How to Apply Self Tanner

Jergens® Skincare Team:
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Self Tanning

How to Apply Self Tanner

Self tanner can be tricky for beginner tanners. Use our guide to learn how to apply self tanner for a natural-looking glow all year round!

Self tanners might be intimidating if you’ve never tried applying one before. With the right tips, avoiding a bad tan is easy! Use this step-by-step guide to get a beautiful summer glow all year round while sparing your skin from damaging sun exposure.

Choose the Right Self Tanner Formula

The first step for applying self tanner is choosing the right product for you. Some formulas are poor quality and have ingredients that will separate, resulting in streaky or orange tans. When choosing the best self tanning products for your skin type, take these factors into consideration:

  • Skin Tone: self tanner shouldn’t be one size fits all. Find a sunless tanner that is formulated for your skin tone—whether that’s fair, medium, or already somewhat tan.

  • Instant Tanner vs. Gradual Tanner: Instant tanners provide results that show up immediately after applying, while gradual tanners slowly tan your skin over a few days.

  • On-the-Go Options: If you’re busy and don’t have a lot of time to tan, a wet skin moisturizer, designed to be used after showering, or self tanning wipes can be great options.

  • Ease of Use: Some self tanners dry quickly and can be tricky for new tanners. Choose a lotion that can be easily applied and integrated into your daily routine. Gradual tanners are a great option for beginner tanners.

How to Apply Self Tanner to Your Skin

Once you find a sunless tanner that’s ideal for your skin type and tanning goals, it’s time to apply your self tanner! First, gather your supplies. Grab your favorite tanning lotion and set up near a sink so that it’s easy to wash your palms after application.

1. Shave and Exfoliate Before Applying Self Tanner

Tanning products go on better and last longer is your skin is exfoliated prior to application. Use a body scrub to remove dead skin cells and create a smooth canvas for your self tanner. Also be sure to shave before applying self tanner as it can make your tan fade.

2. Apply Self Tanner in a Cool, Dry Place

After showering, pat your skin dry and apply sunless tanner in a cool, dry place to prevent excess sweating. If you're applying tanner in a hot climate, opt for a tanning mousse—these types of tanners dry much faster.

3. Apply the Product Evenly to Your Skin

Starting at the bottom, begin applying your sunless tanner in sections (feet, legs, torso, chest, arms, and face). Massage the product into your skin in a circular pattern, being careful to blend well at the wrists and ankles. Make sure you use enough tanner so that you get an even tan all over your body. If you apply a thin layer in one area and a thicker layer in another area, your tan may look patchy and uneven.

4. Take Extra Care When Applying Tanner to Hard to Reach Areas

When applying tanner to trouble spots—such as your back—you can ask a friend or loved one for help, or use a tanning mitt. To get the perfect glow on the backs of your hands, don’t forget to blend your hands! Use a makeup brush to apply a small amount of tanner to the backs of your hands and wrists.

5. Say “No” to Orange Palms

To avoid orange palms, we recommend using a tanning mitt or washing your hands thoroughly between sections. Make sure to clean your nails and cuticles because they will react with the DHA in self tanner. Use a nail scrubber or washcloth with soap or body wash to clean off any leftover self tanner after you’re done applying. 

6. Let Your Skin Dry Completely After Applying Self Tanner

Once you're finished, allow your sunless tanner to dry for about 10 minutes before getting dressed. If you're in a rush, you can help speed drying with a hairdryer set on its coldest setting.

7. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing and Avoid Sweating

To avoid rub off and streaking, choose loose-fitting clothes and avoid sweating for the first few hours after application. “You want the tanner to dry to avoid any rub off on clothing which could cause streaking. Especially tight clothing should be avoided until the tan is completely dry to avoid streaks," says Hailey Hemmer, a scientist at Jergens® Skincare.

8. Apply Additional Product for a Deeper Tan

If you want a deeper color after applying, simply reapply tanner. You can also use a combination of multiple tanning lotions to achieve your perfect glow. For example, apply an instant tanner for immediate color and then apply a gradual tanner in the following days to maintain your color.

Well, there you have it, our top tips for how to apply self tanner. Find even more self tanning tips here! 

Key Takeaways

  • If you’re new to sunless tanning, choose a gradual tanner. A gradual self tanner is easiest to maintain and control, whether you are a beginner or a veteran self tan enthusiast.

  • Prepare your skin for self tanner by moisturizing, gently exfoliating, and waxing or shaving before applying the product.

  • When applying self tanner, apply it in a circular motion. Start at your feet and legs and move upward. When applying tanner to your knees, elbows, and other joints, bend them slightly for even application.

  • To protect your hands from staining, use a tanning mitt for effortless application.

  • Care for your tan after application by giving the product time to dry. Apply moisturizer and sunscreen to protect your skin and prevent your tan from fading.

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