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Self-Tan: How to Prep Your Skin For Vacation

* Prep your skin for vacation without UV damage
* Self-tanning has never been easier
* Choose from a wide range of application methods and products with these tips

Summer is officially underway, signaling the start of vacation season. The enviable beach bronze glow is undoubtedly flattering (and slimming) but in addition to being rather inaccessible to most of us with day jobs, it’s also downright bad for your skin, doubling you risk for skin cancer and amplifying signs of aging.

Self-tanning can be intimidating if you’re not a bona fide beauty guru or makeup artist, but with the right finesse, you can easily give yourself a safe and streak-free tan right from home. With so many different options available on the market, from gradual tanning lotions to towelettes, self-tanning has never been more user-friendly. Here is how to get a natural looking self tan before your vacation.

1. Prep

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What to Avoid:

When it comes to the outcome of a self-tan, the preparation is even more important than the application and product used. Failing to prep your skin beforehand or showering too quickly afterwards can leave you with fading and orange streaks. If you need to get your nails done, shave, wax, or any other related activity before your vacation, you will want to do them before you apply your self tanner. All of these activities can remove self tanner and will likely end up causing a streaky or faded effect on your skin.


If your skin is overly dry or flaky, chances are, your self tanner will adhere improperly resulting in an uneven result. Start by using an exfoliating body scrub that will gently remove dead skin and leave you with the perfect soft-skin canvas that self-tanner loves. For your face, you can use a glycolic peel, Clarisonic cleansing brush, or other mild exfoliant of your choice. Make sure skin is completely dry after your shower.

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Using an exfoliant on either your face or body can be abrasive, so it’s important to moisturize your skin afterwards to ensure it retains adequate hydration levels. For self-tanning prep, however, it is important to moisturize with a non-oily cream that won’t cause the self-tanner to slip or fade after applied on top. Make sure to get the areas around your nostrils, elbows, ankles, knees, and knuckles–areas where self tanner tends to accumulate and oxidize.


2. Select Your Self Tanner

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There are many different types of self-tanner and application methods to choose from when it comes to a sun-free bronzing. Each of the different types can be used for different needs and adjusted accordingly. For instance,

are convenient and great for frequent travelers but they may not last as long as a tradition self-tanning formula, which has the downside of being slightly more difficult to apply.

Self Tanning Kits:

Self-tanning kits or bundles include a traditional self-tanner product and an exfoliating mitt for prep, plus face and body applicators to help you get an even application. These kits will help you achieve a more professional looking tan and make the process much more fool-proof.

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Gradual Tanning Moisturizers:

Gradual tanning moisturizers and lotions have the advantage of being pretty easy to use and easy to apply. Although you can’t expect to see instant results with this type of product, many of the gradual tanners on the market offer an even wash of color after 3-5 uses. It’s a great option for beginners or those who are after a subtle bronze as opposed to dark tan. Plus, many gradual tanning lotions offer additional skin-improving benefits like reducing the appearance of cellulite along with anti-aging ingredients.

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Tanning Towelettes:

As we mentioned, self tanning towelettes offer you the utmost in convenience and ease of use. They make a great option for packing along in your vacation beauty bag or for those who travel frequently. You can even keep these portable towelettes in your handbag for on-the-go touch ups or impromptu events.

Self Tanning Body Washes:

One of the latest trends in self-tanning is using a self-tanner body wash in the shower. This easy-to-use method is ultra-convenient, delivering subtle and buildable results without a huge commitment. Simply wash your body as you normally would using your conventional body wash and see a hint of color in just 2-3 uses.

Professional Spray Tans:

One sure way to guarantee even results and an enviable bronzed bod pre-vacation, is going straight to an expert. If you’re short on time, or simply don’t want to take a risk in making a mistake, head to to find a salon near you for a lust-worthy tan before you even step foot on your plane. Simply search for a spray tan and enter your zip code to find the best salon for you.

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3. Apply & Preserve

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How to Apply:

Depending on the type of self-tanner you select, you’ll want to apply it according to the directions accompanying the product. However, there are some across the board words of wisdom to live by when applying your sunless tanner. First of all, it’s best to apply your self tanning product working from the bottom up (unless the direction state otherwise, of course). For traditional self tanners and lotion formula, work product into the skin using circular rubbing motions and applying a tablespoon of product at a time to get the maximum amount of blending time. Avoid showering or bathing for 6-8 hours after applying.

Add Baby Powder:

To avoid your self-tanner transferring onto your clothing or furniture, simply dust on some baby powder to help “set” your self tan.

Make it Last:

Self-tanners can last anywhere from one day to two weeks, depending on the product use and your lifestyle/hygiene habits. To get the most life out of your sunless tan, make sure to use gentle cleansers and body washes and avoid using exfoliating scrubs, retinol serums, or glycolic treatments.

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