We’ve all had self-tanning mishaps: orange palms, streaky color, splotchy elbows and knees. But with the right products and technique, your fake bake doesn’t have to end in disaster. We tapped Sophie Evans, St. Tropez Finishing Expert, for her best tips on how to get natural-looking color without the UV rays.
1. Prep the skin.
No matter the product, streaking will occur if skin isn’t smooth. “You want to exfoliate well prior to tanning so that you are tanning fresh skin [and] lotions or mousses can absorb into the skin properly,” Evans told us. Also, make sure to moisturize a few hours before because dry skin creates streaks as well. “Shaving is also a form of exfoliation and can be done immediately before tanning. Waxing must be done 24 hours before to allow the hair pores to calm down.” Waxing and shaving after tanning will speed up the fading process.
2. Use a mitt.
“Always apply self tanner with a mitt for even application. Don’t be shy with product when applying self-tanner; use enough to fully coat the skin. Blotches generally appear when areas are missed,” Evans says. A mitt also protects your palms from tanner. There’s no easier way to spot a self-tanning job than to get caught orange-handed. When applying, use small, circular strokes, but don’t rub harshly or you risk creating an uneven finish. Both St. Tropez and Irish tanning brand, Vita Liberata, offer tanning mitts as part of their product line.
3. Go lighter on the face.
Because your face gets the most sun time, it will naturally be darker. Use a face tanner, such as bareMinerals Faux Tan Face ($24, bareescentuals.com), that provides subtle color and works as a facial moisturizer with built-in peptides. You also want a lighter formula if you plan to layer tanner under SPF and makeup.
4. Fix your mistakes.
Still finding streaks on your body? Erase with the Bronze Buffer (2 sponges/$10, bronzebuffer.com), a cushiony sponge (with no added chemicals or ingredients) that just needs a little water. Brush the buffer along skin to remove unwanted color. Another trick is applying nail polish remover to a cotton ball and rubbing against the streaks.
5. Make color last.
Because the top layer of skin sheds naturally, self-tanner only last a few days. Evans recommends you extend the life of your tan by moisturizing daily and using a gradual tanner or the new St. Tropez Self Tan Booster ($30, sttropeztan.com) to extend color up to 3-4 days longer. “Also, do a light exfoliation about three days after you apply self-tanner to ensure your color fades evenly,” she says.
Read more: How to Remove Self Tanner