Jessica Silvester tanning makeover in O the Oprah magazine

Before: Splotchy and Too Dark
Jessica Silvester, a 27-year-old associate editor at O, is a recovering tanoholic. "I quit cold turkey last year," she says. But while she now (smartly) uses self-tanners to get a sun-kissed effect, the results are never as natural as she'd like. Makeup artist Carmindy, author of Crazy Busy Beautiful, explains why: "Self-tanner should be only two shades darker than your natural skin tone. Jessica was going about five shades darker." After picking out a much lighter color, Carmindy showed Jessica a few more tricks to perfect her self-tanner application.

Learn how to apply self-tanner the right way
How to apply self tanner

Step 1: Exfoliate the Skin
Self-tanner develops a deeper color on dry or scaly patches, which can leave a splotchy finish. Carmindy recommends exfoliating with a handful of plain sugar on damp skin: "It's inexpensive and, unlike some scrubs, never leaves a greasy residue—which can repel self-tanner." Give the roughest areas (knees, elbows) the most attention.
How to apply self tanner from top to bottom

Step 2: Move Top to Bottom
Once skin is completely dry, rub a little Vaseline on your fingernails and toenails to prevent them from getting stained. Then start blending the self-tanner over your chest and shoulders (front and back), your stomach, your legs, and, finally, your feet. Do your back last—using the back of your hand to blend up to your shoulder blades.
How to apply self tanner - buff the tricky spots

Step 3: Buff the Tricky Spots
To avoid streaking around the feet and ankles, elbows, and knees, gently rub a damp washcloth over them as soon as you've finished applying the tanner. The minute you're done, wash your hands thoroughly (a little more sugar will help); you don't want orange palms to mar an otherwise perfect self-tanner application.
How to apply self tanner to your face

Step 4: Give Your Face Special Treatment
A formula created specifically for the face (like Clinique Self Sun Face Tinted Lotion, $18.50; is less likely to clog pores or dry out your skin. Apply it with a nonlatex sponge. Start at your forehead and work your way toward your chin, paying special attention to the jawline and blending down your neck.