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How to Fake a Summer Tan

Your guide to self-tanners


Young woman laying on sunbed
Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Glow Fusion self tanner

Glow Fusion -- My hands down favorite tanner for the body

There is no doubt having a tan makes you feel thinner, sexier and healthier. However, these days baking in the sun is becoming increasingly unpopular as more women realize the sun's UV rays age skin faster than anything (not to mention increase your chance of developing the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma).

If you're ready to skip laying out but don't want to give up glowing skin, self-tanners are a great bet. Self-tanners can darken skin for up to a week thanks to dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. For a full list of my favorite self-tanners, see best self tanners.

Here we run down five tips for self-tanning your face and body:

Tip #1: Salon tans are your best bet

If you want a flawless, professional application and can afford the price, head to a spa or salon. For upward of $60, you can get one of many options: Full body exfoliation and professional application of self-tanner, airbrush bronzing (where an aesthetician sprays a fine mist of tanner over your entire body), or your least expensive option: spray tanning. You can step into a booth and get sprayed on all sides for about $20 a session or more. Check out Hollywood Tans and Mystic Tans, two popular spray tan chains.

Tip #2: How to use self-tanner on your face

This is a four-step process. First, put hair up in a ponytail before you start so you don't miss any parts. According to InStyle magazine, makeup artist Scott Barnes once missed a spot on Jennifer Lopez's ear because he forgot to pull her hair up.

First, prep skin by gently cleansing and exfoliating. Skip moisturizer, which may interfere with the tanner. See "How to Exfoliate" for more information.

Step two: Apply under-eye cream. According to Barnes in InStyle, you want the color of your skin to be lighter under the eyes, it makes you look younger.

Step three: Blend a few drops of self-tanner and equal parts moisturizer in the palm of your hand then apply over face and neck. You only want to go one shade darker than your natural color.

Step four: Let color develop for three hours then follow up with a sweep of bronzer on forehead, cheeks and nose: areas where the sun naturally shines.

Don't forget: Smooth remaining tanner over earlobes and upper ears. Wash hands thoroughly. Don't skip the sunscreen.

Tip #3: How to self-tan your body

When tanning your body, follow this basic map:

  • Apply tanner limb by limb, starting with your legs. Apply over the shin and calf of a leg, sweeping tanner down over your ankle, foot and toes.
  • Next,  apply tanner to your thigh from front to back, using the excess to cover your knee. Repeat on your other leg.
  • For the final step, apply tanner to your hips, stomach and torso, following with your shoulders and arms.

I usually suggest waiting at least half an hour before putting clothes on or hopping into bed. In fact, I recommend self-tanning the night before a big event. This gives the tanner time to develop. In the morning, shower taking care not to exfoliate or scrub too much. Apply oil to legs for extra glow.

To create fake fab abs, create a contour with the tanner. InStyle suggests flexing your stomach muscles in front of mirror, leaning to the side to see where your "ab line" is, then tracing the outside of your muscle with a bit of tanner on your finger. Do the same to the other side. Once it dries, do an all-over coat.

I give many more tips on self-tanning the body in How to Apply Self-Tanner to Your Body.

Tip #4: Pick the right tanner

There are several types of tanners: Tanners created just for the face, airbrush tanners, cream tans, bronzing gel, tinted tans and tan enhancers. There's body shimmer and bronzing powder. You can layer tanners as colors fade. How? Apply a lotion then follow with bronzing powder or shimmer. Just be careful not to go too dark. Try this list of great self-tanner bets.

Tip #5: So you messed up, uh-oh!

If you end up with a streaky tan, you can fix with an astringent toner or even toothpaste. Exfoliate to even out a patchy application. Not dark enough? Repeat the procedure. Just make sure you gave the tan enough time to develop.
Related Video
See What Happens During Airbrush Tanning

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