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Ready, set, glow! Self tanner tips and best tanning lotions to buy

You don't have to sit for hours in the sun to get a tan. TODAY"s Bobbie Thomas gives self tanner tips to fake the perfect glow.
/ Source: TODAY

The potential for skin damage from the sun should have you hiding under a hat or slathering on the SPF, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look luminous. If a tan is your must-have accessory for summer, the solutions for getting a faux glow are becoming easier and more innovative by the day. TODAY style editor and’s Bobbie Thomas shares her secrets for achieving the perfect beach-babe look.

Shutterstock / gvictoria

Prep like a pro

It’s important to exfoliate in the shower using textured scrub gloves or nylon polishing towels to remove any dead skin. Whether you go to a booth or grab a tan-in-the-can, slip on a shower cap and use a cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to your cuticles and nail beds before a spray session. Also be sure to have your hands, feet, knees, elbows and any dry skin patches completely moisturized, leaving excess lotion on the palms of your hands to help offer a barrier — just be sure to blend the edges and inside the wrists to achieve a natural-looking fade line. And finally, get some spray tanning feet pads, topless, strap-free sandals that literally stick to your soles. Use them to avoid getting self-tanner on the bottoms of your feet. You could also DIY a pair in a pinch by using double-stick tape and paper plates.

Original Topless Sticky Sandals, $15, Amazon

Sticky feet, feet pads

Sunless solutions

When it comes to applying product, there are a number of different options. Gradual tanners are not only great for beginners, but anyone who wants to maintain a tan. Drugstore brands like Jergens and Olay are meant to be applied daily or intermittently, offering you more control. Full-strength compounds will offer a dramatic difference, but need downtime to fade before you reapply; otherwise you risk patchy, uneven results.

Natural Glow 3 Days to Glow Moisturizer, $7, Amazon

Jergens Natural 3 Days to Glow Moisturizer

Olay Total Effects Moisturizer Plus Gradual Sunless Tanner, $18, Target

Olay Total Effects Moisturizer Plus Gradual Sunless Tanner

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And for streak-free strokes, consider some of the alternative applications on the market. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse and applicator mitt will help you wipe on and blend your color without getting streaks on your hands. Tan Towels are one of the most popular and easy to use tanning options, obsessed clients include Real Housewives and Bachelorette contestants alike. Au Courant’s sponge on a stick helps you apply the brand’s Sunless Tanning Mousse in the hardest-to-reach spots.

St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, $42, Amazon

St. Tropez Sunless Tanner

Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette, $24 to 10, Amazon

Tan Towels Sunless Tanner

Sunless Tanning Mousse, $30, Au Courant

Au Corant Sunless Tanner
Au Courant

Radiant results

For those who prefer to avoid DHA, the active tanning agent found in sunless solutions, these products will enhance your natural color temporarily. Shiseido’s Sun Protection Stick Foundation and Supergoop!'s powder has both provide SPF and complexion control. If you’re looking to bronze your body and face, cult-favorite makeup brands MAC and NARS have classic products that will help you shine all over! Makeup artists love to add a little of MAC’s Face and Body foundation to lotion to give legs a smooth look , while NARS’ Body Glow and new Orgasm Illuminator hydrate while giving you a subtle sheen.

Sun Protection Stick Foundation, $28, Nordstrom

Shiseido sun protection stick foundation

Supergoop! Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45, $30, Nordstrom

Supergoop setting powder

MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation, $28, Nordstrom

MAC studio face and body foundation

NARS Body Glow, $59, Nordstrom

NARS Body Glow

NARS Orgasm Illuminator, $30, Nordstrom

NARS orgasm illuminator

Faux glow fixes

Keep in mind, nothing is permanent, and there are ways to soften the blow of a bad faux glow. Soaking in a bath with some baking soda, and sometimes a lemon wedge can help lighten a dark line. Body-hair bleach can help with excess color on your cuticles or nails and callused skin on your toes. And while self-tanning has plenty of positives, the harsh reality is the chemical reaction that leaves behind an unpleasant smell is also the one responsible for color change. You can help eliminate the odor by applying your own essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus or menthol, either to your product or in a spray bottle with some water to use as a refresher after showering. And finally, for the best way to buff away too much tan, try using a dry brush, like Tampico’s Dry Skin Brush, in a circular motion before stepping into the shower.

Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush, $8, Amazon

Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush

This article was originally published on June 1, 2010 on

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TODAY Style Squad member and author of "The Power of Style," Bobbie Thomas shares the buzz about beauty, fashion and more on TODAY and at Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.