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Cheat Sheet: Self Tanners

Unless you’re living in Jersey Shore la la land, you know that tanning is a major no-no. But we’ve had too many orange-toned disasters to pretend that fake tanning is easy — or is it? We turned to Sinead Norenius, founder of the and Beautisol, for tips on getting the perfect sunless tan.

Choosing the Right Type of Self-Tanner

Self-tanners come in a wide range of formulations, from lotions to mousses to gels. No matter what, Norenius says, “pick a product with a guide color, or a light tint, so that you can see where the color is going.” Lotions are great for beginners because they take a little bit longer to absorb into the skin, which means you can correct any mistakes. Next are gels, which are easy to spread and work well for people with normal or oily skin. Mousses are more like a liquid and their slightly higher alcohol content makes them dry faster. These are good for self-tanning experts who want to quickly cover a lot of area. Norenius loves pre-soaked glow pads for traveling and on the go. "Just make sure to keep going over the area and take your time — you want to make sure you’re blending it into every area.”

Make Sure the Color Works For You

Whatever type of tanner you choose, make sure to test it on a small patch of skin first. Norenius suggests using your stomach, because it’s usually pale and you can see it when you stand up and look in the mirror. “Everyone’s skin reacts differently, so even if a color looks golden on a friend, it might turn brassy on you,” says Norenius.

Prep Before You Tan

Before you tan, make sure to exfoliate your entire body. “It’ll prolong your tan and prevent any splotching or flaking,” says Norenius. When you’re ready to apply, always use tight-fitting disposable gloves so that you don’t end up with brown hands. Put a little moisturizer on dry spots like elbows and ankles before you apply tanner to avoid over-saturating those areas. If you think you’ve applied too much, use a towel or washcloth to lightly buff the area and soak up excess product. Norenius is a big proponent of tanning at night, so that you can let the color develop while you sleep. No matter when you tan, be sure to let the formula dry completely and avoid water — shower, pool — for six to eight hours.


Three days after tanning, exfoliate lightly. “The tan is coming off anyway and you don’t want it to fade unevenly,” says Norenius. Avoid using heavy lotions, which can make the tan slide off onto clothes.


If you end up streaky, get in a bathtub and soak it off. Sit in water for 20-25 minutes, use a good body scrub, and try to get the color off.

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