How To Self Tan: The Best Way To Apply Self Tanning Products At Home

How To Self TanOnce you’ve decided that you want the many benefits that a beautiful self tan provides, the next step is deciding exactly how to self tan!

And for that you’re in luck…

What follows is the “Official Guide” to applying and using self tanning products right in your own home (we’ve also summarized these steps into a handy cheat sheet you can print off and take with you to the bathroom. Click here to download it).

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a self tanning lotion, cream, gel, milk, mousse, or spray… these steps will work for all of them.

But before we begin, I need to mention one thing.

The process of a getting a beautiful, long-lasting self tan looks a little crazy at first.  And it might take you a few times to get it right…

But once you’ve mastered the steps, you’ll be able to complete this entire process from start to finish in less than an hour.

And you’ll have a beautiful, natural-looking self tan that lasts for days!  It just takes a little time to learn how to self tan the right way.

With that said, let’s get right to it…

Part One:  What You’ll Need Beforehand

  • The Right Self Tanner:  To see which ones we recommend, click here.
  • Exfoliating Scrub:  Will help remove dead skin cells which will give you a more even tan
  • Tight-Fitting Disposable Latex Gloves:  These are very cheap.  You can also try a “tanning mitt” but we find that gloves work better.
  • Lotion Strap, Wand, or Sponge Paintbrush:  These are used so you can reach your back if you don’t have someone helping you.  The Body Buddy works great.
  • Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly:  Used to protect your eyebrows from tanning lotion.
  • Tissue:  Just regular Kleenex type tissue will work best.
  • Band Or Hair Tie:  To keep your hair out of your face.
  • Blow Dryer:  So you can speed the drying process a bit when you’re done.
  • Mirror:  So you can see what you’re doing!
  • Time:  Make sure you have about an hour for preparation and application.  And then a few hours for the product to dry and begin working.  The best time to do this is before bedtime so you can leave the product on overnight.  You don’t want this stuff on your clothes until it’s had ample time to dry.

Part Two: The Steps

1.  Shave any areas where you don’t want hair at least one hour before you begin application.  For women, that may mean the legs, underarms and bikini area.  For guys, this may be the face and chest.

2.  Exfoliate your skin before application.  It’s fine if you do it the day before, but you’ll get the best results sloughing off those dead skin cells about an hour or two before application.  There’s a ton of body scrubs and exfoliation products you can use for this step.  Obviously you’ll want to do this in the shower or tub.  Your chosen product will work best on clean, fresh skin.

3.  Make sure your skin is dry after shaving and exfoliating.  You also want to get all of the moisture out of the air (so no steamy bathrooms).  Water is the enemy of self tanning products for the first hour or two after application!

4.  Apply some Vaseline to your eyebrows before you begin.  This will keep the tanning lotion from altering their color.  It’s not the end of the world if some gets on there.  But if you repeatedly get these products on your eyebrows, they could start to change colors.

5.  A note about applying moisturizer before you apply self tanner.  We aren’t big fans of having it on our skin beforehand, but we know a lot of people who are.  It really comes down to personal preference and what works best for YOUR skin.  Try it out both ways and go with what works for you!

6.  Put on your gloves and begin applying your product to your head first.  Just use a light covering and try to work in short, circular motions.  Be sure to get your ears, behind your ears, and your neck (basically all exposed areas).

7.  Then apply the product to your legs and feet.  Be careful when applying to your feet– use a very small amount and be sure to blend it in well.

8.  Next apply your self tanning product to your stomach, chest, shoulders and arms.  Again, be careful with your hands.  Most people just put a little on the top and avoid the palms altogether.

9.  Lastly, apply the product to your back using a strap, wand or paintbrush.  It takes a little getting used to, but it’s simple once you have it down.

10.  Once you’ve applied the self tanner on all your exposed skin, take a tissue and wipe gently at your wrists, tops of feet, elbows, and your knees.  We’re not wiping it off, we’re just taking a little color away from areas that can get a little weird with self tanner.  Trust us, this trick will work wonders…

11.  Next, wash your hands thoroughly, especially if you didn’t use gloves or a mitt.  I can’t stress this enough.  Your hands may look fine, and then 4 hours later they’re all dark.  Just wash them several times to be sure!

12.  Take a blow dryer if you have one and blow dry all the areas where you’ve applied the self tanner.  Don’t go crazy, just a few seconds on each area to speed the drying process.

Part Three: After You’re Done, Fixing Mistakes, and Maintenance

1.  After you’ve applied the self tanner, try to wait at least an hour or so before you put on any clothes or go to bed (outside of any loose fitting shorts or underwear or whatever).

2.  It takes awhile for these products to dry and start working.  I know many of them claim to dry in 15 minutes, but you’ll still want to leave them alone as long as possible.

3.  After an hour or two, then you should go to bed!  These products work best when you leave them on overnight.  If the product has a “guide” or “tint” to it, you may want to put some towels down on your bed before getting in.  It’s a pain, but with some products it’ll get all over the place if you don’t (especially those that come out of the bottle super dark).

4.  When you wake up in the morning, just go ahead and shower. Once you’re done showering, you should have a beautiful sunless tan!

5.  If there are any areas that don’t look right, you can do 2 things to fix them. First, you can add a little more product to areas that are uneven and really blend it in well. Second, you can use lemon juice to “erase” much of the color from small parts of your body (like your feet, hands, wrists, knees and elbows). I know may people recommend bleach or other harsh products, but that stuff is REALLY bad for your skin. It works, but it’s very harsh, use with caution.

6.  To maintain your tan, just try to keep your skin moisturized.  Your tan will fade naturally over 3-7 days, depending on which product you use.  Once that happens, it’s time to reapply!

7.  A lot of people I know apply self tanner to their body just once a week (say Thursday) and apply it to their face twice a week (Monday and Thursday).  While everyone has their own schedule and preference, the Monday-Thursday plan will have you looking your best for the weekends, and won’t eat up too much of your time during the week.

Now You Know How To Self Tan

Well there you have it, a comprehensive guide to applying self tanner.

While these guidelines will work great for most people, remember that everyone is different and you have to find what works best for you.  To do that, you’re going to have to experiment a little.

So start with these steps, and then tailor them to your unique body and situation.  If you do, you’ll be looking your best in no time!

Remember, we’ve created a one-page cheat sheet that tells you exactly how to self tan.  You can download it and take to the bathroom or wherever you’re going to apply your self tanner.  Click here to download it.

And be sure to let us know what you think of this guide!  Any steps we’re missing?  Anything you’d like to add?  If so, connect with us on Facebook or send us a tweet on Twitter.  We love hearing from our readers!