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Tips for a Perfect Fake Tan

A Few Basics

No matter which fake tanner you use, it is important to prepare and maintain your skin. Exfoliate 24 hours before your treatment, paying attention to rough, dry skin: dry skin absorbs more tanner and will end up darker. Most fake tanning solutions contain at least a small amount of bronzing dye that comes off on your clothes soon after it is applied. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before dressing and wear black, loose-fitting clothes after your treatment. Try not to shower for eight hours, and avoid chlorine to help the tan last longer. Moisturize at least twice daily after your treatment. Fake tans may make your skin drier than usual, so try a special after-tan moisturizer. To lengthen your tan, use a tan extender that contains a bronzing dye. You can also use this to top up tanned areas that are fading faster than others.

Airbrush Tanning

If you want to be sure of a streak-free, even tan that lasts up to two weeks, you should consider professional airbrush tanning. The airbrush solution consists mostly of a chemical called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which is not a dye. It reacts with amino acids in the top layer of your skin to change its color. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, has approved DHA for external use, which means the chemical is not to be inhaled or used in the eye area or on lips. Before you book a treatment, ask the salon if it provides goggles and nose plugs or similar eye and nose protection, and wear a protective balm on your lips.


In lieu of salon fake tanning, you can apply a DHA-based spray, cream or gel at home. Many of them will last just as long as salon tans and can look just as natural. There is a wide range of products on the market, some of them for just the face, others for the whole body. They come with detailed directions that you should follow closely, even if you have used self-tanner before. If you are using a spray tan, make sure you protect your eyes, nose and lips. If you opt for a cream or gel, wear latex gloves to avoid orange palms. You can bronze the tops of your hands last, using a cotton pad.


Make sure your fake tanner is DHA-based. Dye-based creams wash off like make-up. Also, remember that fake tanners do not protect you from UV rays. If you are going to be out in the sun, wear a high-SPF sunscreen.

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