6 tricks to applying self-tanner

Get a long-lasting, even tan the healthy way. Follow our simple tips for a perfect glow

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tanning lotion skin sunscreen

A safe and sunless tan

Self-tanning formulas are evolving to easily deliver natural-looking colour. Some people find the scent unpleasant-it is caused by a chemical reaction between the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and skin. However, technology is improving this. As far as the streaky results some people get from improper application, self-tanners may never be 100 percent foolproof. But there are ways to get a long-lasting, even tan:

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tanning lotion

Get the look you want

Texture: There are gels, lotions, foams and sprays. Simply choose the delivery system you feel most comfortable with.

Appearance: Tinted formulas can give your skin instant colour so you can see where you’ve applied it as you go. With some formulas, you develop a tan over a few hours; with others, commonly known as gradual self-tanners, your tan builds up to your desired darkness over a few days when applied daily.

Desired shade: Fair, medium or dark? Pick the one that is labelled with your natural skin tone, not the desired result.

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moisturizing skin

Exfoliate and moisturize skin first

Prepping is key. Dry, patchy skin leads to uneven colour or streaks. Fiona Locke, skin finishing expert for St. Tropez, recommends exfoliating with a gentle, oil-free scrub. Then moisturize hands, feet, elbows and knees with an oil-free cream, and wait until it is completely absorbed before applying tanner. (It’s not necessary to moisturize everywhere, says Locke, unless your skin is very dry.)

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bronzer tanning lotion

Take your time applying

Many people use self-tanners just on their legs, but for full body application, Locke suggests starting at your feet and working up. (Obviously, you’ll need someone to help with your back.) Use less on ankles, knees and elbows. And don’t rush-it could result in bare patches if you miss a spot, or dark patches if you cover an area twice. Post-application, let skin dry before dressing or getting into bed, since the colour can rub off on fabric. Wash hands with soap right after applying, to avoid staining.

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Use a light touch for face

Whether or not you use a formula that is specifically for the face, go for a nat­ural look. Dab it on cheeks, forehead, chin and nose, and work outward in a sweeping motion, tapering off at the hair and jaw lines.

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moisturize skin

Make your tan last

After application, don’t shower for at least four to eight hours, says Locke. To prolong results, pat skin dry after showering (don’t rub), and moisturize daily. Locke’s tip: Before shaving, use a little hair conditioner on legs to help preserve the tan.

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Don’t forget sunscreen

Most self-tanners don’t offer protection from harmful UV rays, and the SPF of those that do is generally too low to be adequate, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. A “base” tan-artificial or otherwise-doesn’t protect you, so you still need to wear sunscreen.

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