Most of us love the results of a self tanner, but applying it can be such a hassle and if it isn’t done right, it can be a downright disaster. Don’t let the fear of using the best self tanner keep you from mastering the application process, though. With some early prep, you can be sure to have a great-looking, totally safe tan all summer long.
Here are 7 mistakes you might be making if you find yourself full of streaks or splotches.
1. You Apply Without Preparing Your Skin
Applying a self-tanner takes thinking ahead. It can’t be a last-minute decision if you expect to have great results. Try to plan a week ahead, even more, if you have it. The big event in two weeks? This is the perfect time to start prepping your skin. Follow the next few steps for proper preparation.
How To Apply Sunless Tanner
You don’t need the sun for the perfect tan. Sunless tanner is perfect for those with fair skin and who doesn’t want to burn. Watch our video to learn how to apply it.
2. You Apply Without Exfoliating
Exfoliating is the biggest thing that can bring a great, natural-looking tan or a terrible, streaky-looking tan. The reason is that if you have dead skin cells at the surface of your skin, they are already dead, and if not right now, soon they will look flaky and ashy. When you add a product that will stain those dead skin cells, the flaky, ashy turns to streaky, splotchy.
We recommend exfoliating 3 times – every other day – prior to the best self-tanner application. This is why step one is so important: do not rush into it. Use a store-bought exfoliator or make your own. You can even simply add some body wash to a handful of sugar for a super easy, very effective exfoliator.
While you need to exfoliate your entire body prior to self-tanning, make sure you concentrate on those areas known for blotches such as the knees and elbows. (How to Exfoliate Your Body Head to Toe)
3. You’re Not Properly Moisturizing
Moisturizing prior to applying a self-tanner is a must. And it is best if you are deeply moisturizing for days before your tanning day to make sure that you have no dry patches. Dry patches are the number one reason for splotches.
Use thick body butter or even something like cocoa butter or coconut oil every day, including the day you tan. Again, concentrate on areas like knees and elbows which are splotch magnets.
4. You Apply in a Rush
No matter what any product line tells you, there is no such thing as applying a self-tanner as quickly as applying a moisturizer. It takes time and thought to put it on and rub in enough that you’ll be streak-free.
Plan for a good 30 minutes (mom, lock those kids out of the bathroom so you don’t have to rush!) and start at your legs and make your way up. Go slow and make sure you get all of your skin without missing an area. We have a full-length mirror to help you in areas you can’t see very well. Your back can be tricky, so if you can find a helper to do your back, that will be the easiest, but if not, just use the mirror to be sure you’re getting every area.
5. You Don’t Wear Gloves
If you apply self tanner without wearing gloves, your palms will turn a horrible shade of orange because you’ll be constantly adding more and more best self-tanner to your palms to rub it into your body. Use gloves to apply it to your body and then, to ensure that your hands aren’t obviously whiter than the rest of your skin, use a foam sponge often used for applying makeup, to apply to the backs of your hands and a bit on your fingers. Just a bit. And stay away from your nails.
6. You Apply At Night
A lot of people apply self tanner before bed, wait until it is dry and wake up in the morning to a streaky, splotchy mess. Sure, you can remove streaks and splotches, but they blend in so much faster if you notice them as soon as they become visible. (How to Remove Self Tanner)
We recommend applying when you have time to watch the tan start to appear – whenever that works into your schedule. Make sure you plan up to 4 hours for the tan to fully develop.
7. You’re Not Using a Gradual Tanner
While it may be tempting to buy the product that promises golden skin in 60 minutes, proceed with caution if you haven’t mastered a flawless tan application yet. Working with a gradual tanner like Jergens Natural Glow, you can build up a tan in anywhere from 3 to 7 days. We think this is best because as the tan starts to develop, you can see if you missed areas or concentrated too heavily on other areas. By the time your skin is fully tan, you’ll definitely have mastered the application process and can easily keep your tan looking great all summer long.
Best Self Tanner Splurges and Deals
Springtime is here, and it is officially time to get rid of the winter blahs. It’s time to think about fun in the sun and getting ready to squeeze into your new bikini. But first, you need to think of preparing your skin for the show. Let’s face it, after long dreary winter your skin can look pretty lifeless. So what can you do? Let’s play it safe and grab a bottle of the best self-tanner; then you can get ready to shop for that new hot bathing suit.
1. DuWop Clear Revolution Shimmering Self-Tanner – Splurge
If you want a self-tanner that does it all, looks completely natural, has a natural sunscreen, and actually smells good then look no further! I honestly can’t say enough about this best self tanner. The end color is perfect, the scent is fresh and light, and you can use this cool blue gel over and over until you reach your desired level of tan without worrying about looking fake.
2. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer – Deal
This is an excellent product for those that need to either slowly make their way into a self-tanner, or those that need a little pick-me-up in between regular self-tanning applications. Jergens did well with this one, since it is also a moisturizer as well and the self tanning aspect is very minimal, so you don’t end up super tan or orange. This is available in a variety of shades, as well as multiple formulations to fit your needs.
3. St. Tropez Everyday Perfect Legs – Splurge
If you intend to go to the beach or spend any time outside during the summer months while on vacation then you will want to make sure that your skin is ready to be seen. I have tried many different gradual self-tanners, but St. Tropez Everyday Legs is one of my newfound favorites. The product comes with a double pump, one black and one white, on a single container. This offers a really natural-looking self-tanner as well as a great instant bronzer. The smell isn’t too bad, and it actually goes away fairly quickly, leaving you with a gorgeous sun-kissed look to your previously pale legs. The dual-bottle is perfect to take with you along the way for continued tanning and bronzing touch-ups.
4. Australian Gold Self Tanning Lotion – Deal
If you’re looking for a really natural-looking self tanner on a small budget, then reach for Australian Gold’s Self Tanning Lotion. The gel-lotion blend feels like silk on your skin, while also working to prevent streaking, so you get beautifully even coverage. Their “Advanced Elimiscent” technology works hard at eliminating the normal self-tanner smell, so instead, you get a light and refreshing scent. The bonus is the instant glow to your skin, while you patiently wait for the self-tan to the surface. So now you can tan in a flash, get a nice healthy glow immediately, and never smell like it’s a fake bake.
5. Fake Bake Self Tanning Lotion – Splurge
This is a great product to use if you are looking for a more medium to dark tan. If you are pale, then I would recommend using this as upkeep on your self-tanning, or try diluting it with a little regular body lotion. The outcome of this tan gives you the appearance of being at the beach for a week. The downside: it takes about an hour to dry. The upside: the color looks very natural and toasty brown, so your co-workers will think you jetted off to the Virgin Islands for the weekend.
6. L’Oreal Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer – Deal
Another product that is similar to Jergens Natural Glow, but a little better in some areas. The fragrance is a little better than Jergens, and overall it gives a little better color. The product dries quickly, leaves your skin feeling nice, and the color lasts for about a week. The price point is a little more than Jergens, and you only get to choose fair or medium shades.
7. Beautisol Self Tanning Lotion – Splurge
Beautisol’s self-tanning lotion, for the face and body, has been featured on various TV shows such as Kathie Lee and Hoda and Good Morning America. It’s easy to see why Beautisol is a must-have “splurge” best self-tanner, and it’s not only because of the natural fake tan the products give your skin. The Beautisol products work as a double-duty beauty aid, by packing your skin with antioxidants and various anti-aging ingredients. So what you get is an 80% odor-free, natural-looking, anti-aging fortified fake tan. Who could ask for more?
Best Self Tanners For A Beautiful Tan
Self-tanning solutions have come a long way from the fake orange glow that they were able to produce decades ago. Fool your friends and pretend it’s sunny outside instead of cold and snowy. Today, all it takes is a little time and careful application to get a healthy glow that won’t damage your skin or put you at risk as you age.
When deciding what self-tanner is right for you, go with a proven formula that contains natural ingredients rather than loads of chemicals. Remember – it is better to choose a solution that gradually darkens your skin instead of trying to do the work of ten applications in one sitting. Also, make sure you have appropriate expectations for your skin. A radiant just got back from a jog on the beach glow is much more attractive than skin that screams, “I live for the sun.”
Here are three options, depending on your budget and preferred application method.
- Splurge: Hourglass Solar Tan Self-Tanning Primer ($60)
- Save: Mystic Tan Sunless Face and Body Tanning Spray ($38)
- Steal: Bare Escentuals Faux Tan ($22)
How to Apply Self Tanner
It’s that time of year again. Spring is here, and our skin has been left pale and lifeless because of winter. Before you even think of hitting the beach or stepping foot into a swimsuit, you should think of using a self tanner. After all, you don’t want to blind everybody with your bright, pale, winter skin.
Start by using a body scrub to exfoliate and remove any dry skin cells. If you are tanning your face, use a face scrub instead. Wet the area you need to exfoliate, apply a small amount of scrub, and gently rub in a circular motion. Make sure you concentrate on the rough areas, such as knees and elbows. When finished, rinse the scrub with water, making sure to completely wash away all signs of the body or face scrub.
