When it comes to intimidating beauty rituals, self tanning at home is right up there. The stakes are just too high, when you really think about it: who wants to end up with a streaky, blotchy tan when all they’re looking for is that effortlessly chic summer glow? Because we feel your pain, and because we’ve had a few mishaps too, we’ve compiled our best tips into this ultimate guide to self tanning. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to self tan at home, this is it: follow along, and get your glow on.
Step One: Exfoliate & Shave
A smooth, even tan begins and ends with smooth, even skin. For that reason, you should always make sure to exfoliate around 24 hours before you apply your tan. Go for a gentle body scrub that won’t leave any oily residue on the skin, like Lierac Body-Hydra Micropeeling Scrub; you shouldn’t reach for something that is extremely rich in essential oils, as the oil can prevent your self tan from adhering to the skin.
If you shave or wax, it’s also important to time your hair removal based on when you intend to apply your tan. A day before is usually fine, but if you wax, make sure that there’s no residue left on the skin by the time you apply your tan.
Step Two: Prep Problem Areas
If you’re ever looked into how to self tan at home, you know there’s a few danger zones when it comes to self tanner: hands, ankles, and knees are particularly infamous for growing a lot darker than the rest of the skin, as the self tanner tends to accumulate in these dry and bony areas.
In order to keep your tanner from over-darkening these dry areas, rub a thin layer of a lightweight body lotion into the skin. This will form a “barrier” that will keep your skin from absorbing too much product.
Oh, and here’s a pro tip: have you ever applied self tanner, only to have the product create little brown dots all over your legs? This is caused by self tanner accumulating on the tiny crevices of your hair follicles and pores. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to avert this crisis: simply run your legs through cold water to contract the pores, and you’ll be good to go. If you’re not brave enough for a full blast of cold water, don’t worry: a cold compress is a good compromise.
Step Three: Get Tan
The correct way to apply self tanner will depend, naturally, on the texture of your product. (Specialized tanning brands, like Bondi Sands, will offer a wide range of options.) Self tanning lotions and mousses, for example, should be applied with a mitt in order to keep your poor hands from soaking in all the color while you work. Tanning mitts provide a flat, smooth surface that will deposit the product evenly onto your skin.
Starting from the bottom up, apply the product in long, confident sweeps, making sure to overlap the edges for a full, even coverage. Don’t be afraid of slathering on what seems like “too much” self tanner; your skin can only absorb so much, so you won’t grow darker the more product you apply. Conversely, if you apply too little, you risk ending up with streaky areas where the skin couldn’t absorb enough color. Be fearless!
Follow the same tips if you’re using a self tanning wipe, but always take care to hold the wipe as flat as possible against your skin.
In case you’re using a spray-on self tanner, then your life just got easier: simply hold the applicator a few inches from the skin and spray all over the body, starting from the bottom and working your way up in long, vertical sweeps.
Step Four: Mind The Hands & Feet
Remember those danger zones we talked about earlier? Leave them for last. A good tip is to simply “drag” excess product from your arms and legs down into your hands and feet, respectively. This will give you a more natural look that imitates the appearance of a beachy sun tan.
Step Five: Wipe away excess formula
Keep some make-up wipes handy in case you need to wipe away any self tanner that’s landed in the wrong place. Maybe you’ve done a stellar job and there’s no obvious excess anywhere, and we congratulate you for that! However, always remember to wipe down your palms, your nails, and your cuticles, as these areas can grow darker despite your best efforts.
Step Six: Maintain Your Tan
Your new tan should be looking pretty good, now that you’ve learned how to self tan at home. All you have to do now is maintain it; don’t let your hard work go to waste! In order to keep your glow for longer, try to moisturize your body every day, especially after showering. Remember what we said earlier? A smooth, even tan begins and ends with smooth, even skin. You look great!
Beauty Writer & Editor