Prep for Perfection
Yes, exfoliate (it's the key to even, longlasting color). But also be sure to shave or wax before you tan. "Removing hair soon afterward will remove the tan as well," says Pam Oullet, spa director at Willow Stream Spa at Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada. And since selftanner affects only the top layer of skin (the DHA causes a chemical reaction that darkens the cells of the epidermis), exfoliation will strip away color too. So skip the scrubbing for at least three days posttan.
Try a Tinted Version
Formulas that are slightly bronzed make it easy to see where you've already applied tanner — and which spots you've missed. To try: Lancôme Soleil Flash Bronzer Instant Colour SelfTanning Leg Gel ($28.50, department stores).
Put It On like a Pro
Apply creams and lotions by rubbing firmly in a circular motion; smooth away extra product to avoid streaks. One lotion we like: Dove Energy Glow Daily Moisturizer with Subtle SelfTanners ($7, drugstores). To try: L'Oréal Sublime Glow MicroFine Mist ($10, drugstores).
Ace Those Trouble Spots
Dry knees, ankles, and feet tend to sop up extra product and then turn darker. Oullet recommends smoothing on a regular moisturizer beforehand, which will lessen the amount of tanner that's absorbed. To avoid a line where your ankles meet your feet, she says, "do your leg first, then add a little moisturizer to the residue that's left on your hands and run hands from your leg to your foot." Use a tissue to rub around nails to remove excess.
Nervous? Tan Gradually
Tannerlotion hybrids have low doses of color combined with moisturizer, so it's harder to make a mistake. You'll see a subtle difference a few hours after you first apply it, with the color increasing each time you slather it on. Try Aveeno Continuous Radiance Moisturizing Lotion ($15, drugstores). Or try a body bronzer like Neutrogena Sheer Body Tint Temporary Tan ($10, drugstores). You'll get immediate color that will wash away in your next shower.
Mask Your Veins
Stubborn spider or varicose veins can mar the look of your legs. For permanent solutions, talk to your doctor about inoffice treatments such as lasers and sclerotherapy ($300 to $800 per treatment), as well as endovenous ablation (around $2,500 per treatment, often covered by insurance).