How To Apply Self Tanner Like A Pro

Updated 10/05/17

Although it’s tempting to lounge in the sun for long periods of time, it’s important to remember that melanoma and other skin-related cancers are on the rise. With all the alarming statistics out there, sunless tanning options are the best way to go. Yes, there are tons of self-tanners on the market, so to help you find your best product match easily, scroll through 13 tips, tricks, and product picks for applying self-tanner like pro.

apply self tanner

Prep Like a Boss

Chances are you’ve had some bad experiences with self-tanner in the past. However, did you know that your streaks and poorly applied color were probably caused by bad prep? To get a head start on even, long-lasting color, it’s wise to both exfoliate and moisturize your skin before product application. This ensures it’s both smooth and even for product application.

“The key to a streak-free, long-lasting sunless tan is starting with exfoliated and hydrated skin,” explains Moe Kittaneh, founder of SVELTA Tan.

“Before you plan on applying self-tanner, exfoliate all over, and wax or shave as usual.”

For that inevitable moisturizer step, however, be sure to hydrate selectively to avoid excess product application in certain areas.“It’s crucial to moisturize dry areas only (like your ankles, feet, knees, elbows, wrists, palms, etc.) to prevent them from soaking in too much color,” says Kittaneh. “The rest of your skin should be dry and free of oils or lotions to maximize the effectiveness of the self-tanner.

If your hair or eyebrows are very light, you may also wish to apply moisturizer around the hairline to prevent color from soaking in.”

When It’s Time to Apply

When it’s time to self-tan, remember to apply your product with ease. Always protect your hands with gloves, and use a tanning mitt to apply the product in even strokes.

“For best product application, use a tanning mitt or latex gloves to apply the self-tanning product evenly and to avoid staining your fingers and palms,” explains Kittaneh. “Work on one section at a time, applying the tanner in light, long vertical strokes until smooth and even. Be sure to apply sparingly to feet, ankles, knees, elbows, neck, face, and hands, but be sure to touch on all exposed areas for a natural-looking glow.”

St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse $18
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Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanner $37
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Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Exfoliating Anti-Aging Self-Tanner for Body $45
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Xen-Tan Dark Lotion $40
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Whish Self Tanner Body Butter $30
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Bobbi Brown All Over Bronzing Gel SPF15 $34
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Lancome Flash Bronzer Tinted Self-Tanning Leg Gel with Pure Vitamin E $42
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Hampton Sun Airbrush Auto Bronzing Mist Body $42
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Dior Beauty Natural Glow Self-Tanner For Face $37
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Kiehl's Sun-Free Self-Tanning Formula For Face and Body $23
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Post-Tan Care

To keep the finished look smooth, the first thing you should do after applying your self-tanner is clean up any extra product on your skin.

“After you've finished applying the self-tanner, brush over your knees, wrists, elbows, feet, and ankles with a very slightly damp paper towel to pick up excess color and eliminate unevenness,” says Kittaneh.

In order to ensure the longevity of your color and prevent smudging, adhere to the proper waiting time: Avoid making contact with water and getting dressed too soon..



“Make sure you avoid water for four to eight hours to allow your tan to develop evenly,” says Kittaneh. “This allows your skin to dry completely before getting dressed or applying makeup or perfume.”

Finally, it’s always important to moisturize, avoiding any unwanted dryness associated with sunless tanning products.

“To keep your tan fresh as long as possible, moisturize all over daily. After three to four days, gently exfoliate to encourage natural and even fading. Reapply as desired,” concludes Kittaneh.

To keep the finished look smooth, the first thing you should do after applying your self-tanner is clean up any extra product on your skin.

“After you've finished applying the self-tanner, brush over your knees, wrists, elbows, feet, and ankles with a very slightly damp paper towel to pick up excess color and eliminate unevenness,” says Kittaneh.

In order to ensure the longevity of your color and prevent smudging, adhere to the proper waiting time: Avoid making contact with water and getting dressed too soon..



“Make sure you avoid water for four to eight hours to allow your tan to develop evenly,” says Kittaneh. “This allows your skin to dry completely before getting dressed or applying makeup or perfume.”

Finally, it’s always important to moisturize, avoiding any unwanted dryness associated with sunless tanning products.

“To keep your tan fresh as long as possible, moisturize all over daily. After three to four days, gently exfoliate to encourage natural and even fading. Reapply as desired,” concludes Kittaneh.

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