Sunless Tanning: Preparation Is Key
Experts say that sunless tanners require more preparation than a cosmetic bronzer.
Morgan advices waxing or shaving the day before applying a sunless tanner. Shower and exfoliate the skin just before applying the product to allow the tanner to penetrate evenly.
Pay special attention to exfoliating "the parts that are really dry -- the elbows, feet, and hands -- because that's where it's a dead giveaway when you do the self-tanner," Jenna Anton, a makeup artist based in New York City, says. A tanner can settle into creases and turn too dark or orange.
After showering and exfoliating, experts say to skip any moisturizer, lotion, or deodorant, which can interfere with even absorption of the tanner.
One exception: Apply a small amount of light lotion or moisturizer to very dry areas, such as the hands or feet, to prevent too much tanner from soaking in and darkening.
How to Apply Sunless Tanners
Always do a spot test with a sunless tanning product before putting it all over your body. Most people tolerate sunless tanning products with DHA quite well, but dermatologists say that people with sensitive skin may be allergic to fragrances or preservatives.
When you're ready to apply the sunless tanner, pull your hair back into a ponytail or wear a shower cap. Applying self-tanning products in the buff spares you from faux tan lines, but you can also wear an old bikini or old clothing as they may stain. (Once the tanner has dried and you shower, staining isn't a problem.) Then don well-fitting latex gloves to apply the product without staining your palms.
Shake the product well, Morgan says. Apply it to the legs, arms, and torso with circular motions, which help to prevent a streaky look. "Massage and go in circles," she says. "Distributing the product evenly on the skin is what's going to create that fluid, natural glow."
Consider using a separate face-tanning product and a body tanner, or use only one coat on the face and two on the body so that the face doesn't appear too dark, Anton says. "You can always add bronzer or a little bit of makeup on the face, but sometimes putting too much of a self-tanner on the face, you just look weird. You have to experiment a little bit if you're doing this yourself," she says.
Save the hands for last, Anton says. After removing gloves, apply sunless tanner to the backs of the hands and rub them together, taking care not to get any tanner on the palms. Anton says she uses a moistened washcloth to remove excess tanner from hand creases and knuckles and to blend the color along the sides of the palms.
Also be sure to use self-tanning products sparingly on the feet, and towel away excess product around the ankles, Anton adds. "Those little wrinkles are where it tends to settle and look orangey or really brown."