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The ultimate guide to self-tanning

Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you have finally stopped using the tanning beds. Or, if you’re new to self-tanning, you want to get the perfect glow without all of the trial and error. The practice of applying a body bronzer has been around for a while, but there is now a variety of products and many ways to apply it. No matter the amount of color, price or even the time between application and results you are looking for, there is a product out there for you. 

It can be hard to ditch the tanning bed or even laying out in the sun for hours on end. However, the better and safer alternative is to cancel your membership and buy a few sunless tanning products. You can control the amount of color you get, eliminate tan lines and avoid getting sun damage in the future. 

Here is your guide to getting a bronzy glow, no matter what time of the year it is:

To start off, let’s pick out the product that will fit you best.

Best smelling

Coco & Eve’s sunless mousse is widely known for its pleasant smell. If you hate that odd self-tan scent or even prefer to wear it during the day, this is the tanner for you. Not only is it 100% natural, but it has anti-cellulite and anti-aging properties that will do wonders for your skin. 

The Sunny Honey tanner is infused with coconut, botanicals and amino acids to produce a tropical mango and guava fragrance. Many customers proclaim that it doesn’t have that “biscuit smell” that most tanners do. Overall, this product will not only have you looking bronzed but also smelling good. 

Best drugstore

If you think this is going to be a Jergens product, think again. Jergens is budget-friendly and gets the job done, but there is an even better drugstore alternative for less than $10. There are 15 Tanned AF products available on Amazon and at most drugstores. These products range from express tanners to gradual, and they also have a great color selection for different skin tones. 

This line of tanners is great for beginners because it is risk-free since it’s so affordable. If you are fair-skinned, using one of the gradual tanners or simply the “dark” color is your best bet. This will help you to control how dark it gets and avoid any looking orange. If you are darker and more olive-toned, try out the charcoal dark brown tan. It will match the natural colors in your skin perfectly without making you look too orange or green. 

Best rated

If you want to spend some extra cash, these two products are acclaimed to be some of the best. If you are a little wary to splurge, remind yourself that it is completely acceptable to do so. Putting self-tanner on is a chore in itself already, so finding a more high-end product that is going to actually work well and last longer is worth it. You are investing in yourself. 

All St. Tropez products are amazing, but their self-tan express bronzing mousse takes the cake, according to many customers. It has a color guide so you can ensure there aren’t any streaks, and it has all of the amazing properties to hydrate your skin with little to no smell. For the ultra-dark look, the Bondi Sands aero self tanning foam is one of Allure’s Best of Beauty award winners. It isn’t crazy expensive being $30, but it is great for those out there that like to be super bronzed or already have a base color. 

Best for the face

While tanning drops and facial sprays are fine, many don’t have ingredients that will actually help your skin. In addition, some of the facial tanning products make some people break out. If this is the case for you, try out the Dr. Dennis Gross glow pads. It is a chemical exfoliant pad that you can swipe across your face before bed, and you will wake up with a beautiful glow that isn’t overboard. 

These pads will help match your face to your body without having to use makeup or direct sunlight. The anti-aging properties and vitamin D will also help to prevent fine lines and diminish dark spots. Just remember to apply sunscreen the morning after to protect your beautiful face.  

Now, it is time to apply your preferred product. There are a few essential steps before and after application to ensure an even glow that is long-lasting.

Before care

No matter what time of the day you plan to apply your tanner, try to shower at least 8-12 hours before application. This will ensure that your hair follicles are closed so that the tanner doesn’t cling to them. If you don’t wait, you’ll have tiny dark spots all over your body. 

While you are in the shower, the first step is to exfoliate. It is best to use an exfoliating mitt and a scrub to take away all of the dead skin cells. It is extremely important to do this if you already have tanner on so that your new coat of tan can look fresh and even. Once you are finished, shave in the areas you normally would. Remember to go in the direction of the hair growth and make sure you didn’t miss any spots. 

During application

Once you’ve waited 8-12 hours, it’s now your time to shine. If this is your first time, don’t be scared; it’s actually a pretty easy process once you get the hang of it. Start out by moisturizing your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, feet, hands and any other dry patches you may have so that the tanner doesn't cling to these areas.

Now, it’s time to apply. Using a mitt is the easiest and will give the best results. Use 1-2 pumps for each section of your body. The best way to do it is to start at your feet and work your way up. Go in circular motions in each section, focusing on working the product into your skin. For the places you put lotion on before application, use the leftover product that is already on your mitt. When doing your hands, bend them in a claw-like position and then apply. It will feel slightly odd, but you’ll be glad you did it when you don’t wake up with orange hands. 


Once you’ve finished the application and made sure everything is blended, let your skin dry for at least five minutes before you put any clothes on. Try to wear loose and dark-colored clothing so that you don’t ruin your tan or your clothes. Another tip is to avoid wearing socks or any pants that cuff at the ankle. 

Once you’ve rinsed off your tan, make sure to apply a generous amount of lotion all over. This will keep your tan looking even and prolong it. If you’ve rinsed and found some splotches in any areas, you can go in with your mousse or a tanning water. Overall, once you’ve done this a few times, it’ll come naturally to you. 


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