantecaille Radiance Gel Bronzer ($54). Looking for something less permanent? Try wash-off options from St. Tropez.

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