1.) Choose the Lighter One
I get it, I've been there—standing in front of the self-tanners debating on whether or not to get the "Ultra Dark" shade. You know you should probably just go with the "Medium" but what if it's not dark enough? You want that JLo glow yesterday. Go big or go home, right? No! Resist the urge. Start with the lighter shade first. Remember the movie There's Something About Mary? That's not a good look. A natural-looking self-tan should only be about two or three shades darker than you natural skin tone. Unless of course you're going for that leather bag look—then by all means go dark. Otherwise start with a moderate shade. Tanners are buildable so if need be, amp up the "Medium" shade by reapplying the next day. When I first tried St. Tropez's Bronzing Mousse, I opted for the lighter shade then moved up to the darker after I knew how it reacted on my skin. Just remember that it's a lot harder to lighten up a overdone tan than to go a shade darker later.
2.) That Mitt Thing—It's Not Optional
Almost every self-tanner brand sells an application mitt. Go ahead. Splurge and spend the $6. You'll thank me later. Tanning mitts are amazing little tools that disperses tanner quickly and evenly. Once you try 'em, you'll never go back. Trust me. Oh, and I suggest storing your used mitt in your cabinet—way in the back—where no one comes across it. My husband found my ratty-looking mitt on the sink a few weeks ago (see above pic). I'd never seen such a look of horror. "Is that some kind of feminine hygiene thing I don't know about?" Haha, gross!
3.) Forgo the Face
Just because it says on the bottle that self tanner can be used on the face doesn't necessarily mean you should. I don't know about you but my face is a bit more sensitive than my leg. I'll leave face-tanning to the products specifically made, well, for the face. Most tanning brands sell products specifically made for use on the face—ones that are more sensitive and less likely to cause breakouts or bad reactions. Stick with those, or do what I do—forgo face tanning altogether and show your cream bronzers some love.
4.) Combine Your Regular and Gradual Tanner
Throughout the years I've perfected my tanning craft. You all know the drill—exfoliate, moisturize and apply (with a mitt). But what about gradual tanning lotions? How do they fit in? I use them in combination with my regular tanner. I use gradual tanning lotions to moisturize before applying regular tanner and also on days between tanning. Gradual tanning lotions help extend and intensify my regular tanner. The two products are the perfect summer duo.
5.) Avoid Others (and White Sheets) While Curing
Let's be honest self-tanners stink (even the non-stinky ones) and stain. Your best bet is to tan on a day when you're not going to be cozying up to anyone. Carve out a few hours in the afternoon or evening for some alone time. Then try to avoid contact with anything or anyone. I can't count the number of times I've stained sheets, towels, shirts, sinks, cabinet and doors. (And let's not forget the toilet seat.) Oh, and the smell—I've gotten so used to it that I don't really notice it anymore. The other night after applying Paula's Choice Sun Care Self Tanner (a newbie that seems to work well but has that familiar odor) I lean in to give my daughter a hug and she asked me if I'd been eating corn nuts. *Sigh.* Is having a gorgeous faux glo worth it? Yes, it is.
Let me know if you have any self-tanner tips or tricks that you discovered; I've got my pen and paper ready.