Woman with tanned skin

Want a healthy glow, but not damaged skin? Here are some healthy and beautiful ways to give yourself a tanning boost!

As tempting as it is to lay out in the sun, ultraviolet rays can have some nasty effects on our bodies. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, prolonged sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, sunburns, and premature aging, especially if you have very light skin that lacks the natural browning component, melanin. So while laying out (with lots of sunscreen!) every once in a while isn’t bad, if you want a deep glow, consider faux tanning. Wondering where to begin?

Select Your Self-Tanner
Self-tanners usually come in three different formulas: gels, creams, and aerosol sprays. If you’re a first-time self-tanner and are really nervous about streaks or are very pale and want the option to build up your tan gradually, aerosol sprays are a great option because of their light application and ease of use. Gel self-tanners are perfect for those living in warmer climates or with oily skin: the lightness of these formulas makes your skin feel soft without being greasy, and makes it ideal for tanning on the go. If you have dry or mature skin, the extra hydration from a cream self-tanner will be the best option. “Tanning towels” are a great way to maintain a previous self-tanner, and are perfect for traveling. Look for tanning towels that don’t contain alcohol to keep your skin from getting dry.

Woman getting an exfoliation treatment.

Since self-tanners are essentially staining your skin, it’s important to make sure you slough away any dead or old skin. Think of it like painting: the paint looks much more even, less streaky, and overall better on a smooth, clean wood table than it does on a piece of unsanded wood. But don’t rush off to buy an expensive skin scrub: simply take equal parts extra virgin coconut oil and raw sugar, mix together, and gently scrub wherever you plan to apply the self-tanner. The coconut oil will help moisturize, and the sugar particles will gently exfoliate away any rough patches so you can start with a clean, smooth canvas for your paint.

Apply Your Self-Tanner
Aerosol sprays and tanning towels are generally self-explanatory and pretty easy to do, but creams and gels can get streaky if you don’t apply them correctly. Make sure to pick up a tanning mitt when you’re out on your quest for the perfect self-tanning formula: these are little hand covers that help rub the gel or cream into your skin without leaving streaks, marks, or staining your palms. These are a totally essential part if you’re using a cream or gel formula–no one wants to end up with orange palms and a streaky tan.

Once you’re all gloved up, pour a bit of your self-tanner onto your mitt and gently rub your skin the way you would apply moisturizer. Work from your feet up, applying very sparingly to the dry parts of your skin (your knees, elbows, and any other rough patches you may have).

Dry and Glow!
Make sure to let your skin dry once you’ve finished applying the tanner–it should take around 20 to 30 minutes. Then you’re all set: enjoy your new, healthy glow!