Self-tanning is supposed to be sooooo easy. Yeah, right. If it were, we wouldn't see so many faux-woodgrain results walking around out there. And we wouldn't need so many self-tan-like-a-pro tips from the experts, right? Except that when you look closely, the following tips aren't that hard to handle... it's just about getting used to the routine. Looks like it's true: practice makes perfect. Still, along with tried-and-true advice, some of these professional suggestions surprised us – maybe they're new to you too?
If you caught our other self-tanner stories, you'll recognize our how-to sources Sophie Evans (St. Tropez), James Read (James Read Tan) and Christopher Ardoff (Victoria's Secret). All skin-finishing professionals that celebrities look to for flawless colour, these pros know all the tricks.
prep tips for self-tanning success
- Yes, yes, we know that to get even colour we have to exfoliate flaky patches from our skin before we use self-tanner. Wait, what? Moisturize too? Yes, generously and thoroughly, says Christopher Ardoff, who's gilded Sienna Miller, Emily Blunt and a host of leggy Victoria's Secret angels. "Let the moisturizer sit on the skin for a little bit so you get a nice, supple texture," he advises. Note: if you buff and condition skin in the morning, you can apply self-tanner that evening.
- After a waxing session, wait 24 hours before you get your colour on. If you apply self-tanner too soon, you could end up with a pitted effect, says Sophie Evans, skin-finishing pro for St. Tropez and body bronzer to the likes of Victoria Beckham.
- We've seen enough blotchy ankles and feet to know that some people skip this next step: rub a bit of oil-free lotion over the tops and sides of feet, as well as on heels, knees and elbows, and let it absorb fully before getting down to self-tanning.
- Remember those "Got milk?" ads? Before you tan your face, toss back that last glass of water (or whatever), then brush and floss. Seriously. "I've seen people put tan on their face and then drink or clean their teeth, and get a white upper lip," says James Read, who has worked with Ellie Goulding.
- Self-tanner can stain pale or bleached blonde hair, and silver hair, too. "Apply a layer of moisturizer along your hairline as a barrier," says Sophie.
- Worried facial self-tanner will get stuck in your pores? James has this chill tip: "Run an ice cube over your face right before you apply the tanner." Icing skin seems to prevent product from settling into tiny crevices.
application tips for streak-free self-tan colour
- This tip was an ah HAH! moment for us: Be generous with the self-tanner when you apply, says Sophie Evans. "Streaks are caused by lack of product. People take a tiny amount and try to make it do quite a large area. That makes the product drag along the skin to create streaks." More is actually way better, in this case.
- "Start at the hairline and work your way down," says James Read. "Leave hands and feet until last; use what's left on the mitt from the arms to do hands, and what's left from the legs to do ankles and feet." (Don't dispense more product to do these areas because the colour will go too dark.) Leave self-tanner on eight to 12 hours, ideally overnight.
- Know what's easier than contouring your face with makeup? Contouring with self-tanner. Really! Here's our contour with self-tanner video tutorial – it depicts the easiest and fastest way to self-tan our faces, too.
- "People always have problems with the back," notes James. Simple solution: "Put the applicator mitt over a long wooden spoon, secure it to the handle with an elastic band, and apply the tanner to your back."
- When you finish doing your feet, grab a makeup-remover towelette and quickly wipe between toes and your pedicure polish, too. "Self tanner can stain if you leave it on nails," says Sophie. (If you don't use a mitt to apply self-tanner, wash your hands the second you're finished; give fingernails and cuticles a good scrub with soap and a nail brush to prevent staining.)
- Stuck with real tan lines you need to camouflage? From a pro who's bronzed Hugh Jackman and Gwyneth Paltrow, here's how to correct tan lines with self-tanner, and a short, fix-those-tan-lines video tutorial too.
- Give skin a bit of extra glamour and gleam with a tinted self-tanning dry oil that contains a touch of mica for a golden sheen.
self-tanning after-care tips
- "People wash their hands a couple of hours after self-tanning and end up with light hands, darker arms," James points out. "Wash only your palms."
- Aiming for a specific level of bronze and want to be certain you've achieved it? Check your hue intensity via a flash-photo selfie, says James. Wear a white top to provide contrast; the light from the flash bouncing off the skin will give you a more-accurate-than-naked-eyes picture of your tan colour.
- Uh, oh – your colour's slipping into leather-couch territory? James has tips for that too. "Go for a steam," he says. "Or mix lime and lemon juice on a flannel with some water, warm it in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, let it cool slightly, and rub over the skin." It won't erase the self-tanner overload, but it will lighten it a bit.
- Happy with your new bronze? Moisturize daily, and exfoliate after 3 or 4 days to make sure the colour is wearing evenly and to maintain a smooth surface for your next colour sesh, says James.
how to self-tan in the shower
When I shot our two most recent self-tan videos with St. Tropez expert Sophie Evans – how to self-tan your face flawlessly and how to contour your face with self-tanner – Sophie gave us a quick how-to demo of the St. Tropez in-shower gradual tan. UPDATE June 2016: St. Tropez has a new, deeper shade of the in-shower gradual tan formula!
I love this stuff! I can't be bothered with self-tanner usually, but the St. Tropez in-shower formula is ridiculously easy and delivers exactly the results I want on my fair skin. Waiting three minutes in the shower is so not big deal.
I haven't tried the deeper shade yet, but I will.
Have you tried the St. Tropez in-shower tanner? Were any of the prep, application and post-application tips new to you? Do you have foolproof self-tanner tips to add?