Use Self-Tanners Like A Pro

Cynthia Bailey, MD|May 19, 2010

When you use a self tanner, do you have soft, moist, evenly bronzed skin? Or does your skin look like a cross between an alligator and a leopard with the smell of mayonnaise overlaid by cheap perfume? There are a few tricks to looking (and smelling) good in self-tanners! I've learned them over the years from my patients who do it well. The problem is that self-tanners naturally get stuck in the thicker areas of your skin like your freckles and over your knees. They also dry out your skin and the active ingredient has a funny mayonnaise-like smell. I still love self-tanners and will take them any day over sun damaged skin, but… there are some tricks to getting the look you want with self-tanners.

3 Steps For Applying Self-Tanning Products So You Look (And Smell) Great

The general concept: Self-tanners stain the outer, dead skin cell layer of your skin, showing off how thick and how dry this layer is. Understanding this is key. Your skin needs to be exfoliated and moisturized BEFORE you apply self-tanners. Plus, you've got to be careful that you put much less product on the thicker areas of your skin like your knees, elbows and feet. Step by step instructions for applying self-tanners like a pro: 1. Prepare Your Skin First! Keep your skin exfoliated and hydrated in preparation for self-tanners. This means physically exfoliating your skin in the bath or shower and moisturizing immediately after toweling dry. Physical exfoliation is where you scrub off the extra dead cells using something rough. I've found the most effective products for this are the Body Buf Puf or the Salux Cloth. Other options include a luffa sponge or an exfoliating body polish. Of course scrub gently, but use more pressure and scrub longer over the thicker skin areas of your knees, elbows, the back of your hands and tops of your feet. Immediately after toweling dry (within three minutes -- no more) apply a rich moisturizer. Ideally your moisturizer should contain an alpha hydroxy acid for additional exfoliation. I've found the best exfoliating moisturizer for this is Glytone Body Lotion (which is in my Anti Aging Body Skin Care Kit along with the Salux Cloth). Less strong, but still effective are the drug store products AmLactin Cream or Lacticare Cream. I've used them all and Glytone is by far the most effective and it's what I've used for years for my own skin. 2. Know When And How To Apply Self-Tanners Apply self-tanner immediately after toweling off from your bath or shower. You can apply it before, or in place of, your moisturizer. Don't put the tanner on your skin if you haven't just bathed because you'll get the alligator look. You can apply moisturizer like Glytone Body Lotion on top of the tanner if you're using a product that isn't too heavy. This will give you the best results. Apply very little product over areas of your body with thicker skin. Using your leg as an example, put some product in one palm, rub your hands together and then smooth the product over the thinner skin on your lower leg and thigh, but avoid touching your knee or foot until you have almost no product left on your palms, at which point you can very briefly rub your palms over the back of your foot and the front of your knee. Because the thick skin in these areas picks up more product, they can look much darker than the thinner areas of your skin, giving them a dirty look. Always wash the product off your palms entirely when you are done. If you don't, your hands will look dirty. Your palms qualify as areas of thick skin and will stain darker than the rest of your skin if you don't wash them well and immediately after applying self-tanner. Lighten overly dark areas by physically exfoliating them. If, for some reason, you still find that some areas of your skin are darker, giving you a spotty or dirty look, you can lighten the color in the shower with a light physical exfoliation using the Salux Cloth, Buf Puf or a body polish. 3. Be An Artist Refine your technique to get a natural look. Apply more product over the parts of your skin that would naturally be darker if you had a sun tan to give them slightly more bronzed color. (Meaning the tops of the arms should be darker than the under surface of the arms!) This can be done by applying more product the first time, or doing a second application. Also, if you don't intend to apply the tanner to your entire skin surface, then feather it in to those areas by gradually applying a thinner layer as you approach them, don't stop abruptly leaving a big color difference. Self tanner application is a lot like painting and you can dial in the color you want by putting more or less product on your skin. Products: There are tons of options available. I prefer a thinner product that allows you to put your moisturizer on top without feeling heavy or greasy. My favorites: Avene Moisturizing Self-Tanning Lotion My new favorite! It has a light feel, no heavy fragrance and a relatively hypoallergenic base that's perfect under Glytone Body Lotion. I like it so much I've decided to carry it at OTB Skin Care! Clarins Gelee Auto Bronzante Express. Clarins consistently gets high ratings for its self-tanners. I used this product for years and it, too, works well under moisturizer. The fragrance is subtle and the color good. L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Spray. This is a great way to apply tanner to your back! I'm not fond of the fragrance, but the spray is brilliant. Jergens Natural Glow and Neutrogena Summer Glow (this may no longer be available). These good products are a little too heavy to use under a moisturizer. This means you'll get the best results if you use them every other day alternating with an AHA moisturizer on alternate days to avoid the dry alligator look. Self-tanners work beautifully to give you great looking bronzed skin....without the wrinkles and age spots you'd get from the sun. By knowing how to apply them, you can rely on self-tanners to give you a tan look whenever you want it. Remember, self-tanner color does not give you any sun protection so follow my recommendations for sun protecting your skin. If you found this information helpful, you may also want to read: Back And Chest Acne: Will They Ruin Your Summer? The New Celebrity Beauty Trend-Going Natural Dermatologist's 3 Simple Steps For Sandal-Ready Feet By Spring Photo Attribution: / CC BY 2.0

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