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We have all seen (or experienced) first hand some self tan mishaps. But, I am here to save you from the embarrassment of a crazy looking tan.
Everyone wants that healthy, natural glow, right? The one that looks like you just got back from vacation? Sign me up! You can read more tips about getting glowing skin here, too.
I’ve been self tanning for 4 years now and I consider myself a pro. I’ve tried it all. Every tip, every product, every technique. I’ve definitely had my fair share of streaky legs and orange hands from self tanning. And been some crazy colors because of a horrible self tanner.
And, I’ve finally nailed down my routine to get a naturally looking tan every time.
First, let me say that in this post I’m mostly going to be talking about self tanners that are NOT the gradual kind. Although you need to use the same prep and technique for these, the wash off/development is different. So, if you use a gradual tanner, just ignore the part about washing it off and the parts that mention the color guard.
As far as I know, gradual tanners apply clear and develop over a few days. Whereas regular self tanner usually has a color guard (goes on TINTED) so you can see where you are putting the tan.
I highly recommend using one with a color guard if you are a beginner! It allows you to SEE if you’ve missed any spots and see any streaks.
Some regular tanners DO NOT have a color guard. I love them just as much, but you really need to get the application down before diving into these. They are great because you don’t have to worry about the color guard rubbing off on your clothes or sheets. And, you don’t have to worry about looking weird while it develops.
The best part is that it’s easy! You can have a beautiful glow too! Look like you just got back from a week in Hawaii. All. The. Time.
So, keep reading to find out how to get the best self tan every time! No matter if you use a gradual self tanning lotion or instant self tanning mousse.
This is super important! You MUST shave BEFORE your tan. If you shave after you’ll just shave all the tan off.
Shaving is good, too because it will help get all that dead skin off as well.
And that leads me to the next step.
This is the most important step to achieve an even, natural looking tan. If you have a ton of dead skin or dry skin on top then you’re tan is going to look patchy.
The key is to have fresh, smooth skin that’s free of any product or dead skin cells.
There are a lot of ways you can exfoliate, just depending on your preference.
My personal favorite are Salux clothes, or Italy towels. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re essentially an abrasive towel that you just rub over your skin to exfoliate. They are the real deal.
Seriously, your skin will be transformed. You might think your skin feels soft and smooth right now, but just you wait.
The first time I used one, I was amazed. I couldn’t stop touching my skin: the cool part is you can actually see all the dead skin coming off!
You can also use other methods, but if you use a sugar scrub or something similar you HAVE to make sure to wash off the oils otherwise your tan will look crazy and uneven.
So, that’s why I recommend using a Salux cloth or even just a washcloth.
Now that you’ve shaved and scrubbed all that dead skin off your body, now it’s time to wash!
You have to make sure to get everything off. Lotions, deodorant, oils, etc. anything that’s a barrier could cause your tan to look weird. So make sure you’re squeaky clean.
I just use a regular body wash. But make sure it’s not a “moisturizing” body wash. If it leaves a film on your skin, it could cause problems with the self tan.
So, nothing fancy just plain ol’ body wash.
Now, after you dry off, apply moisturizer to yours hands, elbows, knees, ankles and feet.
I know I just told you you can’t have anything on your skin, but this is a VERY important step.
These areas are drier than the rest of your body and the self tan will stick to them more. Meaning, they will have more product and come out darker if you don’t moisturize them before hand.
You want to use a really thick, heavy moisturizer. Like a body butter or thick cream. Rub it ONLY on those areas I mentioned. And wait until it’s nice completely absorbed.
You don’t have to do this immediately after your shower, but I usually do just so I’m good to go whenever I want to apply my tan.
Just make sure it’s absorbed completely before you move forward.
Contrary to popular belief, a mitt makes a WORLD of difference! I’ve seen people apply self tan with latex gloves! YIKES.
How you apply the self tan matters. A lot. It’s one biggest reasons why your self tan turns out weird.
But, you can’t just use any ol’ mitt. No no no. You have to use a VELVET type mitt LIKE THIS.
I’m telling you. It’s make or break. Your self tan will blend quicker and easier. It will look more natural. Don’t have to worry about streaks with this.
If you want to self tan, GET THIS MITT.
