The Ultimate Self-Tanning Guide

Beauty Tips


Summer is almost here and it isn’t the same without a good tan. That's why we're sharing our Ultimate Self-Tanning Guide.

Of course, not everyone was blessed with beautiful olive skin or that sun-kissed tan complexion, and lord knows that skin cancer is not a cute look for anyone! So, don’t forget to wear sunblock because melanoma is not our friend. Not to mention, sun damage will age your skin and make you look not so cute. Botox can’t fix everything, baby!

And that is exactly why the good universe created self-tanner!

Self-tanner can be hard to attempt at first, especially when you’re not sure how to apply self-tanner at home or are used to going into a spray tanning booth or what have you. However, it really isn’t difficult at all, and knowing how to apply it the right way can guarantee you an envious tan without any of the nasty skin cancer potential or aging effects.

But, before we start prepping the skin, let’s first consider the different formulations that self-tanner comes in:

Self-Tanning Types: Towelettes, Lotion & Mousse

Self-tanners come in many different formulations and in truth, all are good—it just depends on your preference and what ends up working best with your skin type.

You can find both budget friendly and also, more costly, self-tanners in the following formulations:

  • Foam or Mousse
  • Lotion
  • Spray
  • Towel/ Towelettes

The great thing about towels is the ease of putting the self-tanner on, although some beauty experts believe that a foam or mousse lasts longer.

Self-Tanning Kinds: What to Buy

When it comes to self-tanner, a lot of your purchase will depend on your budget and how much you’re looking to spend. The other factor is your skin shade. For example, if you have darker skin you may want to opt for an extra dark self-tanner that will typically say “Extra dark.” If you are fair-skinned, opt for the original formula in any brand unless the brand makes one marked for fair skin.

Here are some of the most popular brands on the market to date with noted excellent results.

Keep in mind that the prices will vary based on where you buy the product and also, the brand name. Some of these smaller boutique lines work very well, but cost more:

On the higher price end:

More budget-friendly options:

Some More Tips When Choosing Which Self-Tanner to Buy:

Keep in mind a few things as you read reviews and try to find the best self-tanner for you!

  1. Your skin type: if you have oily skin in general, you may want to stick to a mousse or spray. If you’re using self-tanner for your face, you should definitely pick one that is oil-free.
  2. Your needs: if you have sensitive skin and want to tan your face, don’t use a body self-tanner! Pick one that’s meant for the face. 
  3. Your time range: if you need a tan ASAP, look for a quick-drying tan or tan towels, rather than a gradual self-tanner or a lotion that would take longer to dry.
  4. Your budget: some of the more expensive self-tanners have better ratings but, if you are a frequent tanner, you may want to consider how often you want to re-purchase an expensive product.

All in all, self-tanning takes a bit of experimentation usually to find the right product for you, but all of the above products have great reported results by many users, so consider that as you go to buy your first self-tanning product!

Now, onto the next big step: applying your self-tanner!

Step 1: Do a Patch Test.

Before starting, do a patch test on your stomach since that’s your palest skin. This way, if the color does look funny, you can hide it with a shirt until it fades.

Step 2: Exfoliate Your Body & Face Before Doing a Thing!

Oh before you even consider applying self-tanner, use a good body scrub to exfoliate all the dead skin cells off, otherwise, your tan will be patchy and scaly! Not to mention, the tan won’t last as long.

This the same for the face—not just the body! You can use a manual exfoliant, one with grains or capsules, or you can use a chemical exfoliant that has glycolic or salicylic acid. These exfoliators will remove the dead skin and build up on your face so your color will absorb evenly.

Here are a few suggested exfoliators:

  • Tree Hut’s Vitamin C Shea Sugar Scrub is a budget friendly best!
  • Kopari Beauty’s Coconut Crush Scrub is a hit.
  • SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub is a best-selling manual exfoliant
  • Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate® Intensive Exfoliating Treatment has a cult-following
  • The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is a budget-best chemical exfoliant

Now, onto the third step!

Step 3: Moisturize for Even Color.

 Lest we forget before beginning this step—please shower and exfoliate first! Some self-tanners are even for use in the shower only—which is also neat! Again, experimenting with different brands and types will help you learn your best self-tanner.

Now, after you’re all nicely scrubbed, please, please please moisturize! Pay special attention to areas of your skin that are super dry like:

  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Hands
  • Feet

If you don’t moisturize these areas well, the dry skin will suck up all the pigment and will be darker than the rest of your body. YUCK!

Same goes for your face: if you have dry patches or huge pores and didn’t moisturize? Oh, it’s gonna be ugly.

Now, don’t rush to self-tan right after you’ve moisturized. Give it some time, say thirty minutes before applying the self-tanner.

Step 4: Coat those dry areas like knees and elbows ahead of time with a bit of moisturizer before applying.

This way when you apply the self-tanner, it won’t take the pigment too deeply, creating that patch effect.

Leave the rest of your body as is—no extra moisturizer!

Step 5: Grab some gloves or a mitt before applying.

To be extra cautious that you don’t walk around with funky looking palms the next day post-self-tanner, apply the product with gloves on or a tanning mitt. You can find tanning mitts at any beauty supply store, Sephora, Ulta, etc.—online or in the store!

Step 6: Use a lot of product!

This isn’t a step but more of a tip: use a good amount of product. It won’t make you uber-mega crazy tan if you use a lot, but it will help the process altogether! In other words, don’t scrimp or you’ll end up with spots and patches. So, get a big amount in your gloves or mitt, and get to it! Of course, when it comes to self-tanner for your face, don’t go crazy because your face is such a small area.

Step 7: Apply self-tanner to your face.

Start first where the sun would hit your face. Think apples of your cheeks, chin, forehead and bridge of your nose. Blend carefully!

When picking that self-tanner for your face, consider your skin tone first. Even if you’re a porcelain beauty wanting a tan, don’t pick the darkest shade to use! Go by your natural tone first.

Step 8: Start at the bottom and move upwards!

If you start at the top and go down, you could get crease marks from bending over, which would look heinous. So, start with your feet, being careful as you go over your ankles. You can even put a bit of lotion on your ankles and lightly on your toes to be sure you don’t get funny looking feet.

To work the back side of your body—which isn’t easy, we know!—try standing in front of a mirror and using a stool to turn around and view as you apply on your buttocks and backs of your legs.

Step 9: Move to that torso!

Make sure you get your underside of your arms, shoulders, chest and belly. When doing your back, use your trusty mirror to see those hard to reach places! Pay careful attention to avoiding your armpits as well. That would look funky, so go easy in that area and make sure you’ve applied carefully.

Last tip? Don’t forget your neck! 

Step 10: Air it out!

Don’t jump into clothes just yet. If you’ve got a fan or AC unit, stand in front of that body, turning from back to front like you’re trying to hit all areas of your body, because you are. 

Definitely listen to the product directions: each self-tanner takes a certain time to dry. Some can try quickly, but whatever you do—mind those directions! You wouldn’t want to ruin a good outfit with self-tanner marks all over it, would you?

Now Enjoy that Tan!

Now that you’ve applied, enjoy your glow! When it’s time to reapply, make sure you follow the same steps before re-doing.

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