7 Self-Tanning Mistakes You Might Be Making And How To Avoid Them, Because Not Everyone Wants To Be Orange

If you're a member of the longing-to-be-bronze club, the summertime can be a real struggle. Learning how to make the right self-tanning choices can be even tougher. Lighter skin makes it easier to burn than tan, so on the days we do get to bask in the sun, we slather on all of the SPF. And while our skin may be protected from the harm that can come from the sun's rays, we sure aren't getting any darker. My dental hygienist actually told me the other day that I'm the palest patient she's seen all summer. Le sigh. So to play catch-up, one of the less-harmful options is to self-tan. But the problem with self-tanner is that it's not always the easiest thing to apply. Between dreaded streaks, splotches, and just simply turning a way-too-conspicuous shade of orange, it's pretty simple to make tanning mistakes. Thankfully though, it's also pretty simple to correct them.

But even if you do make mistakes, it's totally OK. Self-tanner is not permanent, and can be exfoliated away so the world will never know you were an orange, splotchy mess for a couple of days. But to ensure you don't have to stress about that in the first place, here are seven common mistakes to avoid.

1. You're not exfoliating

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Not into a blotchy tan? Then the first step is to make sure that you've properly exfoliated your skin. Because self-tanner sits on the top layer of skin, it's important to make sure that top layer is not dead skin cells that will flake away and leave you with an uneven tan. Try a hydrating scrub that won't dry out the skin so you don't have to heavily moisturize after your shower. Too much lotion can also mix unevenly with your self-tanner causing streaks.

2. You're not using a mint

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Speaking of streaks, if you use bare hands to apply your self-tanner, you're more likely to end up with them than if you were to use a mitt. Mitts ensure more even coverage (and cleaner hands), so always use one to apply mousse or cream tanners, or to buff out spray formulas.

3. You're not washing your hands

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If you prefer to use your bare hands though, make sure to wash them between each section to help avoid those dreaded orange palms.

4. You don't rub it in completely

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If you use a colorless formula, it can be hard to tell if the product has been rubbed in evenly. If you're unsure, try a colored formula so you can see more easily any areas that might need further attention.

5. You don't pay attention to tricky areas

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Knees, elbows, hands, and feet cannot be treated the same way as the rest of your body. To make sure these areas don't end up looking darker than the rest of you, there are two options. The first is to mix in a little moisturizer with your tanner so these areas are not hit with the same concentration as the others. The other option is to tan these areas last with whatever product is left on your mitt. A thinner application will help you achieve a more even tan.

6. You're not shaving at the right time

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In addition to exfoliating with a scrub before tanning, you'll also want to shave first as this also exfoliates the skin. (Exfoliating before you shave will even give you a closer shave!) Once you have tanned, wait at least 48 hours before shaving again. This will ensure that you don't prematurely exfoliate away your perfect tan.

7. You don't wait long enough for it to set

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Although some self-tanner will inevitably transfer to your clothes or sheets (if you prefer to develop overnight), prevent staining by making sure the tanner has completely dried before dressing or coming in contact with other soft surfaces. Waiting 15 to 20 minutes should do the trick, but if you're unsure, use the cool-shot setting on your hairdryer to blow dry yourself.

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