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“I’d wake up orange and streaky and it just wasn’t natural,” says Molly of the spray tans she got back in her Sports Illustrated days. In fact, the whole streaky experience was enough to keep her away from spray tans for over a decade. But then a friend introduced her to Alexandra DiMarchi from Tan-Luxe, a nontoxic, cruelty-free self-tanning brand—after her first spray tan, Molly was golden bronze and streak-free. And hooked.
We went to the source and asked DiMarchi for the best tips on how to apply self-tanner like a pro.
The most important thing for you to do is shower, shave, and exfoliate. Shaving is a form of exfoliation so will ensure a flawless tan. If you don’t exfoliate properly, the self-tanner will be darker in some areas. If you have to shave a couple of days later, dry shave slightly so the self-tanner does not come off.
People don’t take their elbows, hands, and feet into consideration. Also, when people forget the back of their neck or ears and wear their hair in a ponytail! That’s a big red flag. And when you self-tan your face, remember your neck and decollete so there is no line of demarcation.
Moisturize all the areas that are dry or don’t tan easily—elbows, knees, hands, feet, back of your neck—before you apply any self-tanner. The moisturizer will dilute the self-tanner. Then apply a few drops of Tan-Luxe’s self-tan drops to moisturizer and apply to your ears, neck, hands, feet, and elbows.
Hands are tricky. Apply the self-tanner, then buff it out with a kabuki brush. Wrists are especially tricky: Buff it out so there’s a flawless transition from your hand to forearm. Mitts are good if you’re using a mousse because you can’t evenly distribute the mousse with your hand. The downside to mitts is that they can soak up the product.
It depends on how fast the tan fades, how active you are, how much you sweat, etc. I usually advise a full application every ten days. When I say “full application,” I mean the whole shower, shave, and exfoliate technique. To maintain the color in between, apply a gradual self-tanner every two to three days in between those ten.
I compare it to dark hair dye: If you have dark hair, you can’t go blonde immediately. That goes the same for tanning. The rule of thumb is to use a shade two to three shades darker than your natural skin tone. If you’re very fair, don’t use anything deeper than medium tones. If you’re dark-skinned, try medium or darker tones.
And always test the product. Apply to your thigh or stomach—a place that is hidden—and give it a day or two to see how your skin reacts and if the color is a good match.