Saying pale is in is one thing; believing it is another. Most of us just don't have Nicole Kidman's porcelain complexion and, frankly, look better in a bikini when our skin is lightly bronzed. That's why we asked top makeup artists and aestheticians to share the best UV-free ways to get glowing.
Self tanning tip # 1: Start with a blank canvas You know to exfoliate before using self tanning products. But to create an even bronze, it's as important to apply your self-tanner to lotion-free skin, says Anna Stankiewicz, an airbrush tanning artist at the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City. "Moisturizer dilutes your self-tanner and prevents it from penetrating the skin," she says.
Self tanning tip # 2: Begin at the bottom To prevent creases on your stomach and back caused by bending over while your self-tanner is still wet, apply your self tanning products to your feet and legs first, then move upward.
Self tanning tip # 3: Layer on several coats To achieve deep color, apply two or three thin coats (as you would nail polish) and wait 10 minutes for each to dry. "If you apply self-tanner in thick layers, it will drip and streak," says Stankiewicz, who prefers tinted formulas, like Clarins Delicious Self Tanning Cream ($40; clarins.com), which allow for more accurate application.
Self tanning tip # 4: Spritz if you're in a hurry A new breed of spray-on self tanning products and bronzers are so light, they dry in about two minutes, meaning you can literally spray and go. Plus, they have nozzles that work upside down so you can target hard-to-reach areas like the middle of your back. A few self tanning products to try: L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist ($10; at drugstores), which gives you a medium tan color, and IsaDora Instant Spray-On Bronzer SPF 12 in Sun Tan ($15; isadora.com), with skin-softening beeswax.
Self tanning tip # 5: Prolong your tan with oil Maximize the life of your faux glow by smoothing on baby oil before hitting a cool-to-warm shower (avoid hot water, as it can dry out the skin and make your tan blotchy). "The oil acts like plastic wrap around your skin and minimizes exfoliation caused by the pelting water," says Stankiewicz. "The oil will wash off, but your tan will stay put."
Self tanning tip # 6: Go easy on your face "I avoid self-tanner on the face," says Stankiewicz. "Because the skin there is oilier and the pores larger, the color often ends up uneven." More flattering self tanning products include Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Brush in Natural Bronze ($46; nordstrom.com), which is pretty on cheeks; the Body Shop Sun Lustre Bronzer in Bronze Gleam ($29; thebodyshop.com) for face and chest; and Givenchy Prismissime Compact Face Powder in Sunny ($50; sephora.com), which works on eyes too.
Self tanning tip # 7: Bronze sans self-tanner If you're not up for the whole self-tanning routine but want some healthy color, swipe on Tarte Glam Gams Bronzing Leg Stick ($30; tartecosmetics.com). Despite the name, it's not just for legs and leaves your skin looking subtly sun-kissed.