Glow Getter

A perfect sunless tan is only a few simple steps away and we promise it’ll look natural.

A golden glow is always in style for summer. But the only safe tan is a faux tan. Luckily, the latest formulas make faking it a cinch and look natural too. “Personally, I’m a huge fan of a faux tan,” says Carmen Lámbarri Altamira of Clarins. “Knowing the dangers that exposure to UV rays can cause in the long run, I try to stay away from the sun. Self-tanners give you that ‘I just got back from Tulum’ glow without the dangers of UV rays.”

The key to getting a convincing faux glow is finding just the right products for you. “The color you get partly has to do with the pH balance of the skin, and sometimes medication, drugs and the time of the month for women can affect the skin’s balance, so if in doubt, always patch test,” recommends Sophie Evans, a St. Tropez skin-finishing expert. “I would do a patch of about two-by-two inches the day before to see if you are going to be happy with the outcome.”

To find the best formula, follow your skin type and lifestyle.

“Express-development solutions—where you can shower in one to three hours—are perfect if you are a gym junkie,” Evans says. “Mousses are great for most skin types and are very easy to apply but will not last quite as long as a lotion or oil. There is a product out there to suit everyone!”

1. Mix with moisturizer

Giving your face a faux glow can be a little tricky. “Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster is, to me, the best self-tanner out there,” Altamira says. “Add three to four drops of the product to your night moisturizer, mix together in your hands, and sweep over your face and neck. You’ll see how a natural glow will start building on your skin, without looking orange or fake.”

2. Hit the sheets

Evans recommends the new St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet Mask, the very first self-tanning sheet mask on the market. It evens skin tone and leaves a dewy look that develops into a long-lasting golden tan.

3. Glow for it

Of course, you can also fake the perfect summer tan with bronzer. “For the face, I love to use something matte—sparkle can be a dead giveaway,” notes celebrity makeup artist Jessi Butterfield. “The Votre Vu Beauté en Bronze Bronzer Duo in Monaco is a great one. Start off with a really fluffy brush and gently add color to the outside edges and prominent areas of your face. Think about where the sun would naturally hit and concentrate there, such as your forehead, your temples and the end of your nose. Complete the look by adding a little of the flush shade to just the apples of your cheeks. This step will keep you glowing and fresh rather than ruddy.”

4. Full-body bronzing

You can also fake bronzed skin on your body. Butterfield’s favorite way is using a liquid formula like the Nars Laguna Liquid Bronzer. First exfoliate and then mix a few pumps of the Laguna with your go-to body moisturizer and apply liberally. “A great rule of thumb when selecting a shade is to choose something that is two to three shades darker than your natural color,” advises Butterfield. “That way you can make sure it shows up and looks natural.”

An ounce of prevention

Prep is key to successful self-tanning. Exfoliation is the most important first step no matter how you’re faking a tan. “Exfoliating products remove dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and smooth out any rough patches,” says Altamira. Be sure to exfoliate at least eight hours before applying tanner; try the Juara Invigorating Coffee Scrub.

That isn’t the only prep step. You’ll want to wax or shave at least 24 hours before and moisturize all dry areas, such as the elbows, knees, hands, wrists, feet, back of the heels and any other scaly spots, since they can develop a darker self-tan color than anywhere else on the body, explains Evans.

Once it’s application time, make sure you use applicator mitts so you don’t stain your hands. “Begin spraying or applying with a base coat first, on your front, back, and then sides,” Evans says. “Lastly, spray or apply on your hands and feet lightly, making sure you blend in between fingers and toes to avoid a striped look.” Wipe your nails and palms and lightly buff your skin so it’s not left feeling wet. Leave it on for approximately eight hours before washing.

Those dreaded streaks and patches are caused by not using enough product and excessively rubbing the skin. “When a person is scared of a self-tan, they use a very small amount of product and try to tan a large area. Always use enough product so it can glide effortlessly over the skin,” Evans advises. “If you feel you are pulling and rubbing at the skin, you are more than likely causing a streak.”

Simply load up the self-tan mousse onto your mitt and use a flat hand with light, sweeping strokes, and then use the mitt to buff away any excess product. “You can never use too much self-tan as the skin can only absorb a certain amount of tanning agent, but a lack of self-tan normally will result in a streak.”

Make sure you take the time to let the product absorb well into the skin prior to getting dressed or sitting down. “People tend to get lazy when applying self-tanning products,” Altamira says. “But it is super important to apply the product evenly on every inch of your skin, or it will be obvious you are wearing a self-tanner.” Don’t forget to wash your hands right after application.

Fixes for flaws

If you need to fix a mistake fast, apply baby oil to the darker area, and leave it on for 10 minutes. Scrub the skin with an exfoliator and then buff using a hot, damp washcloth, advises Evans. Hair removal cream is also very effective: Apply it with a Q-tip onto the darker area, leave it on for half the recommended time and then remove it. (If you leave the hair removal cream on for the full time, it can create lighter patches.)

You can also use lemon juice mixed with baking soda to remove the tan entirely. Saturate the skin, leave the mixture on for about five minutes and remove it with a cleansing wipe—an exfoliating one is best. If you have missed an area when self-tanning, simply lightly scrub the area and then apply the self-tan again.

After all that, you’ll want to keep your tan for as long as possible, and that’s where moisturizing comes in. Apply lotion daily after showering or bathing. “Moisturizing before bedtime is always best as your pores open up and allow more hydration to get in,” Evans says. “Use a gradual self-tanner like the St. Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion every few days to keep your glow. We also always recommend lightly exfoliating every two to three days to guarantee that your tan is fading evenly.”

The only step left is to enjoy your bronzed body.

Photo credits: Studio Firma, stocksy; F3al2, Thinkstock; Diana Taliun, AdobeStock