Sunless tanning products give your skin a sunkissed glow without exposing your skin to damaging UV rays. These products offer a safe and effective alternative to soaking up rays on the beach or laying in a tanning bed.
The most common ingredients in sunless tanners are dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and erythrulose. "DHA works by reacting with your skin’s stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin's surface, to temporarily darken it and simulate a tan," says Hailey Hemmer, a scientist on the Jergens Research and Development Team.
While their names might sound like strange chemical compounds, DHA and erythrulose can be derived from plant sources like sugar beets, sugar cane, and other red berries! They can also be extracted from fermented glycerin, an organic compound derived from animal fat and vegetable oil.
How to Prep Your Skin for Tanning Lotion
Whether you are a seasoned professional or trying self-tanner for the first time, achieving the “perfect tan” can be a daunting task. Use our quick and easy self tanning tips to help you achieve your perfect glow!
Select the Right Sunless Tanner for You
When selecting a sunless tanner, take a moment to decide whether you want your skin to look instantly tan, or you'd prefer to tan gradually over a few days. There are many tanning options available, so it's essential to find one that will meet your expectations:
- Instant Tanner: If you need a sunless tanner to give your skin a healthy, golden glow for a last-minute girls night out, try instant tanning mousse for an immediate tan. It works with your skin tone to mimic results from the sun.
- Gradual Tanner: If subtlety is more your thing, try a gradual tanner. With daily application, this type of sunless tanner creates a natural-looking color that darkens over a few days.
- Face Tanner: For a natural-looking tan on your face, look for a sunless tanner designed for your face. Many formulas also include SPF so you can protect your skin while achieving a sunless glow.
Prep Your Skin for a More Even Application
Sunless tanning products work best on clean and dry skin that has been gently exfoliated. Preparing your skin helps ensure your sunkissed glow goes on evenly.
- Exfoliate: For areas that don't need shaving, exfoliate gently in the shower with a loofah or exfoliating scrub. Spend a little more time exfoliating dry areas like your elbows, knees, and ankles. Avoid streaky or patchy tans by exfoliating areas that tend to be drier.
- Hair Removal: Before applying tanner to your legs, wax, or shave carefully with moisturizing shaving cream or body wash to prevent irritation. This will not only give your tanning lotion a smooth canvas, but also slough off the top layer of dead skin cells. "Exfoliating helps remove the proteins in the outer layer of the skin. These proteins can interfere with DHA's ability to create a tanned look," says Hemmer.
Moisturize Your Skin Before Applying Sunless Tanner
Keep your skin moisturized in the days before applying sunless tanner. Apply a hydrating moisturizer and focus on areas that tend to be drier than the rest of your body, such as your elbows, knees, and ankles. But, avoid moisturizing your skin immediately before applying sunless tanner. Doing so can cause your tanning lotion to go on unevenly. Instead, use a moisturizing self tanner to nourish your skin while adding natural-looking color.
Tips for Applying Self Tanner
This is the part you’ve been waiting for. You’re going to get a gorgeous, glowing tan! Use these tips to get a beautiful sunless glow all year round.
- Read the directions on the package carefully. Different self tanners have different directions, so it’s essential to understand the instructions completely before getting started.
- Apply self tanner in sections. Apply the formula in a circular motion starting with your feet and legs, working your way upwards.
- Use a friend or a tanning mitt for an even tan on your back. The best solution for how to apply self tanner to your back is to get help from a friend—but if you can’t do that, you can use a tanning mitt.
- Bend your joints for an even tan on your knees and ankles. Lastly, make sure that you slightly bend your joints, such as your knees and ankles, so that the formula reaches these cracks.
- Apply more product for a deeper color. Apply a thin amount of product at first. You can always add more product to get a darker tan!
- Use a facial tanner for a natural-looking glow. These formulas are designed for the more delicate skin on your face and often contain SPF to protect your skin from the sun. Before applying, gently exfoliate your face and moisturize your brows and hairline with a facial lotion. When applying sunless tanner to your face, make sure to apply it in good lighting as if you were applying makeup. Start with a small amount of product—you can always use more tanning lotion if you'd like a deeper color.
- Wash your hands to prevent discoloration on your palms. After you’re done applying self tanner, wash your hands immediately. If you need to get self tanner off your hands, use our tips!
- Let the formula dry completely. When you’re done applying sunless tanner, relax! Let the product dry completely before showering or doing anything active.
Tips for Extending Your Sunless Tan
Now that you've achieved your perfect sunkissed glow, here's how you can extend your tan and keep it looking soft and supple.
- Continue to moisturize your skin daily and apply SPF 30 anytime you plan to be outdoors. "SPF products should still be used. A sunless tan does not contain sunscreen, unless specified, and does not protect against sunburn," according to Hemmer.
- Avoid exfoliating or overwashing your skin to avoid premature fading. Self tanners add color to the outer layer of your skin, so exfoliating can remove the top layer of your tan.
- Avoid waxing or shaving to help extend the life of your golden glow. Make sure to wax or shave before applying self tanner to ensure smooth application and prevent premature fading.
- Avoid long soaks in the tub, pool, and ocean to a minimum. Hot water, chlorine from the pool, and salt from the ocean can cause your self tanner to fade.
- Wear dish gloves when washing dishes and avoid washing with hot water. Hot water can cause your skin to dry out and shed, taking your sunless tan with it.
- Extend your tan by applying a gradual tanner as a daily moisturizer. This type of self tanner moisturizes your skin while extending your glow.
- Fill in any patchy sections with gradual self tanner to help blend the color on your skin. The skin on different parts of your body sometimes sheds at different rates, which can make your tan look patchy as it starts to fade.
- Use a body bronzer to highlight your tan and add a subtle shimmer to your skin.
Quick and Easy Sunless Tanning Tips
- Sunless tanners are a safe and effective alternative to tanning outside or in a tanning bed.
- Sunless tanners can be instant or build gradually over time.
- Exfoliating is essential for an even, all-over sunless tan, but avoid exfoliating, shaving, or waxing after applying sunless tanner to extend your tan.
- Moisturize and wear SPF 30 daily to protect both your skin and your tan.