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How to Find And Apply Self-Tanner That Won’t Turn You Orange

Everyone’s been down this road before. The summer months start to near, you look at your wintery pale skin and think …. Ugh if only I had a little glow. But I don’t want the skin damage that comes with laying out. I’ll give self-tanner a try.And it sounds and feels like a great idea all the way up until the moment it develops and you wind up looking like …an Oompa Loompa.

But here’s the thing: self-tanners have come a long way, and so has our knowledge about the dos and don’ts of self-tanner application.

If you follow these tips, you can kiss your toasty orange days goodbye and say hello to the perfect, sun-safe summery glow. Here’s how.

You Need the Right Product

self-tanner find the right lotion for your skin eight saints

First thing’s first: the perfect prep, application, and after-care really won’t make a difference if you’re working with the wrong formula for your skin. So the first step is to pick a tanner solution that’s right for you.

Luckily, there are tons of products available today - including sprays,  serums, mousses, and lotions - so you can certainly find a formula that suits your likes and personal styles.

Remember, though, that this will likely involve some trial and error, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find the right choice right off the bat.

Some top-rated drugstore tanners include:

Best Gradual: Jergen’s Natural Daily Glow Moisturizer ($11)

This self-tanning formula is a drugstore favorite because it’s gradual.You simply apply it like a lotion every night, and you’ll start to see some glowing skin in about a week. This allows you to avoid any too-dark mishaps and really see if you like the color that it’s depositing. Plus, it has antioxidants and vitamin E for added skin benefits.

Best Natural: Sun Bum Browning Lotion ($16)

The one thing that it often feels like you can’t get away from with sunless tanners is the chemicals (and the chemical smell). This formula skips all the gross stuff, instead opting for natural, vegan, and cruelty-free ingredients like organic coconut oil, Konna coffee plant extra, and aloe vera.

Best Fast-Acting: NKD SKN Pre-Shower Gradual Tan ($14)

For many, the worst part about self-tanner is that you have to wait for hoursbefore you rinse it off. This formula side-steps that issue: you simply apply the lotion, wait 10 minutes, and shower it off. From there, the lotion will activate and you’ll see your tan start to develop over the next few hours.

Best Spray: Neutrogena Micro-Mist Sunless Tanning Spray ($9)

It’s a lot easier to avoid streaks or over-application with a mist, which encourages both even application and buildability. Plus, this product comes in two colors so you can find the right shade for you and get the perks of an in-salon spray tan at home.

Best “Traditional”: San Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($42)

While some of the other formulas may be more modern, this San Tropez bronzing mousse remains a cult classic because it really works. It requires all the steps of a “traditional” self-tan: exfoliation, a mitt, waiting for it to develop - the works.

But it dries quickly - no long-term stickiness - and leaves a long-lasting tan.

No matter what kind of self-tanner you choose, you’re more likely to get the results you’re looking for if you follow these best practices. Because, when it comes to self-tanner, even the most “fool-proof” formulas can lead to a mishap or two.

Self-Tanner Dos and Don’ts

1: DO: Exfoliate

Before you get started, you have to exfoliate your skin and remove any loose, dead skin cells. This will allow the tanner to penetrate evenly and last longer. Oh, and make sure that you shave at least a few hours in advance.

DON’T: Lotion Heavily All Over Your Body

You don’t want to apply a thick lotion directly before you self-tan. This will create a barrier and prevent the tanner from soaking into your skin. That said, you dowant to apply a thick lotion to your knees, elbows, and around the edges of your heels and ankles.

The skin tends to be thicker and dry and these areas, which means it’s prone to over-absorbing the tanner and leaving tell-tale dark splotches.

2. DO: Apply Tanner In Sections

Again, a lot of these options are really gradual and unlikely to streak, but you still want to do your best to ensure an even application - particularly for formulas that don’tshow color right away. We recommend that you start in sections: torso, arms, legs, then back.

Use the smallest amount of product possible,and try to apply in smooth, circular motions. Again, take extra care of spots that tend to orange - like underarms, elbows, and knees.

DON’T: Forget Your Mitt

If you don’t wear a glove or mitt, you might end up with carrot fingers. Yikes.

3. DO: Be Patient

be patient self-tanner eight saints skincare

This statement applies both to the application process and the after-care. If you’re rushed in any way, you’re much more likely to wind up with orange spots, white patches, or a regrettably uneven hue.

We recommend that you set aside at least 20 minutes for the application itself. This should preferably be in the evening when you’re not running errands, chasing after kids, or otherwise rushing to get the whole process over with.

DON’T: Scrub or Rub

After you apply self-tanner, you should stop all harsh scrubbing or rubbing of your skin. Pat dry after showers or swims and skip any harsh exfoliation for the duration of your tan. This will not only extend its life but also help ensure that it fades as evenly and naturally as possible.

4. DO: Wear Loose Clothes

You can’t exactly walk around in the nude after applying a self-tanner, but you canmake sure that you wear super loose and comfortable clothes. Your best bet is an oversized t-shirt and some comfy sweats or undies - another reason we recommend an evening application here.

DON’T: Wear Tight Straps

Avoid tight bras, underwear, and even thong sandals or pants that have a tight waistband. All of this will leave white lines, which can totally ruin an otherwise stellar self-tanner application

5. DO: Lotion Afterwards

Dry skin flakes unevenly. After you apply your self-tanner, you’ll want to apply lotion daily to prevent dry, flaking skin and help your tan stay pigmented and even.

DON’T: Forget Your SPF

Just because you look tan doesn’t mean that your skin is any more protected against harsh UV rays. Make sure that you still apply sunscreen regularly to protect your skin and prevent sunburn and signs of photo-aging.

SEE ALSO: Summer-Ready Skin: How to Prep Your Skin For the Summer Sun