Self Tanner 101: How To Apply Self Tanner Like an Expert

Self Tanner 101

Self tanners are a cent a dozen, but there's a fine art to applying this versatile product – simply slathering it on won't do.

Here's how to apply self tanner like an expert to achieve the perfect golden glow just in time for summer:

Get the essential steps out of the way before you even consider applying your self tanner.

Start by exfoliating your skin with a potent scrub. Avoid oily formulas that typically leave behind a trace of product, opting instead for something coarser and more abrasive (but not irritating). Self tanner will appear blotchy and uneven if applied to skin that hasn't been exfoliated, and will only bring out that dryness even more. Smooth skin is the perfect canvas to begin your move into the world of self tanning.

Said dry spots need to be treated independently, too.

While it's not a good idea to moisturize your entire body, it's imperative that you hydrate areas that are prone to tan very quickly, such as your knees, elbows, hands and feet. If you have any other spots on the body that are overly dry, moisturize these spots too. Doing so will ensure that those areas don't over-tan and appear darker than the rest of your skin.

Now it's go time.

If you're a total newbie to the self-tanning game, consider a gradual tanner (Jergens makes several excellent formulas) that develops slowly and makes the process relatively mess- and mistake-free. But if you prefer a traditional formula, you'll have several types available to you: lightweight mousse, quick spray and moisturizing lotion. Work your way up from your ankles in a circular fashion, ending finally with your hands. Of course, you don't want to skimp on your face, but be extra careful here – a little bit goes a long way. Apply your tanner to your face, focusing on areas that the sun naturally hits, and blending carefully.

Even quick-dry formulas should be given time to dry, if you're really being careful. Give it at least 10 to 15 minutes for the product to completely dry, and avoid showering until the next morning. Goofed up? Keep a bottle of St. Tropez Tan Remover ($18) on hand just in case – a dab will fix trouble spots or remove your work entirely if you prefer. It's great for stained hands, too! Just be sure to use it within four hours of application.

Voila: The tan of your dreams, made in the comfort of your own home.

Got a favourite self tanner? Share your recommendations in the comments.