Prepare your skin before you use self tanning products.
- Exfoliate: This is a must-do before tanning. Exfoliating beforehand helps remove dead and dry skin cells to create the smooth base that's vital to an even, natural-looking tan. Before showering, massage a moisturizing exfoliating scrub into dry skin, concentrating on areas like elbows, knees, knuckles, and ankles. And don't forget to use a facial exfoliator, too.
- Shave: While body hair will not impair the ability of the tanner to stick to your skin, shaving soon after applying a self tanner can result in the color flaking off from your skin.
- Dry off: Pat yourself dry until you don't feel damp at all. If any body parts are parched, apply a light layer of moisturizer, giving it a few minutes to sink into your skin.
- Products: Avoid perfume, deodorant, and lotions prior to using a self tanner, as these products can create a barrier to your tan or result in a blotchy finish. If your skin is very dry, apply a small amount of dry skin moisturizer and let it dry thoroughly before applying. Try to do this 24 hours before applying a self tanner, just to be safe.
- Gloves: Powder-free, disposable latex gloves help to keep your palms from staining and also act as a smooth applicator.
- Clothing: Since the tanning solution will remain damp for a while after you've finished applying, you can either wait until it dries completely or change into loose-fitting, dark-colored clothing to help prevent the solution from rubbing off and staining.
Choosing a Self Tanner
There are several methods for applying a sunless tan. Select a product that best suits your skin tone, lifestyle, and works with the body part you want to tan.
- Self Tanning Moisturizer: Also known as a tinted moisturizer, this formula has a lower concentration of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the ingredient in sunless tanners. Designed to build a gradual glow when used daily, self tanning moisturizers are ideal for a subtle color, which makes it perfect for anyone just beginning to experiment with self tanning.
- Tanning Towels: These handy towels are presoaked with a self tanning solution. Just unfold and swipe the sheet across your skin to help ensure even coverage. Ideal for a stress-free tan, tanning towels boast an even finish and, since they're presoaked, it's difficult to over-apply while using them.
- Self Tanning Lotion/Self Tanning Cream: Often tinted, these products allow you to see if you've missed spots during application. Ideal for experienced and beginner tanners alike, sunless tanning lotions take longer to absorb into the skin to allow extra time for blending.
- Sunless Mousses and Gels: These products are lightweight, which means they dry fast! Ideal for experienced self tanners, it's important to blend before the color is absorbed into the skin. Once you've gotten the hang of it, these formulas are designed to layer, allowing you to build coverage for a more dramatic bronzed effect.
- Spray Tan: Cover large areas in a jiffy with a good spray tan solution. Spray tanners dispense a light mist to give you even, airbrushed results, making it ideal for those hard-to-reach spots, like the backs of the arms and legs. Take care to apply the formula evenly in a circular motion about 6" away from the skin.
How to Apply
Get glowing: spray tanning tips and advice for applying a lotion-based self tanner.
- Arms: Apply the tanner to your arm, starting at the shoulder, moving to the edge of the shoulder and then toward the back of the shoulder—as far around as you can reach. Don't forget to lightly apply formula to the side of the body and breasts, under the back of the arm, and around the armpit. Avoiding the heel of the hand, blend around the wrist, then finish by wiping the outer elbow with a slightly damp cloth.
- Lower Legs: Using large, circular motions, apply product to the front of the ankle and blend. When blending at the ankle, make sure that you blend where the ankle and leg meet, taking care to avoid the tougher skin at the shin and ankle. Remember to apply to the back of the leg as well as the front!
- Feet: Apply tanner to the tops of the feet, blending halfway down the sides, giving them a natural-looking, sun-kissed look. Wipe away tan lines with a dry cloth and blend, working away from the nail bed and back up the foot, blending at the ankle.
- Upper Legs: The knee has a little extra skin, which makes it a tricky area for application. Apply around the back and ever-so-lightly across the front, making sure the whole area is covered. The thighs require a bit more product, so apply a generous amount to the upper legs and buttocks using circular sweeping motions.
- Body:Use circular sweeping motions across the abdomen and back, then move to the chest and decolletage. Finish this area by blending at the base of the neck, across the shoulders, and then back toward the arms.
- Neck: Use a liberal amount of product (roughly the same amount of moisturizer you typically use) at the front and back of the neck, applying in steady, circular motions as you blend down to the decolletage.
- Face: Dab dots of sunless tanner for the face on the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, and behind the ears. Blend by feathering the product out toward the temples, hairline, and jawline. Finish the face by wiping the upper lip and eyebrows with a dry towel, as these areas tend to appear darker than the rest of the face.
- Hands: This should be the last step of the application process. Apply self tanner to the tops of hands and fingers and then blend, avoiding nail beds, cuticles, and between the fingers. Use a damp cloth to wipe the rough skin at the knuckles to achieve a flawless-looking finish.
- Finish: Did you remember to wipe the knuckles, knees, ankles, elbows, and sides of the feet with a slightly damp cloth? Remember, joints collect extra product, which results in an unnaturally dark shade. Finally, always remember to wash your hands after application!
- Spray Tan Tips: Remember, with a spray tan solution, less is often more. It's easier to build a gradual sunless tan than to correct streaks, patches, and other imperfections. And before you bronze, always read the included instructions on how long to wait before dressing. It's important to set aside enough time to tan in order to avoid transferring color to your clothes. Some products are formulated to dry in minutes, but it's recommended that you avoid showering for at least eight hours, just to be safe.
Maintaining Your Faux Tan
While self tanning does not last months, you may be able to get up to a week of results if you take the proper steps.
- Moisturize: Self tanners dye the first layer of skin cells, so as your skin flakes, so does your tan. Moisturizing daily after you apply self tanner keeps the skin hydrated, which prevents a tan from rubbing off prematurely. Apply moisturizer morning, night, and after showering.
- Exfoliate: Body scrubs cause tans to flake faster as they buff the top layer of skin. Even so, it's vital to lightly exfoliate every few days to help the tan fade evenly.
- Avoid Water Exposure: The chlorine in pools and hot tubs and taking too many baths and showers can weaken the effectiveness and longevity of a tan.
- Gentle Products: Soaps are harsh, and using them on skin that has been treated with a self tanner can result in a patches and streaks. A moisturizing soap or gentle shower gel are better options for skin with a faux tan.
- Touch-Ups: Sunless tans usually fade first on the body parts used the most or where tight clothing is worn. Tinted moisturizers are great for quick, subtle touch-ups.
Removing Your Faux Tan
Remove spray tan and tanning lotions with these helpful hints.
- Exfoliation: Remove your tanner by scrubbing your skin with a loofah or body brush. This helps neutralize fading color and makes imperfections less visible.
- Fake Tan Remover: As mentioned above, these solutions are formulated to quickly remove fake tanner from the skin.