How to Prevent - and Fix - Self-Tanning Disasters

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5 Disasters to Avoid

Streaks, Blotches, and Stripes

Prep your skin beforehand. Shave your legs, exfoliate, and moisturize. Start exfoliating a few days before you self-tan, and avoid over-moisturizing immediately before you apply the product. Finally, apply the tanner slowly and be sure to rub it in completely, paying extra attention to the knees, elbows, feet, and neck, all parts of the body that will absorb the tanner more readily.

Tinted products are the most fool-proof, because you can see the distribution of the sunless tanner before it develops. Opt for a lotion instead of a quick-drying foam, for a better window of opportunity to correct any uneven spots before the DHA starts reacting with your skin. We recommend Clarins' Self Tanning Milk SPF 6 ($30), which requires 1-2 hours to develop, with the added benefits of hydration and protection.

Still nervous? Try Benefit's Jiffy Tan ($24). It provides an immediate tan that will stay put all day, but if you mess it up, you can just wash it off in the shower. Since this lotion's far from waterproof though, we don't recommend it for a day at the pool or the beach.

That Too-Orange Glow

When trying out a new brand of self-tanner, always start with a light to medium shade, rather than a dark one. You can always go back and apply the darker shade, but you can't undo the damage once you've turned day-glo orange. Experts also recommend diluting your self tanner by mixing it with equal parts of moisturizer. But exercise caution, because if you don't blend the two properly, you'll end up with streaks and spots. To play it safe, try Jergen's Natural Glow daily moisturizer ($6) -- they've done the work for you and blended lotion with a self tanner. The result? A gradual, natural tan, and soft skin to boot.

Premature Fading

Since you can exfoliate to fade an uneven tan, it follows to reason that you can also exfoliate away a perfect tan. To keep your sunless tan intact as long as possible, avoid shaving your legs for 48 hours after you've applied the product. Also avoid long baths or chlorine-filled pools, all of which will rub off the top layer of skin and interfere with the DHA reaction.

Orange Palms and Feet

These are a dead giveaway that your tan is faux. To avoid, apply the tanning lotion or cream with gloved hands (latex gloves work best because they are non-porous). This can make the application process more difficult, however, so if you don't think you can apply the product evenly with gloves, don't. Instead, wash your hands repeatedly throughout the process. Do one body part at a time, and after rubbing the product on each part, wash your hands.

Stained Clothes and Sheets

To avoid getting your new tan all over your clothes, wait at least 15 minutes after you've finished applying it to get dressed. To ensure that the self-tanner has set, dry your skin with a blow-dryer on a cool setting (sweat will make your tan streak, so be careful). When you are ready to dress, avoid clingy nylons in favor of breathable cotton, and you should be golden.

Continued on page 3:  Damage Control


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