Self tanner is my BFF.
No, seriously. I don’t know what I did before its advent. Well, I do know. I suffered being pasty white until the sun decided to shine, and then I used any opportunity I could to catch a few rays and liven up my pale complexion. My northern European heritage has done me no favors in this department.
I love to soak up the sun, but sometimes it’s just not convenient, so I use self tanner.
At first, self tanner did nothing more than make us look like a bunch of Oompa Loompas, but tanning lotions have come a long way. If you haven’t tried them in a while, you ought to give them a second chance.
My all time favorite is the Clarins Self Tanning Gel. I’ve tried a ton of different products over the years, and I always come back to this one. It doesn’t streak or turn orange, and you can see the results after one application. I put on a layer every day or every other day all summer long.
Yes, your skin can look streaky if you don’t know how to apply self tanner properly, but there are tons of great products on the market these days. You just have to try out a few to find the one that’s right for you.
I have pretty much mastered the art of applying self tanner, and I’m going to share all of my tricks. People are usually surprised to find that my tan is fake bake. And I don’t even have to bake!
How to Apply Self Tanner
1. Exfoliate first.
I used to skip this step, but now I’m religious about it. Since I’ve been careful about exfoliating first, I’ve noticed my self tanner stays on a lot longer and doesn’t get so funky when it starts to fade.
2. Take your time.
This should be obvious, but how often are we in a hurry in the morning and decide to just swipe on some lotion and move on to the next thing? You cannot do this with self tanner, or you will have streaking and uneven application, so plan to do your self tanning at a time that you can take a few minutes and do it right.
3. Allow yourself to dry thoroughly.
Self tanner won’t go on right when your skin is damp, so I usually put on some makeup while waiting for my body to dry from the shower.
4. Apply some lotion to knees and elbows and ankles so self tanner doesn’t get stuck in the crevices.
This can help if you tend to get self tanner gunked up in those areas. I actually don’t find that I need to do this because of the rest of my method. Stay tuned.
5. Apply small amounts evenly to large body parts, avoiding knees and elbows and ankles and feet at first.
When you start applying, go for the body parts with large surface areas — legs, arms, belly, back. Don’t go into the elbow, knee, and ankle areas. Skip the feet too.
6. Apply evenly and thoroughly.
Take your time here. Make sure the tanning lotion is rubbed in thoroughly and evenly. Blend it into the areas that don’t generally see as much sun and around the edges. Think of all the places you see people get streaky. I blend carefully around my armpits, front and back, and along the inner arm area. Make sure you leave no tanning lotion sitting on your skin and that it is all completely rubbed in.
7. Swipe the residual over knees, elbows and feet and blend carefully.
When there is almost nothing left, swipe your hands down over your ankles and onto your feet and backs of your hands — just once or twice, so that any residual self tanner barely brushes over them. NEVER rub self tanner around the sides of your feet, over the back of your ankle, or into your heels. Think about it — those areas do not tan anyway. It will look more natural if the tanner fades out into those areas.
8. Wipe off those problem areas.
If you think you might have gotten a generous amount of self tanner into the knees, elbows or ankles, and sometimes this happens when applying, all you need to do is take a damp wash cloth and wipe them off before the tanning lotion sinks in.
9. Wash your hands thoroughly, scrubbing the inside of the wrist area and between the fingers.
Unless you want orange palms, you’ll need to wash your hands immediately. Dry the palms well, avoiding the backs of your hands so you don’t rub off the tanning lotion you applied there. And then scrub at the base of the palm of your hand and wrist area, where tanning lotion tends to gather when you’re applying. You can even take a damp wash cloth and rub it in between the fingers, if you got some lotion stuck in there. Just don’t rub it over the tops of your fingers; do it from the palm side. My hands are never quite as tanned as the rest of me, but it gradually fades out and doesn’t look unnatural — it looks a lot better than orange streaks!
10. Allow your body to dry thoroughly before dressing.
Most self tanners these days do not stain clothing, but it’s best to allow yourself to dry thoroughly before getting dressed so you don’t mess up all your hard work.
And there you have it — how to apply self tanner in 10 easy steps!
It is a bit of a process, but once you get it down pat, it won’t take long at all, and you’ll feel confident and glowing all summer long!
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14 thoughts on “How to Apply Self Tanner”
What do you use to exfoliate?
Honestly, whatever I pick up at the grocery store, or free samples I get in my Glossybox. 🙂 I’m not too picky about body exfoliation. I do only use quality products on my face – again, usually samples I get. I’m not loyal to any certain one.
Great tips! I’ve had streaky feet before and it looks pretty silly – that’s why your point #2 is so important. I try to get away with the quick swipe and it never works 😉
Thank you, thank you! I need this SO much. Have a great time in Arizona!
Mary Kay subtle sunless tanning lotion is also a good one.
Boys and their toys, too fun!! I just upgraded mine a bit ago and hubby is having fun with it too. We are Canon though, my mom is looking at the exact one you all just got! Love the outfit, simple and easy. And that bag you want. I have found a new obsession with her bags too! I need to get one 😉
I LOOOOVE her bags. I have, um, well, too many. 😉
Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve been scared to try self tanner but this post inspired me to give it a shot! I was wondering though, do you shave your legs everyday? If so, how does this affect the self tanner? I have to shave mine daily for sanity. Haha:)
I don’t, but at least every other day. Shaving does act as an exfoliant and it will make your fake tan not last as long. I apply every day in the summer months to keep it fresh, but I try not to get it into my ankles and knees every day. 🙂
How often do you exfoliate then if you apply a coat of this everyday?
I’m really bad about exfoliating. Maybe once a week?
Have you ever applied a little bit of lotion with the self tanner and blended them in together? I think Cindi mentioned that in one of her posts, and I was wondering if you have tried that tip?? I am going to try the Clarins self tanner, so thanks for recommending it!
Thank you for continuing to post all your favorite things.