A Spray Tanner's Tips For the Perfect Self-Tan
If you're an avid spray-tan enthusiast, switching over to applying self-tanner at home can seem intimidating, but it's actually quite simple. These tips from a handful of pros — including St. Tropez's skin finishing expert Sophie Evans, Tan-Luxe's lead artist Alexandra DiMarchi, and more — can help.
Step 1: Do the Prep Work Ahead of Time
The same rules you'd follow before going to a professional spray tanner apply to the at-home process, as in make sure you exfoliate the day before and keep your skin moisturized. You'll also want to take care of any hair removal ahead of time. If you plan on waxing, do it at least 24 hours before your appointment. "Waxing can open up your hair pores, so allow the skin to settle after your wax so that your spray tan does not come out with a spotted pitted look," Evans said. And if you choose to shave, do it eight to 12 hours beforehand.
Step 2: Consider Your Options
Whether you choose a clear formula or one with color guide depends on personal preference, but most people agree beginners could benefit from seeing the shade they are applying. On the other hand, "clear tanners allow you to see true color as it is developing," DiMarchi said. "For example, after four hours you will start to see a slight glow, then light color at six hours. At seven to eight hours you should be at medium to dark. This method of transparent about the process, and you'll avoid the 'I lost all of my color' notion after rinsing the product."
Step 3: Hydrate Your Hands and Feet
"A common tanning mistake for beginners is applying too much tan to drier areas such as hands, elbows, knees, and feet, which results in an uneven finish," said Clara Anderson, head VIP tanner of Vita Liberata. "To avoid this, apply a light layer of an oil-free moisturizer to those areas prior to tanning and use a makeup brush to buff product lightly over the skin. Don't forget to wipe the knuckles and the palm of the hands clean when you're finished to remove any excess product, giving the most natural finish."
Step 4: Start Slow, and Practice on Covered Areas
First, you'll want to practice on areas that aren't typically visible. If all goes well, you're ready to move on to your arms and legs. Most brands offer light, medium, and dark shade options, so if you're unsure, start light; if that's too subtle, build up from there the next day. If you're using a mousse formula (which tends to blend the easiest), grab a tanning mitt and apply the product in large, sweeping motions until it's all blended. The key: take your time to ensure your color is evenly applied.
Step 5: Stay Hydrated
The best way to extend the life of your faux tan? Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Just make sure you're using an oil-free formula, since oils can dissolve the color.