Self-tanning products have come a long way (check out the drugstore and you’ll find loads of types and brands) making application easier than ever. And yet, we still get nervous about streaks and unevenness, and fear ending up looking more like a don’t than a do. Who doesn’t? It’s a major beauty faux pas to have anything other than seemingly even, bronzed skin. To ease your self-tanning jitters, here’s a refresher on how to get the perfect golden glow sans sun.

Exfoliate regularly.Dry skin will make your tan look patchy and flaky,” says Natalie Gee of Gee Beauty in Toronto. So you want to be sure you’re exfoliating regularly in the weeks leading up to starting to use self-tanner, not only just once or twice beforehand. “Aim for at least once or twice a week,” she says.

Moisturize well. Again, dry skin is not your friend when it comes to your faux tan. And since you’re exfoliating regularly, lotion will absorb well into your freshly scrubbed skin. Avoid anything too heavy or filled with essential oils—this will be detrimental to self-tanner adhering to your skin.

Shave up to 24 hours before your self-tanner application. You want to give your skin a chance to relax and for the pores to close before your self-tanning product goes on, says Natalie.

Deeply moisturize the spots that are prone to dryness. Think elbows, knees, feet, hands. “These spots tend to collect dirt and dry skin, so exfoliate them well and you may want to double up on moisturizer, or use a richer one made for these areas.”

Glove up. If you’re applying a self-tanning lotion with your hands, consider a pair of rubber gloves to ensure your hands don’t absorb excess product, turning them much more golden than the rest of your body. Alternatively, you can wash your hands really well at the end of your application.

Stick to one product from head to toe to ensure you have the same golden shade all over. Go light on the application in the area above your lip (“this area can tend to go dark,” says Natalie)—on your face you want the slightly more golden areas to be your forehead and nose, where the sun would naturally tan you more. Always err on the side of caution, though, says Natalie. You’d be better off ending up too light since you can always apply more product.

, wait three days before you start exfoliating again. You don’t want to waste all your hard-earned golden glow, do you?

Not comfortable using a self-tanner? We tell you how to prep for a spray tan on the next page…


A Primer for Spray Tanning Virgins

Still don’t trust your own skills with self-tanner? Here’s what to expect if you choose to get a pro spray tan, and how to not end up à la Ross on Friends.

Booth vs Airbrush.
A booth dispenses a large amount of product in a one-size-fits-all way. But we’ve all got different bodies, which is why you may achieve better results with a professional airbrush tan. Also, if you have a few extra minutes, the airbrush pro can sculpt abs by creating contours with the spray, along with creating cleavage, perky derrieres and defining your legs, says Nicole Hyatt, owner of mobile air brush tanning company Tan on the Run.

Avoid green pits. Prepping for an airbrush tan much in the same way you would for applying your own self-tanner, but try to avoid wearing deodorant or antiperspirant (or make sure to wipe it off before your session) as it can go green when getting a spray tan. (Your body’s pH level may also cause product to turn green in this area). If you do end up with green armpits, no worries—once you shower, the green tinge will wash off, says Nicole.

Opt for an aloe-vera based product. When it comes to spray tans, there are water-based and aloe-vera based solutions—ask what kind the company uses. Nicole recommends aloe-vera based ones as she’s found they provide more even coverage and the aloe vera leaves your well moisturized.

Schedule your airbrush treatment with your cycle in mind. Although there’s no scientific evidence backing this up, Nicole has found that if it’s that time of the month when you get your treatment, your spray tan may tend to fade faster (lasting three to four days rather than the average seven to 10 days). Consider booking your appointment when you don’t have your period.

Prolong your airbrush tan with a rich moisturizer. Before your session, you want to avoid using anything too oily (as with DIY self-tanning), but afterwards, a thicker moisturizer (think body butter, says Nicole) will help in terms of after-care.

Read more:
8 amazing bronzers
Bronzed beauty: The best bronzer picks

Bad beauty habits you need to break now
How to get flawless foundation