How to Get the Most Natural-Looking Fake Tan Ever

Shannon Farrell
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best fake tan tips

Photo: IMaxTree

We have no shame in preaching the dangerous side effects of both sunburns and suntans. Skin cancer is SERIOUS, and melanoma doesn’t discriminate. Watch this new PSA if you don’t believe us.

“Tanning results from injury to the DNA in skin cells,” says Dr. Hadley King, a dermatologist at NYC’s SKINNEY Medspa. “You can think of it as a defense mechanism, an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. This is why there is no such thing as a healthy tan: tanning occurs when the DNA is already being damaged.” A sunburn is caused primarily from UVB rays while a suntan is the result of UVA rays, and yet both are the result of UV radiation creating DNA mutations that can lead to skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates there are more than 135,000 new causes of melanoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year and about 9,940 deaths each year. “If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early it is almost always curable, but if it’s not, it unfortunately can spread to other parts of the body and become fatal.”

So what’s a woman to do? First: always make a yearly appointment for a check-up with your dermatologist. And keep an eye on brown spots, says Dr. Jill Waibel, a certified dermatologist in Miami. “Signs of melanoma include brown spots that can vary in shape, size and color. If you have any suspicions, be sure to have a dermatologist check as soon as possible.”

Second: opt for summer color the healthy way. With this year’s advances in self-tanning technology, achieving natural-looking color is easier than ever. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be glowing in no time!

Use a Mitt.
“The number one sign of a fake tan gone wrong is orange palms,” says Dannielle Crouch, a skin specialist and the founder of California-based Plush Tan. “A tanning mitt helps protect the hands from getting stained and also spreads the product more evenly on the body.” (No more streaks too!) While many tanning oils come packed with a mitt, lotions normally don’t. However you can purchase the St. Tropez Tan Applicator Mitt ($6.50) separately.

Hydrate Pre and Post-Tan.
Hydrated skin promotes smoother application and ensures even fading. “This means a great body moisturizer each and every day following up to the tan and after the first post-tan shower,” says Crouch. However, the active ingredient in self, tanner, DHA, is dehydrating in itself. Look for formulas with moisturizing benefits, like Jergens Natural Glow Revitalizing Moisturizer ($8.99). It doubles as sunscreen too, adds Dr. Waibel, who is a personal fan of the product. Jurlique Sun Specialist Sunless Tanner ($36) also hydrates, protects with vitamin E and slows down signs of aging with its Austrailian superberry complex.

But Start With a Clean Slate.
Though you don’t want to be Alligator-flaky, don’t apply lotion directly before tanning. “Your skin needs to be clean, dry and exfoliated with no lotion, deodorant or makeup left on the skin when applying the tan,” Dannielle tells us.

Tan in the Morning.
Although tanning right before bed may be more convenient (we love the snooze button too!), Crouch says you have a larger margin of error if you apply right before you sleep. “It’s possible to sleep with your hand on your face, transferring the tanner from your face to your palms. Perspiring, which causes streaks, is also a risk while sleeping.” If a funky smell is your worry, use a formula that masks that traditional tanner-fragrance, like Svelta Tan Skin Perfecting Self-Tanner ($38) that has a warm vanilla scent.

Give a Spray Tan a Go.
Don’t let Ross Geller’s spray tan experience keep you from trying it yourself. “It’s the best way to go if you want an all-over flawless, natural-looking tan,” says Crouch. “That means no streaks, no blotchy areas, your hands and feet aren’t stained and all areas of the body are equally covered with sunless tanning solution.” The only downsides: the cost (ranging from $25-60 per visit) and the time commitment (sessions are short, but you actually have to make an appointment).

Get All-Over Color.
“When applying a self-tanner yourself, it’s impossible to get your backside,” says Crouch. “So your self-tan can’t be an all-over body tan unless you ask for help.” Until now. Xen-Tan Hard to Reach ($18) is a wand with foam pads that allows you to, you guessed it, swipe hard to reach places. Pure genius!

Nix Mistakes.
Always use less tanner along the knees, elbows, hands and feet. But nobody’s perfect. “if you do make a mistake, remove self-tanner with a mixture of baking side and lemon and use a micro derma mitt or exfoliating mitt [to scrub it off]. Sometimes just coconut oil and an exfoliating mitt can help decrease the tan in some areas too.” Bronze Buffer Self-Tan Remover ($10) is our favorite quick fix.

More from Daily Makeover: 10 Weird Places You’re Definitely Forgetting to Apply Sunscreen

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