Tip – If you are new to self tanning and are a little nervous about jumping into the self tanning experience, then you may want to read Easing Your Way Into Self Tanner first.
Apply Self Tanner
Gently dry the area you will be self-tanning, and DO NOT apply a moisturizer. Instead, begin by applying a small amount of self-tanner and gently rub it into place, making sure to keep your fingers tightly together. If your finger is separated, it could cause streaks in the tanner. Lancome makes a really good self-tanner called Flash Bronzer Tinted Self-Tanning Mousse, and Mystic Tan makes a complete at-home kit (Read Review).
Do not apply tanner directly to feet, around eyes, or over rough areas of the body. Instead, apply the self tanner to all other areas and then follow the smoothing directions in Step 3.
Smooth Tanner Completely into Place
After applying the tanner and rubbing it gently into place, you will need to go back over it with a close-fingered hand in order to make sure the application looks smooth and seamless. After smoothing the tanner, you may not lightly run your hand over any rough areas, such as knees and elbows.
If you are tanning your legs or arms, do not apply tanner all the way to your toes or fingers. Instead, gently run your hand lightly over your ankles and wrists, and then very lightly and quickly run your hand over your toe and finger area. A great way to get the back of your hands evenly is to rub the back of your hands together.
Tanner is Applied
Once you have successfully applied the self tanner and smoothed it nicely, you will need to wait for it to dry. Follow the directions on the self tanner bottle since not all brands follow the same amount of time for drying before allowing clothing or other contacts. While you are waiting for the self tanner to dry, move on to one of the most important steps, Step 5.
Wash Hands Thoroughly
One of the most important steps to remember is washing your hands very well. You will need to use plenty of soap and warm water, and preferably a nail brush as well. If you have the best self tanned the backs of your hands, then be careful not to wash the tanner off of them. Concentrate on your fingers, palms, in between your fingers, and under and around your nails.
The Finished Look
After allowing your tanner to dry and then allowing it to set, you will have a nice tan or sun-kissed glow to your skin. If the tanner did not give you the amount of color, you would like, simply apply another application and then purchase a darker shade (if available) the next time you shop. Since some lines don’t offer certain shades, you may want to choose a different brand.
If you are still wondering which self-tanners are the best and easiest to use, then check out the Top Self Tanner Splurges and Steals.
Easing Your Way into Self Tanner
The best place to start, before using any kind of tanning or bronzing product, is with a good body scrub and a type-specific face scrub. You should exfoliate any areas you are planning on tanning or bronzing, beforehand, so it doesn’t collect in the dry skin areas and look funny and unnatural.
After prepping your body and/or face by exfoliating, you can now gradually ease your way into the best self tanner by using a product like L’Oreal Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer or Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. These products have a slight self-tanning effect, combined with a daily moisturizer so you can use them every day and slowly build a minimal tan. The great thing is that they go on just like a body or face lotion, and since they give minimal color they don’t streak or look orange.
After using either Daily Moisturizer for approximately a week, you can continue using it or switch to the best self tanner that will give you more color. A really great regular self tanner, for first-timers, is the Lancome Flash Bronzer Line. It’s tinted bronze so you can see where you are applying it, as well as make sure it is applied evenly. If you switch to regular self tanner just remember to keep the Daily Moisturizer on hand to use as a touch-up in between self-tanning.
How to Keep Self Tanners From Staining Clothes & Sheets
Question: How to Keep Self Tanners From Staining Clothes & Sheets
One problem with self-tanners is they can rub off on clothes and your sheets. Find out how to keep this from happening.
If you let the product dry completely before pulling on clothes or hopping into bed, you should be fine. It’s important to let your skin soak up the tanner. Gels or oil-free sprays are least likely to stain, although tanners that do get on your clothes should come out in the wash.
Do I Really Need to Use a Body Scrub Before I Self Tan?
Question: Do I Really Need to Use a Body Scrub Before I Self Tan?
Do I really need to use a body scrub or a face scrub before I apply my self-tanner?
Yes. By using a face scrub or a body scrub before applying your best self-tanner, you are ensuring that you are ridding your skin of dry and/or dead skin cells. These areas of skin can, unless adequately removed, make your tan appear blotchy and unattractive. So your best bet is to have the smoothest skin possible before you apply your tanner.
Can I Use Self-Tanner if I Have Age Spots?
Whenever I write anything about self-tanners, I get a flurry of emails from readers wondering how the self-tanner will affect their age spots.
According to editor Valerie Monroe, in “O the Oprah Magazine,” if you have hyperpigmentation (dark spots), you should avoid self-tanners, which tend to darken age spots. If you have hypopigmentation –or light age spots — tanner will help even out your skin tone.
