7 Self-Tanning FAQs -- Answered

Choosing the right shade, how much to apply and more conundrums cracked

Using self-tanner can be tricky. Here, find answers to seven frequently asked questions:

Q. I tan easily in the sun, should I apply less of the self-tanning product?
A. Your natural tanning ability won't come into play using a self-tanner. Self-tanners work by dyeing the top layer of your skin, which is made up of "dead" skin cells. Your natural tan comes from stimulated melanin pigments found in the lower layers of your skin. So tanning quickly does not mean you will also self-tan quickly, or darker.

Q. I use Retin-A to treat acne breakouts. Can I use self-tanner on my face?
A. Yes, but don't apply both products at the same time, as it may irritate your skin. Wait until one dries before applying the other.

Q. My self-tanner smells sour when it's on my skin. Will the smell go away?
A. The sour fragrance you smell coming from your skin is the scent of the chemical reaction, which is what dyes your skin. Different products contain varying degrees of effective "masking" ingredients to minimize the unappealing scent. Several hours after you've applied the product, the sour scent will fade, though it won't go away entirely until you shower.

Q. How long do self-tanners last? When should I reapply?
A. Self-tanners last from three to five days. They gradually fade over time. You don't have to wait until a full fade before you reapply, though some women say they get a more even tan if they do.

Q. The prices vary so much for self-tanners. Will the more expensive brands give me a better tan?
A. Not necessarily. As with most cosmetics, trial and error is the rule of thumb when it comes to finding the product that works best for you. Some women complain that less-expensive brands smell worse. Others say the more-expensive brands don't provide a real-looking tan. Some might prefer an expensive spray because it's easier to apply; others might want to use the same brand that makes their daily moisturizer. Start with a recommendation from a friend, or ask our community for advice.

Q. How do I choose a color that's right for me?
A. Here is some tried-and-true advice: Usually, the darker your self-tan, the faker it will look. Try not to go darker than medium, no matter what your skin tone. You can always apply more if the tan isn't dark enough for you; that's a better option than starting with superdark color that may look strange.

Q. How can I make my fake tan look as real as possible?
A. Follow these four guidelines:
-- Don't apply the same depth of color all over; people never tan the same shade everywhere on their bodies. (It's a sure sign the tan is fake.) Apply the product very lightly to the tops of your feet, around the ankles and to the tops of your hands -- places that normally tan lighter than the rest of your body.
-- Avoid tanning your heels, the insides of your arms, your fingers and under your arms. If you do get product on those areas, wash it off before it dries.
-- Apply self-tanner to the face lightly; make sure you apply it evenly around your nostril area, your ears and your neck.
-- Choose a color that is not too dark for you.

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