If you’re looking for a little glow this summer, try a self-tanner. There are tons of options to shop from brands like Isle of Paradise, Jergens, Coco and Eve, and Bali Body, but it’s hard to know which one is right for you. Before you start shopping for self-tanners online, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind.
First, be aware of your body’s pH level and anything that could affect it, such as showering right before a tan or certain body washes. DHA, the ingredient in tanning solutions that creates the bronze color, interacts with your skin’s pH, which means that things like your period and when you shower can affect how well your skin accepts the tan.
“I can tell within two seconds, within that first spray, if you’ve showered right before, which is not good,” Brittney Bennett of Be Bronze Tanning Studio in Los Angeles tells POPSUGAR. “If you shower, I like a good 12 hours but a minimum of four hours prior – shower, shave, exfoliate – because if you do it right before, your tan will be 20 to 30 percent less dark. Same thing with your period. The pH balance of your skin is what the tan is working with.”
Ahead, we’ve curated expert advice, bestselling formulas, and customer favorites to make shopping for your next self-tanner a little easier.
When to Get a Spray Tan
After getting a tan, you might notice that distinct tan smell, but avoid spritzing a fragrance to mask it. “A patchy neck can be caused by perfumes and products left on the skin before application,” Sophie Evans, St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert, says. She suggests the St. Tropez Tan Remover Mousse ($18-$44) if the patchiness is too noticeable to cover with makeup. “You can also apply a little loose translucent powder after your tan application to avoid any dark neck creases,” Evans says.
When it comes to big events, Evans suggests giving your tan 24 hours to develop and settle before the event. “If an event is Saturday, I recommend getting a tan on Thursday night,” she says. “Sometimes, a self-tan instant bronzer can take two showers to remove fully. You could also opt for a clear water mousse or gel, like St Tropez’s Purity Water collection. This range contains no bronzers, so there is nothing to transfer. Plus, you can wear it all day without feeling sticky or the need to shower.”
How to Get the Perfect Tan on Your Hands
“People always get the hands wrong,” James Read, founder of the eponymous brand, says. “I recommend you work the excess tan using a tanning mitt from the arm and stop just as you come to the hands. Then, using a small amount of moisturizer, lightly buff to blend over the hands. Then, using a tanning mist, spray over the hands, then buff again using a mitt. I always do two coats – don’t forget to do the Gaga claw.”
How to Fix Your Tan If You Get Wet
The most common questions experts get is how to fix a mishap if you happen to get wet or sweat before it’s time to rinse your tan. There are options, but the timing is crucial.
“How much time has passed will determine the best course of action,” Veronique Munro, founder and CEO of Infinity Sun, says. “If it happens within an hour of your spray tan, it may be best advised to rinse off and respray. If several hours have passed, it is likely that the tan has begun developing enough to when you take your first shower and remove the cosmetic bronzer, your tan will be even.” (Most airbrush tans include a cosmetic bronzer, which produces the immediately-tanned look while the actual tan is developing and washes off in the shower.) “However, if this is not the case then there are a few options available to you,” she says. “Soaking in a warm bath with essential oils, then moisturizing with an oil-based moisturizer, will lighten the color all over much more quickly without removing color unevenly through force. Then you can more quickly and easily apply an all-over tanner to smooth out any color disparities caused by the moisture damage.”
How to Tan Dry Areas
“A common tanning mistake for beginners is applying too much tan to drier areas, such as hands, elbows, knees, and feet, which results in an uneven finish,” Clara Anderson, head VIP tanner of Vita Liberata, says. “To avoid this, apply a light layer of an oil-free moisturizer to those areas prior to tanning and use a makeup brush to buff product lightly over the skin. Don’t forget to wipe the knuckles and the palm of the hands clean when you’re finished to remove any excess product, giving the most natural finish.”
Anderson also suggests wearing loose-fitting pants instead of a skirt, dress, or shorts so that the tan doesn’t move if your legs rub together. “This will help the guide color remain even on the skin as well as ensure you don’t rest your hand on your leg and have the product develop on your palm,” she says.
When getting a spray tan by a professional, discuss how many layers of tan you want. “When having a spray tan, sometimes less is more. Multiple layers of tan can leave the skin wet, making it harder to develop, as it will sit on top of the skin rather than sinking in and take longer to dry,” Anderson says. “Having one perfect layer on the body will still give an instant bronze effect, but it will also dry instantly, making the development stage a lot smoother. If you want extra definition, ask your spray tanner to add a little extra to your arms, legs and stomach, giving the tan a more sculpted, 3D effect.”
Now that you’ve got all the facts about spray tans, it’s time to shop for your own at-home self-tanner. Whether you’re looking for a light mist, a mousse, or a gradual-tanning lotion, there’s no shortage of good finds ahead.