How Long Should You Leave Self Tanners On Before Showering?

Self Tanner How LongHow self tanning works seems to be a mystery to those who’ve never tried it before.

Newbies are always worried about how orange it’s going to make them, or how they’re going to smell like an overcooked turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

But once you’ve been through a few self tanning “sessions”, you know there’s nothing to fear.

As long as you pick a good, high-quality self tanner, you really don’t have to worry about turning orange or stinking to high Heaven.

Experienced self tanners also know that the 3 most important steps to a great self tan are 1) picking the right product, 2) applying correctly, and 3) leaving it on long enough to do its thing!

This last step is crucial, yet many people either don’t know about it, or are seriously confused by it.

So let’s take a minute or two and clear up that confusion…

First of all, the most important thing to remember is most good self tanners will need to stay on your skin for at least 6-10 hours to get the best results.

Now, they start working to some degree before that amount of time; but you won’t get an optimal glow unless you leave it on for at least that long before you shower… or sweat profusely… or get water of any kind on your skin.

(As a side note, know that water is the enemy once you’ve applied a self tanner. You need to be very careful around good old H2O once that tanner’s on your skin!)

Self tanners work when the DHA, the main tanning ingredient in these products, interacts with your upper layer of dead skin cells.

Unfortunately, this reaction takes time.  And that time is typically 6-10 hours, depending on the person.

But, if you have patience, and you wait at least 6-10 hours, all the treasures of the universe will be yours!

Ok that’s an exaggeration.  But you will get several important benefits:

First, you’ll develop the absolute best color that’s available from whatever self tanner you’ve chosen.

Experts know that you can’t really judge a self tanner until you’ve given it enough time to work.  If you apply a tanner, and then wash it off a few hours later, you’ve really shortchanged yourself and the product.

Second, your self tan will last much longer if you let the product develop properly.  We’ve seen high-quality self tanners last nearly 7-8 days (albeit with fading), when they were given ample time to develop.

So now that you know that your self tanner needs to stay on your skin for 6-10 hours after you apply it, what’s the easiest way to accomplish that?

In today’s busy world, 6-10 hours seems like a lot of time.

For that, dear reader, we have two solutions.

First and best, you can apply your self tanner at night, let it dry, and then go to bed.

When you wake up, take a shower, and you should have a beautiful, gorgeous tan that lasts for days.  And any remaining self tanner “smell” and “streakiness” should be completely gone after you shower.

This works especially well with self tanners that have little to no “guide” color in them.  You’ll get a no-mess tan without anything getting on your sheets!

If you can’t do it at night, the next best option is to do it in the morning before school, work, or taking care of the family.

To go that route, apply the self tanner, let it dry, and then get dressed.  And as an FYI, be sure to pick a self tanner that won’t stain your clothes.

That means pick one that either has no guide color in it, or has a very light tint.  Those black-as-night, right out of the tube tanners probably aren’t the best choice if you’re going to apply in the morning.

And again, after 6-10 hours, you’ll definitely want to shower it off.  This isn’t our preferred way to do it, but hey, some of you might not have a choice.

Ok so there you have it.

Be sure to leave your self tanner on for at least 6-10 hours to see the best results.

That may seem like a long time, but trust me, the results are worth it :)

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Category: Facts About Self Tanning, Self Tanning Tips

About the Author

Emily Andrews is the Editor-In-Chief of As you can imagine, Emily loves anything and everything having to do with self tanning! She's also a big fan of shopping (duh), tiny Yorkies and football.