The Basic Rule of Sunless Tanner (whether you’re using gels, lotions or sprays)
Never go more than 2 shades darker than your natural skin color (otherwise you’ll end up looking cheap, fake, orange and like an oompa loompa…none of which are attractive)
The Proper Way to Apply Sunless Tanners
Exfoliate. This step is very important yet a lot of people skip over it. Exfoliating helps ensure an even and smooth application. Exfoliating scrubs away any dry and dead skin which is important in achieving a flawless application. Dry areas (such as elbows and knees) absorb the tanner more than other areas therefore, those dry areas end up looking darker. You want to exfoliate everywhere but you want to exfoliate the most in those rough and dry areas. Also, when exfoliating, don’t use an exfoliator that is very oily or greasy. These types of exfoliators leave behind a greasy/oily residue which repels tanner. The best exfoliating method to use in this case is plain sugar (or plain sugar mixed with a tablespoon of water). You can apply this standing in the shower without the water running because the dry exfoliation method actually does a better job exfoliating than doing it under the running shower water.
Shave or Wax. You should shave or wax prior to applying sunless tanner. If you wait until after applying the sunless tanner to do either of these, you’re going to mess it up. (And I don’t mean 5 minutes later….later in the day, later that night, etc.) Shaving and waxing will actually lift up some of your tanner and will leave you looking uneven and/or blotchy.
Dry Yourself. Make sure your body is completely dry before applying any sunless tanner. Also, do not apply lotion prior to applying sunless tanner except on dry and rough areas (such as elbows and knees).
Protect your Nails. Prior to applying sunless tanner, you should apply a little bit of Vaseline to your nails and toe nails. If you don’t, the sunless tanner can stain nails or get around the nail beds and cuticles leaving you with dirty looking nails (which no one should ever want). This is also important in protecting your manicure and pedicure. If you want to avoid this all together, slap on a pair of latex gloves and you won’t need to worry about getting orange hands or nails. (But you’ll still have to protect your toenails).
Top to Bottom. The proper way to apply sunless tanner is from the top of your body to the bottom of your body, not bottom to top. (You can dilute your self tanner for those rough and dry areas by mixing it with some lotion too…if you aren’t using the spray sunless tanner.)
Clean Up. After you’ve applied your sunless tanner, take a damp washcloth and gently buff those rough and dry areas (such as the elbows and knees). This will help them from ending up darker than other areas of your body. It’s also very important to carefully wash your hands after applying sunless tanner. If you don’t you will end up with orange palms and markings between your fingers. But be very careful when washing them because if you take your hands and dive them into running water you’ll most likely end up splashing further up your arms. It’s not a bad idea to exfoliate your hands after applying sunless tanner either….this just ensures you really got it all.
Let it Dry. Let the sunless tanner dry completely. Do not try to throw on clothes immediately after applying the sunless tanner or you will end up staining your clothes or messing up your tan (or both).
The Quick Version
- Shave or wax
- Dry yourself completely (no lotion except on dry areas such as elbows and knees)
- Apply Vaseline to nails or slap on a pair of latex gloves
- Apply from top to bottom (do your face separately if you are using a special facial sunless tanner)
- Buff rough and dry spots with a damp washcloth after applying sunless tanner
- Wash/Exfoliate hands (very carefully) after you are completely done applying sunless tanner
- Let it dry