Legs Don’t Take to Self-Tanner? Here’s How to Fix It

self tanner legs closeup

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Have you ever noticed that your legs take longer to tan in the sun? According to Carrot Sun Tan Accelerators, the areas of the body furthest from your heart take longest to tan. And, of course, your legs are often more sheltered than higher points of the body such as your face and shoulders.

That all makes sense, but why then, does a fake tan not always take well to the lower legs? “It’s really common to find that your legs below the knees are often left paler than the rest of your body after washing off your guide tan,” says Cocoa Brown founder Marissa Carter. “The reason is that your skin is thinner in this area, so fake tan doesn’t develop as well." Well, that explains that... but how do we fix it?

Keep scrolling for expert tips for tanned legs every time, plus our edit of the best fake tans, below.

Use a Lemon

woman with pink nail polish holding lemon

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Put all those extra lemons in your kitchen to good use before your next self-tanning day. “Before applying fake tan, glide a lemon across your lower legs. The low pH of the fruit helps the DHA (the active ingredient in fake tan) to develop the color quicker and more effectively,” Carter explains.

Start Dry Brushing

woman dry brushing legs

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Good self tan on the legs = a great base to start with. Sophie Evans, St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert & Celebrity Self-Tanner recommends to dry brush before your next self-tanning session. "The better condition the skin the better your self-tan will look and last. For the legs, I recommend dry body brushing prior to showering. Always brush toward the heart and the body brush will help remove dry flaky skin, ingrown hairs. It will also help to tone the skin by boosting circulation (by bringing the blood to the skins surface)."

Scrub Your Legs

In addition to dry brushing, you'll also want to exfoliate your legs with a scrub too, especially if you're dealing with old self-tanner from your previous sessions. It's important to note that you should definitely use an oil-free scrub for best results.

"When you take a shower if you have any old self-tan remaining and are still a little flaky I would use a non-oil based body scrub like the St. Tropez Tan Enhancing Body Polish ($18). Just use a scrub that does not leave residue behind which can effect your self-tan development," says Evans.

Apply Moisturizer Carefully

We've all heard the tips — don't moisturize your skin or use any oils if you want the best looking tan. However, that might not be entirely true. Some areas, like elbows, around the ankles, and the knees might actually need a bit of hydration for an even glow.

"A good self-tan will hydrate the skin, but there are areas we always should moisturize," explains Evans. "For the body, always use a non-oil based moisturizer and apply lotion to the knees, whole of the foot and back of the heel, elbows and the whole of the hand and back of the wrist. If you have any severe dry skin like eczema, I would moisturize that area as well to prevent the tan grabbing and developing too dark on the dry patch."

Be Patient

Sometimes you need a tan ASAP, but it might be in your best interest to wait at least eight hours after exfoliating before your application, as Evans suggests. "If we really want to get technical and get ultimate tanning results, I would suggest exfoliating a good eight hours prior to self-tan application. Skin that has a neutral pH level will achieve the best self-tan results," she explains. "The best time to tan is when your skin is comfortable and neutral and has found its perfect pH level which showering and cleansing can effect."

Plan Your Hair Removal

Black woman shaving legs with shaving cream

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If you wax your legs or use a hair removal cream, you'll need to make sure you plan your wax and your self-tan carefully. Evans told us that both wax and hair removal cream can remove your self-tanner, so you should plan your hair removal at least 24 hours in advance of your tanning session to make sure your legs tan properly.

"With waxing, you must wait 24 hours to prevent the self-tan sitting in the pores and looking spotty," she explains. "Shaving is also a form of exfoliation, but is much more milder than waxing. Depending on your hair thickness will determine when you can shave. If you have very fine, thin body hair, shaving prior to tanning is fine. Also shaving after is okay, it will not remove your self-tan completely. But if you have a very strong, dark hair growth you may find it better to tan on stubble then shave the next day to achieve a perfect smooth result.

Our Favorite Self-Tanners

Now that you're armed with tips to make sure your legs are even, glowy, and perfectly sunkissed, check out our favorite self-tanners below.

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