Many of us are familiar with the tangerine disaster that is our skin after attempting to self-tan. But, while finding the perfect self-tanning routine will certainly take some time, that doesn't mean you’re doomed to look like a Cheeto until you get it right.
In this step-by-step guide, we break down the perfect self-tanner application process to ensure the end result is a vacation-worthy glow that will last long and look flawless all the way.
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Start by Removing Your Old Self-Tanner
It's easy to forget about taking off your old self-tanner or think you can get away with applying a new coat on top to even out the color when it's almost entirely faded. But this is a bad idea, as not only will your skin look patchy, but the old coat has oxidized by now, which means the new layer of self-tanner will likely turn orange by the time it dries.
To avoid this, it's important to remove your old self-tanner correctly before applying a new layer. The easiest way to do this is to use an exfoliating mitt and shower gel and gently scrub the self-tanner away until nothing remains. If your skin gets super sensitive from excessive exfoliation, you can opt for a self-tanner remover, such as the Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser, to make this process a tad bit easier and less uncomfortable.
Thorough Preparation Is Key for an Even Tan
Self-tanning is not for the faint of heart, as it's a complete routine that requires attention to detail and many correct steps prior to application to avoid looking like an Oompa Loompa. This is why you should start your prep the night before an occasion where you want to look your best, as there are specific steps that need to be taken for the tanner to go on smoothly and stay as even as possible for the longest time.
Taking a shower at least an hour before you self-tan is a great way to start, and ending your shower with cold water will help make sure you get an even finish, advises Jaclyn Forbes, a TikTok beauty influencer with over 300,000 followers on the popular platform.
Cold water will constrict your blood vessels and cause a temporary tightening of the surface of your skin, minimizing the appearance of pores and promoting an even coverage for your self-tan.
Next, grab yourself a good body exfoliator, such as the Kopari Exfoliating Crush Scrub, and buff away all the dead skin cells to refine uneven skin texture, remove oil plugs in areas like the shoulders and back, and leave a smooth surface to ensure your self-tan blends like a dream!
Finally, "before finishing your prepping routine, apply a lightweight lotion over your body with a particular focus on dry areas such as the knees, wrists, knuckles, and elbows, as this is how you will prevent self-tanner from building up and looking uneven," Forbes continues.
But, "there is a fine line," she warns, and putting too much product on will create a barrier between the self-tanner and your skin, leading to an uneven application and a potential orange hue due to the ingredients in the lotion reacting with the self-tanner.
Once you've done a decent prep, switch the timer on for at least one hour and cozy up with a quick true crime story before it's time to start self-tanning!
Invest in a High-Quality Self-Tanner
Turning into a tangerine disaster doesn't always have to do with how you apply your self-tan – it can also be a result of using a low-quality product or the way some ingredients in the self-tanner mix with your skin chemistry.
A quick chemistry lesson: The key ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with your skin's amino acids, temporarily darkening the surface and creating a tanning effect. However, the way your skin darkens under a self-tanner can also be influenced by your skin's unique pH, a figure describing how acidic or alkaline your skin is, and a factor that might contribute to the finish not looking its best.
But, high-quality self-tanners and a correct prep can prevent this from occurring due to the better quality ingredients in these products that don't oxidize as much and affect the tanner's performance regarding pH-balancing properties. So don’t skimp on your self-tanner but invest in a product of better quality that will help you achieve good results without too much fuss.
Additionally, if you want to be sure that even your high-end self-tanner won't give you the dreaded orange hue, try to patch-test when you can before purchasing, as this can give you a good idea of how it's likely to react with your skin. If patch-testing isn't an option, go for a colorless self-tanner or gradual self-tanner, such as the Tan-Luxe Gradual Tan Lotion, that is much more controlled and is designed to build up a natural-looking tan rather than provide you with an intense overnight result.
Choose Your Shade Carefully
There's a lot to be said about using the right shade of self-tanner, as each skin tone and every product has characteristics that will affect the color you get once it dries.
