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How to Make a Tan Last Longer Without Looking Fake

Keep your golden glow long into fall
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Alas, summer can't last forever. The days are already getting shorter and our beach trips are numbered. It won't be long before we're packing away flip-flops and attempting to get a few extra wears out of our jean shorts and mini dresses by transitioning them with tights and boots. As we prepare ourselves for the inevitable deep freeze, our bronze goddess tans (real or faux) will fade.

Just like Jon Snow, we can't stop winter from coming, but we can help you prolong a summer tan. There's nothing wrong with pale skin in winter — or any time of the year — but if you prefer a bit of sun-kissed color, we're here to help. Read on for ways to make your tan last longer and keep the warm weather vibes alive.

Image via Imaxtree

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What Is a Tan
Everyone obviously knows what a tan looks like, but it can be helpful to know a bit of the science behind tanning. It allows us to understand why certain things work for extending a tan and why no tan will last forever. Clarisonic co-founder and skin care expert Dr. Robb Akridge explains that suntanned skin is when skin cells produce a dark pigment (melanin) to try and protect skin from the sun's harmful days. A sunburn kills off skin cells, which results in telltale peeling skin.

Skin will have natural flaking of the epidermal layers (the outermost ones) because of skin's cell turnover. As skin sheds, the tan will become less noticeable because the pigment will be dulled. Given that skin's cell turnover is about every four weeks, a natural tan will never last forever.

Image via Imaxtree

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How to Prolong a Tan: Moisturize Regularly
If you're not in the habit of regular moisturizing, it's time to start. Not only does it keep skin smooth and supple, it also helps prolong the life of a tan. If your tan is faux, hydrated skin will help lock in color for longer and helps reduce streaking and fading, according to the tanning experts at Nkd Skn. They recommend using an oil-free moisturizer because oils tend to break down sunless tans faster.

Look for a moisturizer with dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive typically sourced from plants that subtly increases tans. It's usually found in self-tanners and gradual tan moisturizers, like Jergens Natural Glow Daily Firming Moisturizer, $9.99. Be aware that some people might be allergic to DHA, so always do a patch test before applying products all over.

There are even specific tan boosters like the Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster, $32. It's dubbed "sunshine in a bottle" and promises to increase skin's natural glow when users mix three drops with their moisturizer. E.L.F. offers a similar product: Sunkissed Booster Drops, $10.

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How to Prolong a Tan: Exfoliate Skin
Those with faux glows should always do a thorough exfoliation before applying self-tanner. Dr. Purvisha Patel, M.D. and founder of Visha Skincare, says that using a scrub, like Visha Skincare Sugar Shrink Body Scrub, $36, will ensure that the self-tanner is evenly distributed, providing longer wear and a more natural-looking glow. Those who have been using fake tan products without exfoliating can start now. It'll remove any patchiness and create a more even (read: natural) bronzed goddess effect. Those with natural tans can gently exfoliate to ensure their color doesn't become patchy and it fades evenly.

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How to Prolong a Tan: Use Self-Tanner
Speaking of sunless tans, self-tanner is a brilliant way to extend the life of all tans. Choose a lighter shade going into the fall for a more convincing effect. Nkd Skn says the goal is a sun-kissed, natural-looking bronze as opposed to a super dark color and suggests using a gradual tan product or an in-shower one like the Nkd Skn Pre-Shower Tan, $19.99, to build up the color over a few days and allow greater control of the finished result. St. Tropez In Shower Gradual Tan, $25, comes in two shades for a customized finish.

Olga Lorencin, celebrity esthetician and founder of Olga Lorencin Transformative Skin Care and Olga Lorencin Skin Care Clinic, offers this simple routine: exfoliate, self-tan with a sunless tanner, hydrate and repeat.

Image via Imaxtree

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