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Question: What’s the best way to use self-tanner?

Answer: Self-tanner is a lot more than just slathering on a lotion, foam, or spray. It’s actually a bit of a process, but it’s worthwhile to be sure you don’t look like an orange streak-y mess when you’re done.

The first step to creating a flawless sunless tan is by prepping your skin. If you’re getting ready to shave your legs, make sure you do so before applying the tanner. Of course, after it’s applied you will undoubtedly need to shave again, but shaving and waxing soon after application will take off some of the product. If you’re skeptical, try waxing after a sunless tan and you’ll notice chunks of your tan missing–not a good look!

When you’re done shaving, you’ll want to exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. Although the sunless tanner might be in lotion form, this doesn’t mean that it will get rid of all traces of dry skin. Getting a sunless tan is essentially “staining” your skin, so imagine putting a stain on over a rough complexion: you wouldn’t stain a piece of wood that hasn’t been sanded, so don’t do the same to your body! For starters, try an exfoliating body scrub and exfoliating glove to buff off any dead skin on your body. You’ll start to notice a difference right away in the smoothness of your skin. This is also good practice to use for any ordinary day even when you’re not using sunless tanner to brighten the look of your skin.

Next, apply lotion to your knees, finger and toe knuckles, elbows, and ankles to protect these notoriously rougher and denser areas of skin from turning too dark. Applying a thin layer of oil-free lotion (oil causes streaking) will help to create a thin barrier so as not to allow too much product from absorbing.

Now you’re ready to apply the actually product. You can choose from foams, lotions, and sprays, but I prefer gradual lotions like Jergens Natural Glow. This specific self-tanner really does deliver a natural tan and isn’t too alarming or orange. Keep in mind that there’s a reason self-tanners include certain skin tone choices like light/medium or medium/dark—if you have very fair skin, don’t opt for a medium/dark sunless tanner to make you look uber tan. Instead, stick with a light variation so that the tan is more true to your skin tone and not obviously fake.

Apply the product with a light hand in a circular motion all over your body. Try doing it section by section to make sure you don’t miss any spots instead of working it in in one fell swoop. You may have trouble applying it to certain areas of your back, so have a buddy (or your S.O.!) help you out. Make sure you extend through your neck and pay close attention to your feet/ankles and hands/wrists as these areas can be tell-tale signs that you used a self-tanner if not blended-in well.

For your face, stick with formulas made specifically for, well, faces. Jergens also puts out a great face self-tanner, which turns out looking much more natural than if you were to apply a self-tanner for your body.

Once you’re finished applying, let the lotion dry thoroughly. Yes, this may mean having to hang around in the buff for ten minutes, but it’s worth it to not get any stains on your clothes (or to rub off the product you just worked so hard to apply).

If you notice some streaking after it dries, apply a bit of hydrogen peroxide to a cotton ball and lightly rub over the streak to get rid of the excess color. Shower the next day with a gentle cleanser to preserve the color, and to remove any excess product. Apply an oil-free moisturizer after showering to keep your skin hydrated.

What are your tips for a flawless self-tan?