How To Use And Apply Self-Tanners

Using indoor tanning lotions is the best way to make your skin glow again. Using self-tanners, tanning lotion or bronzers will help you achieve a deep, healthy and glowing tan as if you have spent all your holiday in the Hawaii.

You should know that there is a difference between a self-tanner, tanning lotion and a bronzer.

Self-tanners are like a dye that gets darker and darker with each use. They add color and tan the skin over a period of time, due to the presence of Dihydroxy Acetone. The self-tanners react with the amino acids and the proteins and form a golden color gradually. They produce longer lasting and more natural color than the bronzers for example. There are gel self-tanners, cream, spray, mousse, lotion, etc.

Bronzers are makeup products that give the illusion of glowing and sun-kissed skin. They add an extra hint of color after the application. They give an instant tan and highlight the skin.

Most of the tanning products contain natural oils, sunflower oil, essential oils, hemp seed oil, Aloe Vera, antioxidants, vitamins B, C, D, E, natural botanical extracts and minerals that not only add color to the skin but they also nourish, moisturize and condition the skin.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the most common ingredient in the tanning lotions as it causes the surface layer of the skin to oxidize and to create a natural-looking tan. DHA is completely safe for the skin and doesn’t irritate it. Other indoor tanning lotions contain bronzers to give an immediate color to the skin.

Before you begin the application you will need:

  • body exfoliator
  • body brush
  • gloves
  • oily body lotion
  • tanning lotion for body
  • facial tanning lotion

Exfoliate your body

One of the most important things you should do before applying the tanning lotion is to prepare your skin, this includes: cleansing, moisturizing and exfoliating your skin.

Always take a shower and exfoliate your whole body before applying tanning lotion or bronzer. When exfoliating you remove the dead skin cells, creating a smooth and firm surface that is essential to achieve a perfect application of self-tanner, bronzer or a tanning lotion. Choose a gentle body exfoliator like Clinique Sparkle Skin Body Exfoliator to whisk away surface dryness and dullness. Apply the exfoliator to your skin using rotating motions with the help of a body brush, exfoliating gloves or your hands. Start exfoliating from your feet, working up to your neck and back, don’t forget your hands, elbows and knees. Rinse thoroughly.

Now is the time to shave your legs if you have to, because you shouldn’t shave or wax your legs a few days after the application of self-tanner. Always exfoliate before self-tanning because if you have dead skin cells the product won’t go on evenly and the color won’t last longer. Exfoliating your body properly will ensure that the tan won’t look patchy or uneven.

Moisturize your body

It’s essential to moisturize your entire body before self-tanning. Choice an oilier, more hydrating body lotion and apply it lavishly, concentrating on the drier areas of your body – knees, ankles, elbows, back. Apply a thick layer of the moisturizing body lotion and distribute it evenly, an oilier moisturizing formula will allow the tanning product to spread smoothly and will reduce the chances of streaking. A good moisturizing body lotion will not only allow en even application but it will also nourish, condition and hydrate your skin. If your skin is dry or sensitive you can apply the lotion twice in order to create a flawless surface.

Start applying
Wear latex gloves to avoid dark and orange hands. If you don’t want to wear gloves or if you don’t have gloves you should wash your hands regularly (every five minutes). Polish your nails to prevent dark stains on them and don’t wear any clothing. Pin your hair up.

Begin applying the self-tanner with your legs. Take a small amount of the tanning product and apply it with long, firm strokes. Gently rub in the product with soft, circular motions. Apply the tanner evenly and make sure there are no missing spots, patches or hard lines. Repeat the application if necessarily, but remember that the color will show up after approximately 2 hours, not immediately.

Apply the tanning lotion very carefully around your knees and feet. You can mix the tanning product with a little bit of a moisturizer to apply it on the drier areas in order to lighten the effect.

Now is the time to wash your hands and then work your way up to the stomach and your arms. Pay special attention to your elbows and torso. Rub the self-tanner gently with soft circular motions and make sure there are no patches. Blend carefully. Remember: Never apply the self-tanning product in up and down strokes as this may lead to streaking and patchy-looking skin.

It can be very difficult for you to apply the tanning product to your back. Ask a friend to do it for you or use a brush to apply the lotion. Apply a little bit of the product to the back of your neck and behind he ears too. Wash your hands again. Never allow the product to stay on your hands for more than 5 minutes because you won’t be able to remove the color.