To ensure your tan is suitable for your skin tone, it's important to know what color you should be looking for and how you can achieve the best results. If you have fair skin, it's best to opt for a shade that isn't too dark, as this can make your skin look orange or green. Instead, opt for bronzers that have neutral or cool undertones, such as the St. Tropez Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse, as they tend to complement fair skin better than warm ones.
On the other hand, medium-toned skin tones usually have warmer undertones, which is why choosing a self-tanner with a subtle hint of golden bronze, such as the Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse in Medium, always works best, as it will make your tan look more natural.
If you’re on the neutral to cool side of medium-toned skin, choose a self-tanner with an olive undertone, such as the Bondi Sands Aero Self Tanning Foam or the Loving Tan Platinum Mousse in the shade Maximum, for a natural-looking finish.
Finally, darker skin tones should opt for a deep tan that won't appear ashy, like the St.Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, as these tones look better with bronze-ish browns and gold hues.
Use the Appropriate Tools
Now that your shade is sorted, it's time to get to the most exciting part: applying your self-tanner. But before slathering yourself with a golden hue, remember this golden rule – always use the appropriate tools for a flawless finish!
To achieve an even tan, Ashley Paige, a social media influencer and a self-tan lover who has been tanning for over 10 years and has all the good tips and tricks on her page, recommends using a flat mitt applicator, such as the St. Tropez Double-Sided Tan Applicator Mitt, when applying your self-tanning product. Using a mitt not only prevents your palms from turning orange but it also helps create a smooth finish and even coverage.
Additionally, when it comes to applying your self-tanner in hard-to-reach areas such as the back, Ashley swears by a back applicator, such as the Bondi Sands Self Tanning Back Applicator, which is designed with a long handle to make it easier for you to reach these areas without needing someone else's help or getting a cramp from stretching awkwardly.
Many people will also use an old fluffy makeup brush to apply the tanner to their hands and their face as it helps them control placement and blending.
Apply in Sections
For a seamless finish that will last for days, Aurora Lovestrand, a beauty influencer on TikTok, recommends applying your self-tanner in sections – starting from the bottom and working your way up. She also advises that 2-3 pumps per section are usually enough to help you achieve that “just got back from a vacation” glow.
Continue to massage the self-tanner in gentle circular motions, avoiding the feet, knuckles, elbows, and armpits, as these areas require special attention.
Once you're done applying your self-tanner to the rest of your body, it's time to work on your elbows, hands, and feet. To achieve a seamless, natural, and streak-free finish, Forbes swears by applying an extra layer of moisturizer to these areas. This will act as a barrier between your skin and the self-tanner, preventing it from turning your skin orange and building up in the cracks where your skin is typically drier.
Aftercare Is Just As Important
Once you've applied your tan, you want it to look fresh and streak-free for as long as possible. This is why the first rinse should be done with lukewarm water and no soaps, body washes, shampoos, or anything that could interfere with the tan and remove it unevenly.
After the first rinse, you want to gently pat your skin dry without excessive rubbing, as this could leave streaks in certain areas and leave your tan looking patchy.
Now, to moisturize or not to moisturize?
"Everyone has a bit of a different opinion on this one," says the Spray Aus team from the Australian-based tanning studio. "And while this depends on how dry or hydrated your skin is, it's best to skip the body lotions if you are rinsing your tan off before eight hours of wear," as this will prevent it from rubbing off and potentially staining your clothes.
While the first 8-10 hours might be crucial for a tan to develop, regular moisturizing is a must for the next few days if you want to extend the life of your tan and keep it looking smooth. Opt for a lightweight body lotion that can keep your skin hydrated without interfering with your tan.
Finally, to extend the life of your tan and make sure it fades evenly, remember to exfoliate regularly! This will not only help remove dead skin but also prevent patches of uneven color from appearing.
It's important to remember that in order to achieve a natural-looking tan, you need to pay attention to the details. From prepping correctly to choosing the right shade for your skin tone and using the appropriate tools, self-tanning is a ritual that requires patience and dedication. And while it may take a few trials and errors to find your perfect self-tanning routine, once you find the right products and techniques that won't make you look orange and blotchy, there's no looking back for this glowing goddess!
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