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Step 1: Prep
To end up with the most even color, you need to do a little advance work. "It's like a painter prepping her canvas," says Ricky Croft, VP Marketing for Sunless Inc. "Always begin with a clean slate." The day before you self-tan, exfoliate from head to toe, using an oil-free body polish or scrub in the shower. You should also shave at least 24 hours prior.
Step 2: Apply
Start with clean skin. Rub a light moisturizer on extra-dry areas—hands, elbows, feet and knees—to prevent over-absorption. Standing in front of a mirror, begin with your feet, applying a thin layer, and work your way up. Fiona Locke, tanning expert for St. Tropez product line, suggests using a self-tanning mitt to prevent staining on hands and ensure an even application.
Choose a product with bronzer—it helps you see where you've applied. Let it dry completely before dressing (15 minutes is a safe bet), and the tan will develop over the next four to six hours. Afterward, if you desire a darker shade, add another thin layer.
Tip: Before using a new tanner, apply a test patch on your lower leg to see how the color turns out. The exact shade can vary due to the pH level in your skin.