Bondi Sands Reusasble Self Tanning Mitt (also available at walgreens!)
Finally, you’re ready to apply your self tan! If you’ve never used self tan before or are using a new product, I would use very sparingly until you know how the color will look and how dark it will be. You have even do a little patch test on your back or somewhere inconspicuous to see how dark it will get.
This will help you know how to move forward. The general rule here is that the more product you use, the darker your tan will get. Also, the longer you leave it on, the darker your tan will get. Now that last rule only applies to regular self tan. If you’re using a gradual self tan, that won’t apply here. But, it does still matter how much you apply, so keep that in mind.
Blend, blend, blend and then blend some more. Luckily, the mitt above makes it much easier to blend fast so you’re not standing there blending for hours. But, it won’t do all the work for you!
Start in small sections and avoid those areas you put lotion on before: hands, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. Skip those for now. Just blend around them and make sure you blend until you don’t see any more streaks. Then move onto the next section.
So, when you’ve got all your tan applied except for those specific areas, time for the next step!
So, now it’s time to apply to your hands, elbows, knees, ankles and feet.
First DO NOT put any more product on your mitt. You are going to use the excessive that’s left on your mitt for these areas.
The key is to use it VERY SPARINGLY on these areas. You don’t want to be that person whose hands are orange or knees are darker than the rest of their body.
So, take my advice please.
Take your mitt and LIGHTLY rub those areas.
For example, let’s start with the ankles and feet. Put your mitt where you currently have tanner on your leg and blend downward to your ankle and foot. Lightly blend all over your foot. Light pressure here. Then once you’ve gotten everywhere, flip your mitt over to the other side (the dry side where you don’t have product) and use that side to blend everything. Make sure you get in between your toes and blend down the sides of your feet.
I hope that makes sense. The key is really just to apply a tiny bit of the self tan to the area and use the dry side of the mitt to blend that into the area and into the rest of your tan.
If you have any questions about application, please comment down below!
Let Dry and Develop
Now that your tan is applied, you need to let it dry for a few minutes before getting dressed.
I usually wait at least 10 minutes, or until it doesn’t feel sticky.
You can also use a fan or hair dryer to speed up the process.
Feel free to gently apply baby powder to any areas that might rub together a lot (like the inner thighs). This will keep the friction from messing with the tan while it’s developing.
When getting dress, pick dark clothes. I have specific “tan clothes” that I put on so that if the tan rubs off on the clothes you can’t tell!
Then just follow the directions on the bottle! You can either leave it on as directed, or if you think it’s getting too dark then wash it off sooner.
I will also note that if you think it’s not dark enough, then leave it on longer! Don’t be afraid of this. I always leave mine on longer than recommended and it always turns out great.
Lastly, the color guard (the color that you see when you apply the tan) will rub off on things. Not all tans have color guards. But, if the tan is colored when it comes out of the bottle, it has a color guard. This will rub off on things, but it should wash out. Mine does rub off on my sheets but it washes out completely.
Another thing about the color guard is that, it’s not always indicative of the tan color!! Please keep this in mind and don’t freak out if it looks super dark or muddy etc.
Some brands I find the color guard is a very true indication of the tan and some brands make you look crazy but after you rinse off it’s looks great!
For example, the Bondi Sands line has a color guard that is GREEN. It makes you look so weird while developing. But once you wash it off, it leaves you with a gorgeous, olive tan.
This is why I let mine develop overnight that way you don’t have to go out in public looking green.
When your rinse off the tan, don’t use body wash. Just water, and let the color guard rinse off. Usually, mine rinses off pretty light but it will continue to develop AFTER you rinse off the color guard. So, don’t be alarmed and think all your tan is rinsing away. It’s not, I promise. It will get darker over a few hours and you’ll be left with a beautiful glow!
Finally, keep your skin moisturized! It will help the tan last longer and make it easier to get off when you need to remove it.
Alright, y’all, that’s how you get the glow! I know it seems like a lot, but I promise it’s not! I self tan weekly, on Sunday’s and this whole routine really only takes an hour or so. My tan lasts about a week, so after that, I’m good to go until the next Sunday!
Stay tuned for my round up of the best self tanners soon!