3. Protect your hands. Self-tanners work quickly and if you’re covering your entire body, your palms may get colored in the process. Wear a pair of disposable gloves while applying the self-tanner to your body, applying the tanner to the tops of your hands last. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands several times and use some soap and a nail brush to scrub away any residue from your nails and cuticles.
4. Apply quickly and evenly. Whether you select a spray, cream or gel self-tanner, you must work quickly and apply the tanner evenly over a complete area. One way to ensure that you don’t miss any spots is to use a brand with a hint of color — that way you will immediately see a bare spot before it’s too late. Use enough tanner to cover a whole area of your body at once (such as your entire arm) using long, smooth, downward strokes for even coverage. Apply self-tanner sparingly on the knees, ankles and elbows, as these areas are typically dry and may turn out splotchy.
5. Wait it out. While you may be tempted to get dressed immediately, wait 30 minutes (or longer) to be on the safe side. Sitting on any light-colored fabrics (including sheets, furniture or towels) during this time can cause color transfer (and stains). Your self-tanner needs time to work its magic, so it has dried, wait at least three hours before bathing, showering or swimming. Afterwards, if you find some areas are darker than you’d like, exfoliate a few times over the next week and the color will fade as your skin cells come off.
6. Make it last. When applied properly, most artificial tans last between three and five days, depending on how fast your skin naturally exfoliates. When you first begin to notice that your color is fading, do another color test and see if you like the shade. If so, go ahead and reapply your self-tanner. Always apply the product in layers, a little at a time, to ensure the most natural looking tone.
Even though you'll be looking sun-kissed, don't forgo the sunscreen. Just as a "base tan" doesn't protect you from the sun, a faux tan doesn't offer any sun protection either. Even though you're sporting golden skin tones, you still need protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Always wear a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher and cover up to prevent sunburn when you're outdoors.