We all want to avoid fine lines and sunspots (never mind skin cancer!), which is why self-tanners and bronzers are the only healthy and safe ways to land a bronzed look. By now, most of us are familiar with a basic, three-step self-tanning routine: exfoliate, moisturize, and self-tan. But to achieve the richest believable colour, you need to try these next-level self-tanning hacks that will make your summer look golden. 

  1. Shave and exfoliate in advance.
    The smoothest surface makes for the smoothest self-tan. That’s why exfoliating dead skin cells and then moisturizing around elbows, knees, ankles and heels are mandatory prep steps. But, the one thing you shouldn’t do immediately before applying self-tanner? Shave or wax. That’s because open hair follicles can entrap product, producing tiny “strawberry” dots once it develops. While it is a good idea to remove unwanted body hair in advance of application—doing so afterwards will strip away colour—allow at least eight hours before breaking out the self-tanner. Try: Origins Gloomaway Grapefruit Body-Buffing Cleanser

  2. Get a base tan.
    If you’re planning on faux tanning your face, prime first. To create a subtle, golden-brown base, mix a few drops of tinted booster with your day and night creams and be sure to get as close as possible to your lip line, hairline and nostrils each time you apply. Continued over several days, the gradual effect will create a natural, even foundation for your next step. Try: Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster

  3. Think like the sun.
    If you were to lay out on a lounger, the sun’s rays would naturally hit the high points of your face and body more than the recessed areas, right? Enter tantouring: tan + contouring. Just as you would with a highlighter palette, use a contour brush to apply self-tanner to cheekbones, along jaw bones, the bridge of your nose and on the outer rounds of your forehead. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then use a larger stippling brush to blend, which helps to avoid any hard lines. (You can also tantour collarbones and enhance the look of six-pack abs!) Try: Shiseido Brilliant Bronze Quick Self-Tanning Gel

  4. Blend, blend, blend.
    Taking another cue from makeup pros, use a dedicated, cosmetic buffing brush to blend self-tanner into tricky spots like between fingers and toes, over knuckles, around cuticles, your belly button, elbows and knees to achieve a seamless finish. Try: QUO Professional Deluxe Bronzer Brush

  5. Put your back into it.
    Don’t have a personal airbrusher on speed dial? That’s okay. A good self-tanning spray helps you reach the hardest area of your body to access—your back. To blend, take a loofah-on-a-stick or a shower brush with a long handle, and place your tanning mitt overtop. Next, use a hair elastic to hold the mitt in place, reach around and start buffing. Try: Rodial Brazilian Tan Airbrush

  6. The art of application.
    The best golden glows are the ones that look natural and keep people guessing. (Was it from a trip to St. Tropez? Yes. Yes it was.) To get a full-body sun-filled radiance, it’s not just about the products you use but how you apply it. With a teaspoon-sized amount of self-tanner at a time, start from your ankles and work your way up by applying it in small circular motions. This method works with your body as you move, preventing any marks to your stomach with your self-tanner by eliminating the need to bend down while applying to your legs. Don’t forget, leave your arms and hands to the end so that the product sets and the colour matches the rest of your body.

  7. Go deep with DHA.
    Most self-tanners err on the side of subtle, but what if your ultimate bronze fantasy is intense? If you can’t find a product that’s dark enough for your liking, you may need to boost the DHA factor. Check the ingredients listing on the bottle or tube: a formula with at least 6.5% DHA is a good indicator of a deeper hue. If that fails you can always “double dip”—a.k.a. apply self-tanner two days in a row. Try: Tropez Self Tan Extra Dark Bronzing Mousse