Get highlights: Whether you’re using waterproof makeup or sunless tanner, “playing with shadows and highlights will give you definition where you have none,” says Jamie Kern Lima, former Baywatch babe and founder of It Cosmetics. The tricky part is making it look natural — which is why she prefers easily fixable makeup over self-tanner. Lima recommends applying a matte bronzer powder two to three shades darker than your skin tone on spots lacking muscle definition, using a flat-topped brush for precision. “Hide your least favorite areas, like the folds above your armpits, with bronzer, then use a highlighter to draw attention to the areas you like — clavicles, shoulders, the firm topsides of arms,” says Lima.
For maximum visual slimming, “a customized salon spray tan will give you the best results,” says Melanie Mills, head makeup artist for Dancing with the Stars. Those adept at self-tanning can apply lotions with sponges to strategically create contours. Mills suggests starting with a freshly self-tanned base, then going over areas, like the triceps’ line from elbow to shoulder, with a second coat to fake muscle tone. “If you’re too heavy-handed, you can always use a dry puff to buff away streaks after the tan has dried and you’ve showered with a light body wash,” she explains.
Tighten up: Make your tummy two-piece-ready by applying makeup or self-tanner to the vertical contours on either side of your belly button. “You want to enhance the muscles you do have, not look like you drew on muscles you don’t have,” says Mills. Lima suggests dusting the sides of your waist with matte bronzer to narrow your midriff. “A waterproof powder should last at least six hours,” she adds.
Skin-firming treatments offer an extra line of defense against love handles and flab. “Regular massages or body wraps will have the best results in reducing the look of cellulite and bloating by helping to stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage,” says Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis, scientific director for Christian Dior skincare, who recommends a monthlong series of thrice-weekly appointments before bikini season. Can’t commit? At-home tightening creams containing ingredients like peptides and epsilon-viniferin (a grapevine extract) can temporarily flatten bumpy areas on the stomach and inner thighs. But heed caution before you rub down. “Lotions can cause makeup and sunless tanner to streak,” says Mills, “so self-tan the night before you hit the beach or pool.”
Perfect legs: For a more sculpted look below the belt, layer a few swipes of matte bronzer or self-tanner under your calf muscles, along your quadriceps’ indentations, and along the crescent below each butt cheek to mimic hard-earned tone. Steer clear of shimmer on less-than-perfect zones. “Shimmer lotions are beautiful on 90 percent of your body — just don’t use them anywhere you have cellulite unless you want to draw attention to it,” says Lima. Even deep skin tones can benefit from bronzing: “I recently started using sunless tanner on very dark skin — it helps correct uneven pigmentation,” says Mills.
Regardless of how you whittle down your frame, select your sunblock wisely. For bottle-bronzed skin, “try natural sunscreens, since some chemical ones can break down the compounds in sunless tanner,” says Lima. And if you want to appear as lean as possible, “use powder and spray sunscreens that don’t have the shiny, cellulite-emphasizing finish of lotions,” she adds. Now, if only it were that easy to actually drop those last 5 pounds.