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Self-Tanning FAQs

Sun Care Self Tanning FAQ Using self-tanner can be tricky. Here, find answers to seven frequently asked questions:

Q. I tan easily in the sun, should I apply less of the self-tanning product?
A.
Your natural tanning ability won't come into play using a self-tanner. Self-tanners work by dyeing the top layer of your skin, which is made up of "dead" skin cells. Your natural tan comes from stimulated melanin pigments found in the lower layers of your skin. So tanning quickly does not mean you will also self-tan quickly, or darker.

Q. I use Retin-A to treat acne breakouts. Can I use self-tanner on my face?
A.
Yes, but don't apply both products at the same time; it may irritate your skin. Wait until one dries before applying the other.

Q. My self-tanner smells sour when it's on my skin. Will the smell go away?
A.
The sour fragrance you smell coming from your skin is the scent of the chemical reaction, which is what dyes your skin. Different products contain varying degrees of effective "masking" ingredients to minimize the unappealing scent. Several hours after you've applied the product, the sour scent will fade, though it won't go away entirely until you shower.

Q. How long do self-tanners last? When should I reapply?
A.
Self-tanners last from three to five days. They gradually fade over time. You don't have to wait until a full fade before you reapply, though some women say they get a more even tan if they do.

Q. The prices vary so much for self-tanners. Will the more expensive brands give me a better tan?
A.
Not necessarily. As with most cosmetics, trial and error is the rule of thumb when it comes to finding the product that works best for you. Some women complain that less-expensive brands smell worse. Others say the more-expensive brands don't provide a real-looking tan. Some might prefer an expensive spray because it's easier to apply; others might want to use the same brand that makes their daily moisturizer. Start with a recommendation from a friend, or Substance (see the self-tanners editors love and the top 10 self-tanners of women) and go from there.

Q. How do I choose a color that's right for me?
A.
Here is some tried-and-true advice: Usually, the darker your self-tan, the faker it will look. Try not to go darker than medium, no matter what your skin tone. You can always apply more if the tan isn't dark enough for you; that's a better option than starting with super dark color that may look strange.

Q. How can I make my fake tan look as real as possible?
A.
Follow these five guidelines:

  • Avoid streaking and splotching! Follow the advice in How to Use Self-Tanner.
  • Don't apply the same depth of color all over; people never tan the same shade everywhere on their bodies. (It's a sure sign the tan is fake.) Apply the product very lightly to the tops of your feet, around the ankles and to the tops of your hands -- places that normally tan lighter than the rest of your body.
  • Avoid tanning your heels, the insides of your arms, your fingers and under your arms. If you do get product on those areas, wash it off before it dries.
  • Apply self-tanner to the face lightly; make sure you apply it evenly around your nostril area, your ears and your neck.
  • Choose a color that is not too dark for you.

How to Use Self-Tanner

What's the best way to apply self-tanner? We asked the real experts -- women who have tried them and found techniques that work. Follow these tried-and-true tips to achieve a perfect and healthy tan.

What You Need Before Self-Tanning:

The right self-tanner. Both tinted and non-tinted products work the same, but we recommend using a tinted product. You can see where you are applying it and it's the only way to prevent streaks of untanned skin. The non-tinted creams go on like moisturizer and you can't tell by looking at your skin where it is -- and where it isn't! Product shades range from fair to very dark. Stick to fair or medium. The darker the shade, the faker the tan tends to look.

Latex gloves. If you don't want to use gloves, just be aware that you need to wash your hands a few times (between fingers, too!) during the application process.

20 volume peroxide developer. Commonly used for hair bleaching, this product (available at beauty supply stores) is your spot "eraser." Dip a Q-Tip in this liquid and apply to areas where you want to remove the tan -- commonly, that might be a streak on the inside of your arm or on your heel. (Make sure you rinse well afterward!) Do NOT use this to remove your entire tan or on a large section of your body. (If you hate your total tan, jump into the shower and exfoliate again. Exfoliating will not completely remove it, but it will fade it. Within a couple of days, it will be gone.)

Time. This process will take a good 90 minutes, at least, including drying time. Most products promise to dry in 15 to 30 minutes, but it really takes more like an hour. That may sound too long, but your smooth, glossy, safe tan will be worth it! Think of it as a spa treatment.



Comments
by lol from north dakota on June 3, 2011
@graeme next time dont apply it close to your eye section at all, what i do is apply it only on my forehead, cheeks and nose and lightly on the chin, if you apply it on your cheeks and nose it'll look like a natural tan i promise!
by nevaeh from united states on June 2, 2011
i never tried self tanner and i really want to because i look like a vampire, haha if i have really pale skin shouldnt i go for a darker shade and also HOW LONG DOES SELF TANNER STAY ON.
by tina from birmingham on January 31, 2010
what are the limitations of self tanning?
and the Potential advantages of self tanning
Versus UV Tanning treatments?
and the factors that need to be conidered prior to self tanning treatments?
by ohh from toronto, canada on November 20, 2008
you can apply your self tanner around the eyes just dont put too much so it doesnt go INSIde your eye .. i use Dove Energy Glow-daily moisturizer with subtle self tanners... i think its one of the best i've tried so far if your very light skinned dont go right for the darkest one because it will look blotchy... apply evenly around hairline with just a bit of the tanner and evenly on your neck, those are the spots that are most visible.
by Graeme from South Africa on May 31, 2008
Hi
When i apply my self tan, it says avoid eye area. I apply to face and its so obvious to tell its fake because my eye area is white and not tanned... any suggestions

thx Graeme
by joanne from nottinghamshire on May 16, 2008
how can i get my self tan off when it goes rong or don't look right

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