As we sit at our desks dreaming of the ocean breeze blowing through our hair, warm sand between our freshly pedicured feet, our fantasy comes to an abrupt stop when we look down and notice how our vitamin D-deprived legs basically glow in the sunlight. Sound familiar?Since visiting a tanning salon is a huge no-no if you want cancer- and wrinkle-free skin, why not give yourself a UV-free, sun-kissed glow at home? Yes, we’re talking about self-tanner. If you have a guttural reaction to this word, we don’t blame you. Finding a tanner worthy of slathering all over your body is hard. They’re messy, they smell, they streak, and sometimes they turn you oompah-loompa orange. Not exactly the Baywatch babe look you’re going for.Fortunately, the newer formulas out there are easier than ever to apply, sans mess or streaks. But even the best tanning products will look bad if you don’t prep your skin and apply the product properly. We asked the pros how to get a bronze-goddess glow while sidestepping any mishaps, and are proud to present to you the complete guide to getting a killer UV-ray-free tan.Step 1: Scrub and Smooth“The skin must be clear of all products and well exfoliated so that you are tanning fresh skin,” says Sophie Evans, tanning expert for St. Tropez. Use a body scrub to slough away dead skin cells and create a smooth canvas. Remove all deodorant, too—it can turn your armpits green when combined with self-tanner formulas! Complete any waxing or shaving 24 hours before to avoid discoloration in the pores. Plus, your tan will last longer if you don’t have to shave on top of a fresh application, says Karen Brown, founder of Ireland-based self-tanning line Karora.Apply an oil-free moisturizer only on very dry areas, such as the elbows, knees, hands and feet, to prevent patchiness. “If unprotected, these areas can go about seven shades darker and end up looking unnatural,” Evans warns. But make sure the rest of the body is free of product. “Most moisturizers tend to act as barriers and don’t allow the DHA in self-tans to develop properly,” says Brown.Step 2: Choose Your FormulaLotion, spray or mousse? It really comes down to preference, Brown says, but there are some key differences between formulas.Evans lays it all out for us:
- Lotion: If you have a dry or sensitive skin, a lotion will be more hydrating. They also last the longest. The downside is they’re not as quick drying as mousse or spray formulas.
- Mousse: These tanners are great for all skin types and extremely fast drying and transfer proof. The downside is they won’t last as long as a lotion.
- Spray: They’re quickest to apply and super lightweight on the skin. A sprayed-on tan should last as long as a mousse, but requires more product so it’s not the most economical option for the whole body.