7 Tricks for Applying Self-Tanner and Not Coming Out Like an Orange Zebra

In theory, self-tanner is a magical way to look golden and glowy without exposing your skin to harmful (and aging) rays. But somehow the at-home stuff still runs the risk of streaks and stripes and aggressively orange palms. To avoid that unfortunate fate, follow these seven tricks for flawless application.

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Exfoliate First
Welcome to Self-Tanning 101. Whatever you take from these tips, this is the one step you can't skip. Sloughing off with an oil-free exfoliator (like St. Ives' famous apricot scrub) prevents your tan from going on splotchy and fading unevenly. Spend a little more time on areas where your skin is thickest, like your elbows, knees and ankles, as there’s probably more dead skin to be removed. Oh, and if you’re planning on shaving or waxing, do so at least 24 hours before applying tanner.

Then Moisturize (Selectively)
After exfoliating, apply an oil-free moisturizer like Vaseline’s Hand & Body Lotion to any dry areas—ankles, feet, elbows and knees come to mind again. This prevents these spots from soaking in too much color, and leading to weird patches that are darker than the rest of your body.

tips for applying self tanner tanning glove
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Don’t Apply with Naked Hands
Yes, this requires buying another product, but a tanning mitt (like this one from St. Tropez) or even latex gloves make a huge difference in creating an even tan and avoiding staining your fingers and palms with that telltale orange tinge.

Start from the Bottom
First, tackle your ankles and work your way up to your legs, torso and shoulders. Save your hands and arms for last. Starting at the bottom prevents weird lines and marks from appearing when you bend over to reach your legs and feet.

tips for applying self tanner baby oil
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Correct Mistakes Right Away
If you notice a spot that looks streaky or unevenly applied, don’t ignore it and say you’ll fix it when you’re done. Right when you notice a mistake, apply a small amount of baby oil with a Q-tip to the darker area and leave it on for ten minutes. Then, gently buff the skin with a warm washcloth to get rid of the extra tanner and start clean.

Keep Exfoliating
Depending on the clothes you wear and how your body sweats, certain areas of your body will fade more quickly than others. To make the fading process more even, exfoliate every few days after applying self-tanner.

tips for applying self tanner sunscreen
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Don’t Forget Sunscreen
Even though your skin looks extra glowy post-application, don’t skimp on sunscreen. It's the whole reason you self-tanned in the first place—to be able to slather on SPF 100 with abandon.

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