The perfect faux glow

Seven tips for achieving an even sunless tan

Self-tanners can do amazing things for your look without risking damage from the sun. Your skin appears healthier, and you look more rested – even your makeup looks better. But while bottled bronzers are far better than they used to be, getting that perfect application still isn’t foolproof. Here are some tried-and-tested tips for getting your best self-tan.

1. Give it time

If you want your legs to look fabulous on Friday night, apply self-tanner on Thursday. This way, if you make a mistake, you have the time to fix it by exfoliating any dark or splotchy areas in the shower. If you’re hoping to show off newly bronzed gams in a matter of hours, then go with a tinted formula so you’ll be able to see where it’s going on and ensure an even application.

2. Start smooth

Scrubbing away any dry, dull skin when you’re in the shower or bath before applying self-tanner will help create a smooth surface for the product. So exfoliate, please – it will greatly reduce the risk of blotchy patches. Before you apply product, be sure to completely dry your skin. Any moisture will interfere with the DHA and may cause a streaky or uneven colour.

3. Blend, blend, blend

A botched self-tanner application can be fixed, sure, but it can also be avoided in the first place. Take your time and apply product with smooth, even strokes – like you’re giving yourself a light massage. Avoid rubbing it into your skin like a lotion – usually we do this in random motions and the end result is a streaky finish. Use a smaller amount on your elbows, knees and ankles – as these thick-skinned areas tend to absorb more colour.

4. Have some old or loose clothes handy

If you were painting a room, you wouldn’t throw on a perfectly good white shirt and lean on the wall before it dried, right? Same thing with self-tanning. Keep an inexpensive slip dress or loose T-shirt on hand so you can putter around – maybe finish applying the rest of your makeup – while you wait. You can go about your day once you’ve given it a few minutes, but do avoid sweaty workouts or swimming for at least six hours.

5. Know your formula

All self-tanners are not made the same – you’ll need to use varying amounts depending on whether you’re using a spray, gel, cream or mousse. And different formulations work better for different skin types. Sprays usually have a lighter formula and are easier to apply than creams or lotions. To apply, spray at least six to eight inches from your skin. For lotions, gels and creams, use a quarter-size amount only – many of these also contain moisturizing ingredients, which allow for a smoother application. Gel formulations are ideal if you have oily skin or are prone to breakouts. If you want to cover a larger area quickly, mousse is your best bet – and it feels super light on the skin.

6. Always, always wash your hands

Only the tops of your hands have the pigment to turn a natural shade but all self-tanners will leave your palms orange, so scrub up once you’ve finished applying. If you want to apply self-tanner to the backs of your hands, put a dollop on the back of one hand and rub together with the back of the other hand.

7. Don’t skip sunscreen

Your skin colour may be darker, but that doesn’t mean you’re protected from the harmful UVA and UVB rays. Unless it’s stated on the bottle, self-tanners don’t normally contain SPF. Wait at least 10 minutes before applying sunscreen – if you rush it, it could interfere with your self-tanner and cause your skin to become blotchy.