6 Steps to Getting the Realest Fake Tan Ever

Follow this guide for a flawless faux glow.

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You'll get a smoother, more even tan if you exfoliate your body from head to toe. If dead skin cells are on your skin and slough off the day after you tan, your faux glow is going to go with them.

For face, use a straight, edge-like facial razor to shave away any dead skin cells (opens in new tab) and peach fuzz. Or use a gentle, oil-free scrub.

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On your body, a hot water/loofah combo helps get rid of all the dead skin cells, says Jimmy Coco, the bronzing pro behind the Victoria's Secret models' signature glowing skin. Coco also recommends using an oil-free body wash, like Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash (opens in new tab), and rinsing off with cool water so your pores close up. If your pores are still open, they can absorb the formula, causing an uneven tan. Drying off with a towel will also help slough away any spots you missed with your scrub or loofah.

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Your body's dry spots — palms, knuckles, cuticles, elbows, feet — absorb a lot of color. Hydrating those spots puts a barrier between your skin and the self-tanner, keeping your faux-glow looking more natural. To hydrate, apply an oil-free, lightweight moisturizer, like Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturizer (opens in new tab).

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This isn't baseball, but a mitt is just as handy in the game of glowing skin. When you use your hands to apply self-tanner, especially if you slather the formula on with spread fingers, you're going to get streaks. But tanning mitts, like Mecca Cosmetica Sunless Tanning Mitts (opens in new tab), provide a flat, smooth surface for even and flawless coverage. For the best results, start at your feet (apply sparingly there) and work up to your neck using long, vertical strokes. Switch to a smaller mitt to apply self-tanner to your face.

For face, try L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Serum (opens in new tab) or Lancôme Self Tan Flash Bronzer (opens in new tab); for body, use Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse (opens in new tab).

If you're using a self-tanner wipe, like Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pads for Face (opens in new tab) and Body (opens in new tab), then you don't need a mitt like this, but you do need to make sure you hold the wipe as flat as possible as you run it over your skin to avoid a splotchy tan.

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You're already standing naked in a robotic position. It's not the most comfortable scenario, but the chilly air from a hair dryer, like Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000 (opens in new tab), helps the formula dry super-fast and jump-starts the tan-developing process.

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If you still have self-tanner on your palms or anywhere else you don't want it, use an oil-free makeup wipe, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes (opens in new tab), to carefully remove the self-tanner from your skin. Don't forget to wipe down the cuticles on your fingers and toes!

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If the product you're using requires you to rinse it off, do so with warm water and pat your skin with a towel to dry it. Aggressively drying your body with a towel can lift away the tan.

Looking for other ways to tan your skin that don't involve baking yourself in the sun?

It's OK if you're noncommittal when it comes to your tan. You can still get a gorgeous glow with one of these temporary self-tanners, which wash off with soap and water, and are usually good for a night out. For face, try Honey Bronze Face Gel (opens in new tab) and for body, try Victoria's Secret Self Tan Self-Tanning Tinted Lotion (opens in new tab).

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Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals Gradual Glow Bronzer (opens in new tab) not only leaves an instant-gratification glow, but a long-lasting one too, thanks to DHA (the ingredient in self tanners that reacts with the amino acids on your skin and gives you a bronze glow). Simply buff the formula onto your face with the accompanying kabuki brush for a bronze goddess finish. Then, when you wash your face before bed, you'll see the subtle golden hint it leaves behind.

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St. Tropez (opens in new tab) recently came out with an in-shower formula (available at Ulta (opens in new tab)). You slather the self-tanner onto wet skin, leaving no bronze residue behind. It works because your pores are open when they're wet, so the DHA penetrates faster than when skin is dry and your pores are closed.

To apply, exfoliate your skin and turn the water off. Next, slather the self-tanner from head to toe (Yes, you can use it on your face too!), wait three minutes, and then rinse it off. From there, your faux glow will keep developing for eight hours; similar to other gradual self-tanners, apply it for a few consecutive days to achieve a subtly darker tan.

If you can't be bothered to apply your own self-tanner or just want to make sure it's flawless for, say, your wedding day, then go and see a professional who can airbrush on the formula, making you into a bronzed bombshell.

Carly Cardellino was the beauty director at Cosmopolitan. If you follow her Instagram, then you know she'll try just about any beauty trend or treatment once (the pics of her purple hair are on IG to prove it). But her favorite part about being in beauty is finding the most effective products, and then sharing that intel with others—because who wants to spend money on stuff that doesn't work? No one, that's who. Her most recent discovery: De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment, which will change your blemish-clearing game! Hopefully through the beauty stories she writes—and the experiences she shares—you can see exactly why she's in this business.