11 Secrets to a Perfect Fake Tan

This year I'm making a promise to my skin, and you should too. Here's mine:

Dear skin,
Hey, how's it going? See any good movies lately? Kidding, kidding. Skin, this summer I promise not to bake you on my beach towel or fry you in a tanning bed. Instead, I will get that bronze glow -- that I know you love -- using fake tanners. That said, I also promise not to leave you an orange, streaky mess. I know you have your pride. So that's my promise to you, dear skin, and maybe you could help a girl out with a few less zits? Pretty please? OK, bye for now.


And as for how I'm going to keep that promise? Well, by applying sunscreen every day (duh), and following these tips for a perfect fake tan:

Secret no. 1: Try before you apply
Just like with hair dye, you need to test the shade of self-tanner to make sure it's right for you. Apply it to a hidden part of your body (like your stomach) and wait a day or two. If you like it, then go for it. "It is always best to start with one shade darker than your natural skin tone,"
Victoria's Secret Makeup Artist Colleen Runne says. Click here to see a self-tanner you can customize especially for your skin.

Secret no. 2: Give yourself enough time
You should plan to tan at least two days before a big event, so you can increase the color (if necessary) or fix any mistakes, St. Tropez tanning expert Fiona Locke says. The worst thing that could happen is tanning the morning of, and realizing you are blotchy or orange right before you walk out the door. If you're in a pinch for time, you can dust a bronzing powder on your face and body to create an instant illusion of a tan, Runne says.

Secret no. 3: Shave and exfoliate -- the day before
It's best to shave or wax 24 hours before you tan to avoid irritation, Runne says. Exfoliating your entire body with a soft cotton washcloth or loofah will "ensure an even tan." You can even use a scrub made specifically for use before self-tanning, "which won't contain any oil that will prevent your skin from absorbing tanning product," Locke says.

Also, after you tan, avoid shaving or exfoliating for another day to make sure you don't take off any color, Locke says.

Secret no. 4: How to prep right before tanning
• You can wear gloves or use a tanning mitt to avoid getting color on your hands. Don't have gloves? Apply Vaseline to your nails, at least, to protect them from discoloration.
• Take off all your clothes and jewelry, and lay out a few old towels to catch any drips or residue.
• Don't forget to moisturize with lotion prior to tanning (especially around your elbows, wrists, knees and ankles) to make sure your skin is hydrated and prepped.

Ready to get tan? Read on for the best methods and get tips for each.

Secret no. 5: Know your options
There are several formulas for fake tanners, click on each below to see the pros and cons:

Click here for more secrets, including tips for a streak-free face and ways to make your tan last longer.

Now it's your turn to weigh in: do you use fake tanner? Bake in the sun? Or just embrace the skin tone you were born with?