First step for you is to know your skin tone. If you are not sure about your skin complexion ask for advice at the drug store while buying a tanning product. You can spoil your plan if you do not know your skin tone well.
Selecting a right shade tanning lotion is the second most important step. It can be a bit easier if you know your skin tone. However, do not choose a shade that is a completely misfit for your skin. It can ruin your skin colour, and your effort for self-tanning is also wasted.
Plan applying of tanning products well in advance, and for this moisturize your skin days before. If your skin is properly moisturized, it will give you a perfect smooth and touchable feel. Applying tanning products on a dry skin does not help.
To help the tanning effect on your skin last longer, you should clean your skin. This will leave your skin plain and without dead skin, and tanning lotion will give a lasting effect to it.
It is better if you shave your skin before applying tanning lotion. Having a smooth and ready skin will help absorb the tanning lotion and the tan will look natural. Applying lotion on a hairy skin is also difficult.
Apply the lotion in a small quantity and give your body a circular massage. This will not cause streaks or spots on your body. They can be caused if you apply a heavy coat at once. Also massage your body properly and thoroughly.
Take special care at joints areas i.e. knees and elbows. Particularly, take special care at elbows and massage them properly. You may also use normal body cream if you think elbows and other areas are left dry.
Leave the tanning lotion dry before wearing clothes. Do not wear clothes on the freshly massaged tanning cream, it can affect the shade of the tan.