With the summer officially starting in a couple of days, a dark golden tan is the perfect accessory to a summer wardrobe. Avoid aging UV rays and use a self or sunless tanner. There’s a plethora available—from high-end designer sunless tanners from lines like Michael Kors to inexpensive drugstore brands like Jergens. But it’s not necessarily the type of tanner you apply, but how and when you apply it.

  1. The first (and perhaps most important) tip is to pick the right color! If you’re pale, you should probably avoid medium to dark colors. Conversely, if you’re dark, a light tanner won’t do much for you. Use common sense and pick the tone most suited to your skin.
  2. Do you need a tan right away or do you want to darken slowly? If it’s the former, pick an instant tanner. If it’s the latter, a gradual self-tanner will work out by slowly darkening your skin. With instant tanners, read the labels to see how long they last; some last for a week, others, until you wash them off.
  3. To prep for application, shave and exfoliate in the shower beforehand. This ensures an even application and minimizes patchiness. Exfoliate with a loofah or sugar scrub or both.
  4. Dry off completely and stand on an old towel or sheet to prevent any tanner stains in your bathroom.
  5. Work your way up from ankles to torso to back and arms. Apply sparingly to elbows and knees, as the skin there is thicker and tends to darken more than other parts of your body. And if you’re using a spray self-tanner, spray from the recommended distance.
  6. Wash your hands immediately after application, since brown palms are a dead giveaway of a bottle tan.
  7. To keep your tan lasting longer, moisturize your skin daily, and reapply when your tan starts to fade.
  8. Don’t forget to use sunscreen! Most sunless tanners don’t have sunscreen in them, so protect your skin (and new tan) with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.