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When it comes to self-tanning, there is one cardinal rule: Don’t look like Snooki. Here, four ways to ensure subtlety:

Exfoliate and Shave

This may seem elementary, but sloughing off dead skin and removing all hair will create a smooth canvas for applying self-tanners. A simple loofah or drugstore exfoliator will do the trick, or you can pick up a Clarisonic body brush head ($27) for extra rough skin.

Choose the Right One

If you’re looking to improve color slowly over time, go for a gradual self-tanner that works with your amino acids to increase pigment. Tan Towels ($27) and Jergens Natural Glow ($7) work great and have very little odor. For faster and more temporary bronzing, try a wash-away oil, lotion or spray, which are good until your next shower. Try L’Oréal’s Sublime Bronze lotion ($9) or Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs ($10).


Apply Like a Pro

Squirt a nickel-sized amount on your hands and rub in even strokes, taking care not to overlap where you’ve already applied. Go lighter in areas that are boney--knees, elbows and ankles--and let your skin dry totally before touching furniture or putting on clothes. Want to go darker? Reapply after the first layer is thoroughly dried.

Correct Mistakes

Some streaking is pretty much inevitable. But don’t fret--you can fix it. Start by lightly rubbing a wet washcloth over the area of distress. If that doesn’t work, try scrubbing with benzoyl-peroxide based face cleanser. For larger areas and true mistakes, add one cup of milk to a full bathtub and let yourself soak in it—the lactic acid will decrease the pigment.


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