Self-Tanning Do’s and Don’ts

image of tips for self-tanning blog postI once saw a picture that said, “If you can’t tone it, tan it!” Amen to that! There’s just something about that glowing bronzed look that lots of people can’t get enough of.  You feel skinnier when you are tan.  You feel more confident and pretty. You get to wear less makeup because there’s less to hide with tan skin.  It’s an overall great mood booster, well for me anyways!

I like to think of myself as a self-tanning expert.  (Is that even a thing? Ha!)  I had a mole/cancer scare years ago (thank you, tanning beds) and am more careful about being in the sun ever since.  I’ve tried lots of self-tanners through the years, have had streaky legs because I didn’t know what I was doing, and have since learned many self-tanning tips.

So if you’re a bit nervous to break out the self-tanner, but really want to have a pretty sun-kissed glow, read the tips below and you’ll be a pro in no time!

Preparing for the self-tan

Image of me before and after air brush tanningWhen it comes to self-tanner, there are a lot of options out there. Lotion. Mousse. Spray. Instant Tan. Gradual Tan. Airbrush Tan. It’s a lot, isn’t it?!

If you are new to self-tanning, try a mousse or a lotion with bronzer.  The bronzer will help while applying because you will be able to see exactly where you have applied.  This will help to avoid streaks and so that you don’t miss any areas. The mousse is my favorite only because it’s super easy to control.

Self-tanning spray is great for those hard to reach places, like your back, and for applying to your neck and face.  It’s more forgiving on a small area and spreads easily on your face for an even tan.

Gradual tanners work great for you to build your own color over a few days.  Just make sure you plan ahead for this and when you want to have your desired tan. Most tans will be fully developed within 12 hours.

Instant bronzers are well, instant. The tan is not buildable and provides an instant color for an evening out.  Instant tans should be washed off in the evening.

Airbrush tans are amazing! There is bronzer in it so you do see color right away.  The bronzer does wash off when you shower and the tan takes about 12 hours to fully develop.  (Just a side-note: Don’t be alarmed when you see just how tan you are getting as the minutes pass.  It truly does wash off when you shower and you are left with a real looking tan.) Unless you’re in the airbrush business yourself, this is something that someone else does for you in the comfort of your own home.

Now that you have picked your method of self-tanner, it’s time to get your body fully prepared so that you can maximize your tan!

1. Tools needed

Though you can use your bare hands to apply self-tanner, it’s best not to do so.  Using a tanning mitt (like St. Tropez Tanning Mitt) will ensure that your tan goes on smoothly and streak-free. You can buy the mitt at Sephora or Ulta or get it online here.  It’s the best self-tanning applicator that I’ve ever used.  When finished, simply wash with soap and warm water and let air dry. (You can also use latex gloves to apply self-tanner, if that is easier for you, but again, I’d recommend the St. Tropez tanning mitt.)

2. Shower

Stay away from body wash or shower gel that is oil-based when showering before applying self-tanner.

3. Shave

Shave or wax the day before so that pores have time to close before you apply your self-tanner.  If you don’t wait for your pores to close on your legs, the self-tanner can get in your pores and leave little orange circles on your legs.

4. Exfoliate.

Make sure you exfoliate before applying self-tanner.  You want to exfoliate all over, especially focusing on rough spots on your body, such as your heels, ankles, knees, elbows, and even your neck. These are the areas where the tan develops more quickly, hence producing those dark patchy areas that mess up your tan.

You can use a dry brush, a body polish (such as St. Tropez Body Polish), or even a loofah if that’s all you have available. A scrub can be used as well, just make sure that it is oil-free.  You don’t want to use any products that are oil-based while you exfoliate. Apply the self-tanner immediately after exfoliating.

Self-Tanning Application

1. Clean Body

Now that you are out of the shower and ready to apply the self-tanner, be sure that your body is completely dry.  Also, make sure that you do not put on any products, such as deodorant, lotion, oil, or makeup (if applying to your face).  Your body needs to be completely clean and free of everything.

2. Barrier Cream

Apply a small amount of lotion to the areas on your body where dead skin accumulates: Nose, hands, cuticles, bottom of feet (if doing an airbrush tan), ankles, top lip, and around the hairline if you have light or gray hair. Again, these are the areas on your body that will pick up color faster and develop a tan more quickly, resulting in dark patches.

3. Start from the Bottom

Always start your application at the bottom of your body and work your way up. This is so that you get an even tan and not any weird tan creases on your body.  (This is especially true when doing an airbrush tan. Hello area under your butt cheeks!)

4. Circular Motions

Apply the self-tanning lotion or spray directly on your skin and use the mitt to rub it in using small circular motions.  Concentrate on one area at a time and move on when it’s rubbed in completely.

Congratulations! You did it!  Now that you are tan, here’s some other things that you will want to keep in mind to help prolong your tan’s length.

1. Getting Dressed

Wait at least 15-minutes after applying the self-tanner before getting dressed.  Long pants and a tee-shirt work the best for keeping your tan in tact and making sure that your tan doesn’t transfer to your couch, your sheets, or anything else that you might sit on.

2. Baby Powder

If you feel sticky or sweaty after the application has dried, dab on baby powder to help.  Baby powder does not hurt or shorten your tan or the developing of your tan.  It will also help with reducing the transfer of the color to your clothing. An added bonus? You will smell great!

3. Showering

You will want to avoid showering or sweating for the next 6-8 hours (12 hours if you can). Tans usually take around 12 hours to fully develop.  Showering or sweating will hinder the development process.

Once you have your tan, be sure to be gentle in the shower. No scrubbing with loofahs and be sure to use a moisturizing body wash to help lengthen your tan. (Tans last longer with moisturized skin.)

4. Avoid pools, hot baths, and beaches, as they will all shorten the life of your tan. Shaving and exfoliating will also help your tan fade drastically.

5. Always stay moisturized with lotion to help prolong your tan.

6. If your using a gradual tanning lotion, wait at least 12 hours before applying another coat. You want to see how it develops before adding more.  You don’t want to end up looking like Ross from Friends!

What to do if you mess up?

Use nail polish remover to help get self-tanner off of your cuticles.

Use a q-tip to apply tanner to small areas, such as eyes, ears, nose, lips, and your hairline.

Rub half of a lemon on any splotchy or streaky areas to help even them out. Use a towel to buff the lemon into your skin.

If you mess up tons and want to start over, shower immediately and scrub using a loofah or other exfoliant. As long as you are tanning one area at a time though, this shouldn’t be necessary to do.

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