14 Tips for Sunless Tanning

Health Writer

It's summertime and that means it's tanning season. But, we all know that getting a tan (or sunburn) increases your risk of developing skin cancer and contributes to premature aging of your skin. If you want to have the sunkissed tan look, the better choice is to go with sunless tanning products. Use the following tips to make sure you get an even tan.

1. Prepare for sunless tanning products several days in advance. Shave or wax to remove thick hair. Exfoliate the skin on your entire body for several days paying extra attention to dry areas, such as your elbows and knees; this removes any dead skin cells and makes your skin more receptive to the product. Make sure you apply moisturizer to your skin for several days (at the least) before applying the product. Try to apply the moisturizer evenly, starting at the same place each day.

2. Gather your supplies first. Besides your tanning product, you might need disposable, tight-fitting latex gloves (unless you are allergic to latex), moisturizing lotion, a strap, want or sponge paintbrush (if you don't have anyone to help with applying it to your back), petroleum jelly, tissue, hair tie. You want to apply it in a room with a mirror.

3. Apply the tanning in a cool, dry location. Don't apply the tanner in the bathroom right after your shower. The humidity will interfere with the application. If you are using the bathroom, wait until the humidity in the room has subsided. Make sure you are applying the product to dry skin.

4. Start with a bronzing oil. This type of self tanning product only stays on your skin until you take a shower but if you haven't used self tanning products before, this is a good way to practice and make sure you are applying it evenly. If you like the look of your skin after using it, you can consider applying this product every day after your shower - although it you are swimming or participating in an activity where you will be sweating, you will look tan before and then look paler after.

5. Use a gradual tanning formula. This type of product darkens your skin a little during the first application and then darkens a little more with subsequent applications. Using a gradual tanning formula lets you choose the shade best for you. If you have fair skin, choose a light or medium color, if you have olive skin, choose a dark formula.

6. Use gloves when applying a self tanner. When you apply a self tanner without gloves, your hands can absorb the color, making your hands look darker than the rest of your body. If you aren't wearing gloves, be sure to wash your hands several times through the process. Once you have finished, use a small dab on the tops of your hands so they match the rest of your body. You might want to protect surfaces with an old sheet or plastic tarp to avoid brown stains on clothes and towels.

7. Use uniform, broad strokes to apply the self tanning product. Work from the ankles up to your torso. Start with a small amount in your hand and use broad, circular strokes. When applying to your feet, avoid the sides of your feet and in between toes as these areas don't normally tan. Apply the product lightly on areas that tend to be dry such as knees and elbows as these areas will absorb more of the product and can end up darker. Ask a friend to apply the product on your back. It is best to apply thin coats of the product and then reapply than to apply heavier coats as thicker coats can drip or streak.

8. Dilute the product with moisturizer for areas that will absorb more product. This includes your knees, ankles, wrists and elbows. Areas where you bend can end up with extra tanning product, using a moisturizer to dilute the product gives these areas a more natural looking tan. If you prefer not to dilute the product, use a tissue to wipe some of the product away from these areas.

9. Use the tanning product sparingly on your face and neck. These areas darken more easily than other areas of your body. Start with a small amount in your hands and apply it in circular motions on your nose, cheeks and chin, smoothing the product outward. Use petroleum jelly to protect areas you don't want to darken, such as your lips and eyebrows. If you have short hair, don't forget to apply the product to your ears (including the back of your ears) and the back of your neck.

10. Allow the product to dry. Wait at least an hour before getting dressed to avoid having stains on your clothes. If you need to speed up the drying process, you can use a blow dryer for a few seconds, but you still don't want to put on any clothes that you won't mind if they get stained. Wait at least 8 hours before showering and avoid exfoliating for several days.

11. Check in the mirror for missed spots. If you notice any bare or missed spots, use a small dab of product to apply to the spots. Blend it in so if looks even with the areas around it.

12. Wait to apply a second coat. Self tanning products can darken over several hours. If you aren't happy with the shade, wait at least 8 hours before applying a second coat. If you do decide to add a second application, repeat the entire process.

13. Managing streaks. If you notice streaks of color, there are a few ways you can try to make your tan look more even. Once the eight hours have passed, take a shower, scrubbing those areas that look too dark. You can also dab a tissue or cotton ball in lemon juice and wipe on the spots that are too dark. Leave the lemon juice on for about 15 minutes, then wash off. If nothing else works, you can try facial cream bleach and leave it on for just a couple minutes. Be careful with this method as it can be harsh on your skin.

14. Continue to moisturize your skin every day to lengthen your "tan." Self tans disappear as the top layer of your skin dries and flakes off. Keeping it moisturized will help keep it looking even. Some people prefer to use baby oil as a moisturizer. Keep your showers warm rather than hot. Self tans usually last anywhere from three to seven days.

Remember, self tans are not sun protection. You must still use sunscreen whenever you go outdoors.