The key to successful self-tanning is even product application. If you miss a spot, or apply too much product in one spot, you'll be left with a blotchy or streaky tan.
Every self-tanning product has a different method for even application. Sprays and mists have the advantage of covering a wide swath of skin in a single spritz, while foams and mousses go on smooth and light. Creams and gels work well for use on your face and other detail zones. Whichever product you choose, follow the directions closely for the best results.
For a more believable tan, apply a little extra self-tanner where the sun would normally brown you the most, like the outside of your arms, tops of your legs and your face. Use less lotion on places that are generally hidden from direct rays, like the inside of your arms.
Remember those trouble spots of thicker skin around the elbows, knees and knuckles. Apply the product lightly and thinly to those areas to decrease the darkening effect.
Then there are the hard-to-reach places like the middle of your back. If you can't enlist a friend to help, you might want to use one of the mist or spray products and simply hold the bottle over your shoulder. There are also specialty self-tanning products that look like a small sponge on a stick and are a handy way to extend your reach.
How about this riddle? How do you apply self-tanner to the back of your hands, but not wash it all off when you clean your fingertips? Answer: use a cotton swab!
If you're really serious about self-tanning, you could invest in a tanning gun that shoots out a fine mist of pressurized self-tanning solution, just like the ones used at a professional tanning salon or spa. But remember that the negative health effects of inhaling or ingesting DHA aren't known [source: Mayo Clinic]. So if you use a mist or spray product around your face, close your eyes and mouth and avoid breathing while applying the product.