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Repeat after us: The only healthy tan is a fake one -- meaning one that comes from a bottle. Want to look golden in your bikini? Heidi Klum and the beauties of Victoria's Secret get extra bikini-body confidence from Meredith Baraf, a makeup artist for the brand. Here, her sunless cocktail for creating the most natural-looking glow.Buff Before You Bronze
DHA, the tinting ingredient in self-tanners, "attaches to the amino acids in the top layer of your skin," Baraf says. "Scrubbing first gives you an even tone." Use a buffer with sugar (such as Caress Evenly Gorgeous Exfoliating Body Wash, $3.50, drugstores), which gently sloughs.Prime Yourself
Moisturize from head to toe to minimize dry spots, which absorb excess pigment. Baraf suggests using a gradual tanner (try Hawaiian Tropic's lower-DHA Island Glow Medium Daily Moisturizer). "It helps regular tanner [applied in the next step] look more natural," she explains.Tint Your Skin
Apply your chosen tanner (see our best self-tanner picks on the next page) in a circular motion to avoid streaks. When using an aerosol, hold the can 2 feet from your body and keep it moving to avoid depositing too much color on one spot, Baraf says. To reach your back, put tanning lotion on the center of a three-foot strip of plastic wrap and sweep it across skin in a back-and-forth motion (the way you dry off your back with a towel), says Tamar Vezirian, founder of Gotham Glow NY Airbrush Tanning in New York City. Or get into the shower, spray tanner into the air, and step backward into the mist, then repeat, Baraf suggests.
FITNESS put the latest tanners to the test. Picking a just-right tone is now foolproof!For a Light Glow
A glow lotion offers a hint of tint. Apply it daily to gradually achieve a darker tone. Hawaiian Tropic Island Glow Medium Daily Moisturizer, $6.43, drugstores.For a Medium Color
A self-tanning lotion makes a dramatic impact with just one application. To nix streaks, shake well before applying. Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Self-Tanning Milk, $26.50, esteelauder.com.For a Dark Shade
A self-tanning gel is more concentrated than a cream. You'll look back-from-Barbados beautiful. Hampton Sun Sunless Tanning Gel, $32, hamptonsuncare.com for information.For the Darkest Color
An aerosol self tanner is the most potent performer, offering skin a flawless, spray-tan-like finish. St. Tropez Self Tan Spray, $35, sttropeztan.com.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2009.