Apply the tanning product also to your hands but remember – your hands need only a light coverage. It’s essential to moisturize them before you apply the self-tanner on them because the frequent washing may have dried them.

Apply the self-tanner to your face

It’s essential to apply a tanning product also to your face and neck, around the ears and to the neckline. Use an oilier moisturizer to prepare the skin. No need to tell you that you shouldn’t be wearing any makeup – mascara, foundation, face powder or lipstick. Apply a thick layer of Vaseline, Olive Oil, or Almond Oil to your eyebrows, eyelashes and lips to avoid discoloration and irritation. Never apply body self-tanner, tanning lotion or body bronzer to your face. Buy a special facial self-tanner and gently massage it to your face with soft, circular motions. Use a cotton bud to remove any tanning lotion that may get accumulated around your eyebrows and hairline if necessarily. Make sure you blend evenly.

How to maintain your new tan
One big mistake that many women make is that they take a shower straight after the application of the tanning product. Never take a shower immediately after you have applied the tanner, even after an hour. You may have to reapply it after a few hours if the color is uneven. Remember: The color usually takes from one to three hours to develop completely.

Most of the self-tanners contain ingredients that may easily stain and even bleach your clothes, so make sure your skin is completely dry before you put on clothing. It usually takes around an hour or two for the product to dry fully.

Once your skin is completely dry you may apply a body lotion again to moisturize and soften your skin. To maintain your new tan and to make it last longer reapply the tanning product every week or every three days, depending on the color you want to achieve.


  • Always exfoliate your skin before applying tanning lotion, self-tanner or a bronzer because the product will blend more easily into the smooth skin.
  • When exfoliating pay special attention to the dry areas of your body – knees, elbows, ankles, hands, feet.
  • Never shave or wax your legs a few days after self-tanning to prevent irritation and fading of color.
  • Always apply the tanning product with soft, circular motions.
  • Wash your hand every five minutes to prevent orange hands and staining your nails.
  • Never apply tanner on your lips, nipples, around the bikini line, over moles or freckles.
  • Remember: most of the self-tanners have unpleasant smell due to the DHA ingredient.
  • You may feel sticky after the application, but you can correct this by applying a thick layer of scented body lotion or cream.
  • If you want to lighten any dark spots you can use 2 % hydrogen peroxide, but be very careful.
  • Always work on small areas of your body to achieve flawless tan.
  • Ask a friend to apply the tanner to your back.
  • The color will usually last for approximately 4 days.
  • Never apply too thick layer of the tanning lotion.
  • Make sure the tanning lotion match your skin tone – it should never be too dark or too light.
  • Always start the application with your legs.
  • A shimmery body lotion will complement your new tan
  • Keep your skin well-moisturized before, during and after tanning to achieve best results and longer lasting tan.
  • Always apply the product on a clean and moisturized skin.
  • Don’t cleanse your body with too harsh soaps or shower gels – they may fade your tan faster.
  • Never take a shower or swim in a pool a few hours after the application.
  • Use products that are appropriate for your skin type – if your skin is sensitive or dry look for a more moisturizing formula.
  • Always check for streaks, patches or missing spots.
  • Always allow plenty of time for the lotion to be absorbed.
  • Always consult a specialist to find out what is best for you.
  • Always read the instructions written on the box and follow them.
  • Try to find a product that offers gradual tanning
  • Self-tanners and bronzers may easily stain your clothes.
  • Never wear foundation, face powder, eyeshadows or lipstick when applying self-tanner.

American Academy of Dermatology

3 thoughts on “How To Use And Apply Self-Tanners

  1. Josey Josey wrote

    Yes indoor tanners do work great however they can look blotchy!! YUCK? ;0

  2. Mindy Mindy wrote

    I agree, Thats why i stick to spray taning products they even so much better its unbelieveable and rub in ones can make your hands oarnge

  3. Lex Lex wrote

    I agree, stick to spray self tanning products, but if your desireing that gorgeous tan for a wedding- prom or etc. I would advise just going to get a spray tan 2-4 days before that special event. Or even getting a spray tan a month in advance then re-doing the tan when the event comes, Whyy?- Because, the color may totally be off and u could end up looking like you painted your self with an orange marker. Just experiment, try spray tans, tanning products BUT, stay away from the cheap tan products in the cosmetic isles, trust me they areant worth the $2.00 for what it makes you look like for a week!

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