In a perfect world, self-tanner mistakes just wouldn't happen. Especially not right before you're about to walk down the aisle wearing your gorgeous white wedding dress! But know this: There's a lot you can do to prevent faux-glow mishaps. We asked a few tanning experts for their top tips for perfect pre-wedding bronzing, so read up and get glowing!
Set the stage with major exfoliation: You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: For best results, self-tanner needs to be applied to smooth, de-flaked skin. A vigorous rub-down with a loofah or a grainy, non-oily scrub (we're loving Clinique Sparkle Skin Body Exfoliator right now) is a must.
Shave (aka Part II of the exfoliation equation): "While you're in the shower, be sure to shave your legs and bikini area too," says tanning guru Paige Axel, inventor of the cult-fave Bronze Buffer sponges, which let you literally rub off wayward faux-tan blotches. "Shaving helps exfoliate even more, so tanner goes on evenly. Besides, if you shave the day after you tan, you'll be shaving off tanned skin!"
Skip the latex gloves and grab a mitt: As long as you're extra-meticulous about scrubbing up afterward, you can use your hands to apply self-tanner. Still, most tanning pros recommend using some type of aid. Karen Brown, tanning expert for the botanical bronzing range Karora Cosmetics, swears by a mitt. "Forget the latex gloves," she says. "They make product stick to hairs and look streaky."
Start slathering (carefully) from the top down: Not surprisingly, slow and steady wins the race. "Map out the body in stages so you don't miss any bits," says Brown.
Get creative about fake baking your back: Axel recommends the Xen-Tan Hard-to-Reach Back Applicator for that pesky patch right between your shoulder blades. "You just put your mousse, lotion, or spray on that little pad and it helps get that spot," she says. "And in the event of a faux pas, if there's no one around to help, you could always stick a Bronze Buffer on the Xen-Tan."
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Save your hands and feet for last: "I like to put body lotion on my toes before self-tanning," says Axel. "It creates a barrier so cuticles don't get stained, and dilutes the tanner a bit so it doesn't get as dark." Brown suggests applying tanner to a baby wipe and then working it in. "The wipe absorbs excess color," she says, "so you can gently glide and blend tanner onto the backs of hands, feet, and ankles."
Now hop into bed ... naked: Of course, this last tip only works if you're tanning at night. But Axel is convinced that's the best time of day to get glowing. "Since you'll be sleeping, tanning before bed is the easiest way to avoid that self-tanner smell," she notes. "Just make sure your tanner is fully dry first. And also keep an extra set of 'tanning sheets' on hand. You don't want to stain your Pratesi!"