Our favorite self-tanning experts reveal their top tricks so you can score a streak-free, believable bronze at home.

By Lisa DeSantis
June 14, 2018

Slough smarter: Applying self-tanner to rough skin will lead to a patchy, uneven glow. "So, before slathering on your color, use a scrub to smooth your body. Avoid formulas that are oil-based, since they can leave a residue that interferes with the self-tan development," advises Sophie Evans, celebrity spray-tan expert. Shaving beforehand is also a good idea. Not only does it naturally exfoliate, but getting rid of stubble makes for a much easier application, says makeup artist Carrie LaMarca, who recommends an electric shaver like the clio palmperfect ($16; at amazon.com).

Apply liberally: "The biggest mistake women make is not using enough product. You’ll need a decent amount (think tennis ball–size if you’re using a mousse) so that it glides over skin effortlessly. Don’t be scared—you can never use too much, as the skin will only absorb a certain amount of a tanning agent,” says Evans. Plus, when you don’t use enough, you wind up with streaks. Our favorite formulas: St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Pre-Shower Tanning Mousse ($20; sephora.com), NKD SKN Gradual Glow Daily Tan Moisturizer ($25; amazon.com), and Vita Liberata Invisi Foaming Tan Water ($40; amazon.com).

Treat dry spots: After applying tanner, use a damp cloth to wipe knuckles, knees, and ankles for the most natural result— since those areas are drier, they tend to get darker. Do the same to the heels of your hands, explains Alyson Hogg, founder of tanning brand Vita Liberata Advanced Organics. The thought here: The sun won’t naturally hit that area, so having bronzed palms is a giveaway.

Slather on lotion: “Starting 24 hours after you put on your self-tanner, use a moisturizer daily to keep your glow going and ensure an even fade,” says Tan-Luxe founder, Marc Elrick. “If you want to prolong your color, reapply a gradual-tanning product every few days.”

Tone it down: “There are a few tricks to help take off tanner if you’ve overdone it: Exfoliate to fade the tan or try sitting in a sauna. It usually takes about 15 minutes to lessen a tan’s intensity,” says James Read, tanning pro and founder of the eponymous brand. Another option: Mist on Tan-Luxe Glycol Water ($33; sephora.com). It packs 3 percent glycolic acid to break down remnants of color so you can start with a clean slate.