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Expert Tips About Self Tanners

Q. When I try to wear self tanner, it never looks right. Can you help me avoid looking streaky and orange?

Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD:

I love just about any product that convinces my patients to avoid tanning. But self tanners can definitely be tricky. For instant results, try a tinted formula so you can see where you're applying. This will help you avoid streaks and missed spots. Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion is a good option.

Another way to make application simple is to use a richer moisturizing lotion, which isn't likely to drip or run, like L'Oréal Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer. For natural results, always start with a light-color formula rather than a dark option. It's easier to build up pigment than to remove it.

My patients also complain about the smell of sunless tanners. The odor is due to a chemical reaction between the DHA molecules and the top layers of your skin. Many products have better fragrances to help mask the odor. I like Neutrogena MicroMist Airbrush Sunless Tan spray.

Getting a natural effect on the face can be challenging, so a lightweight liquid texture works best. My patients rave about Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanning. A little of this milky lotion goes a long way. 

Esthetician Patricia Young's top picks:

Preparation and application are key with self tanner. You should first exfoliate with a scrub in the shower to remove dead, flaky skin cells.

My application trick is to apply the tanner to your body with a damp sponge in circular motions. This allows the tanner to go on evenly and blends away streaks.

I think the aerosol options like Sally Hansen Airbrush Sun are great for a natural effect. The fine mist makes them easy to apply. You can also spray some on a makeup sponge and tan your face with them. If you have oily skin or acne issues, I suggest formulas designed specifically for the face, such as Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Golden Perfection Self-Tanning Lotion for Face. These usually contain fewer oils and won't cause blemishes. 

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