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5 Tips for Using Sunless Tanners

I wear jeans and boots most of the time.  This time of year, my arms are tanned and my legs are so not.  So, I confess, I use sunless tanning lotion.  Otherwise, it would look like my arms and legs were taken from two different people and mashed together on my body.  

To be clear, sunless tanners are completely not natural.  The ingredient that makes sunless tanners "tan" your skin is called di-hydroxyacetone.  It's a by-product of sugar beet processing, so it sounds promising.  But still, sunless tanner is not natural by any stretch of the imagination.

But on this one, vanity wins out for me.  I don't use them all the time, but if I know I'm going to be wearing a cute sundress in public and don't want to show of my blindingly white legs, I'll apply sunless tanner a few days before.

You can get really good, natural-looking results with today's sunless tanning products.  But preparation is key here.  When I've applied sunless tanner in a hurry, I've ended up with streaks, blotches, too dark ankles and super orange cuticles.  It pays to prepare.
  1. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate.  This is the most important step in getting an even looking tan.  Use a scrub for a few days prior (right now I'm in love with this coffee scrub, but even a simple sugar scrub will do.
  2. Moisturize.  Hydrated skin will hold the tan better, and look more natural.  Any areas that are dry seem to soak up extra tanning product, so they can end up darker than surrounding skin.  I use lotion or even a thin layer of sweet almond or cocoa butter.  Just let it soak in well before using the sunless tanner (an hour or more is good.)
  3. Add extra lotion to ankles and knees just before applying tanner.  These areas always seem to soak up the tanner, even if you've done a good job of exfoliating and moisturizing.  So, immediately before I apply my sunless tanner, I apply a nice, thick layer of lotion to my ankles, feet and knees.  This dilutes the sunless tanner and keeps these areas from looking dark and blotchy.
  4. Rub the tanner in completely.  If you don't, you can end up with streaks.  Really massage it in until it's completely absorbed.  I tend to like the lotion-based sunless tanner best, because I think it's easiest to rub in, but try a few different types to find the one you like best. 
  5. Don't be too quick to get dressed.  The sunless tanner needs time to really set, otherwise it can rub off on your clothes, and leave your skin looking uneven.  It usually takes about half an hour for my sunless tanner to completely dry.  I'll brush my teeth, do my hair, stand there and be bored, until it's dry.
Recently, there have been some sunless tanner brands that use more natural ingredients (Chocolate Sun and Lavera are two of the most popular brands).  I haven't used them yet -- but I'm dying to.  They're a bit more expensive (OK, a lot more expensive) then the stuff I get locally, but it may be worth it.  I'll let you know how they work.

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