Age spots are caused by sun damage. According to Monroe, you can treat them by applying a topical prescription bleaching agent, have them removed with a chemical peel, or treat them with laser OR intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments.
Why Do Self-Tanners Smell So Bad? – The real reason that self-tanner smells so gosh-awful
Question: Why Do Self-Tanners Smell So Bad?
Answer: Self-tanners contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (or DHA) which has an unpleasant odor. These days companies try to mask the DHA smell with essential oils, but every self-tanner I’ve tried has some sort of DHA odor, some stronger than others. Self-tanners tend to start smelling a couple of hours after application. I think the combination of the product with natural body heat makes the smell more obvious.
To avoid smelling bad, I recommend applying your self-tanner the night prior to a big event and going to bed in an oversized t-shirt or baggy PJs. The next morning, shower lightly.
See my list of the best self tanners and get the full scoop on how to apply self-tanner in How to Apply Self-Tanner to Your Body.
Best Self Tanners for the Body – Which Self Tanners Are Worth the Buy?
Which self-tanner lotions and sprays work best and which ones don’t smell? We run down the 15 best self-tanners that won’t turn you orange.
Which Self Tanners Work Best?
I’ve researched for you to find the best self-tanners and self-tanning products on the market today from cheap to steep. All of these are beloved by reviewers on all the major review sites including Amazon.com, Makeupalley.com, Sephora, and Drugstore.com.
And none of those will turn you orange.
Since a bronzed Coco Chanel came back from a Mediterranean vacation in the 1920s and made the tan the hottest fashion accessory, women have been going ga-ga over golden skin and self-tanners.
Tanning products help you get a golden glow without the damaging side effects of the sun.
Here are some tips for proper self-tanning:
- Most of the tanners will give you a few shade options. Do yourself a favor and don’t pick a darker option or your bronzed skin will look fake.
- Always exfoliate prior to applying self tanner. I suggest dry brushing your skin with a brush such as this one from Amazon.
- Most self tanners are buildable, which means that you should apply several days in a row to get a better and deeper tan. However, some of the tanners will give you instant color.
- To keep the color from darkening on the heels, knees, and elbows, I highly recommend moisturizing those areas first. If you are a pro-self-tanner, invest in XEN TAN Blending Balm. Trust me you will not regret the purchasing this. This is a great self tanner secret that I got from one of my friend who’s been fake tanning for a long time.
- After you use a cream, spray or gel, expect the “tan” to take two to four hours to develop.
- You can apply a luminizing cream or even a highlighter for an extra glow.
Those are your best chances from drugstore buys to a few expensive brands like Kate Somerville and Clarins.
And don’t miss:
- Suntan: Is it Safe to Tan These Days?
- How to Fake a Summer Tan
- Why Do Fake Tanners Smell?
- Streaky Tan From Self-Tanner? How to Fix It
- How to Apply Self-Tanner to Your Body
Tanwise Self Tanning Lotion or Mousse
One of the reviewers on Amazon.com who is beloved for her reviews, recommends this product above all others. She’s been tanning for a decade, has very pale skin, and has tried many, many self-tanners. She swears by this stuff.
In another self tanner, she recommends this one. She says she loves it because, unlike the other self tanners that will streak in the rain or wash off in one shower, the color stays on “forever.” She warns that it goes on very dark and must be blended quickly or it will stain in streaks.
She also warns that the color will stain your hands and the only way to get off the color is with baking soda.
My advice: Try this because it’s so great. But wear gloves to apply and moisturize first.
Banana Boat Sunless Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion
For a low-priced self tanner, Banana Boat’s Sunless Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion does not dry quickly, streak, and allows for a deep tan without the damaging effects of the sun. You can use it on your body or face. Pictured here is the deep dark color, but there are lighter options for those of us with fairer skin (me! me!).
This is the top-selling and best-rated self tanner on Drugstore.com.
St. Moriz Self Tanning Spray in Medium
This is another highly suggested self tanner. I strongly recommend you to either buy one that comes with a mitt or buy the mitt separately. The color goes on without streaking, leaves a gorgeous, natural shade, and lasts a long time.
James Read Self Tan Express Glow Mask Face
While some self tanners are formed for both face and body, I suggest trying a self-tanner created plainly for the face.
Why? You might prefer a more subtle tan on your face that’s guaranteed not to streak. The texture is also important. For your body, a thicker texture is welcome, but for the face, it’s nice to have a more sheer texture that goes on more smoothly.
James Read makes a great self tanner for the face.
For other recommendations, don’t miss Best Self Tanners for the Face.
Jergens Natural Glow
This is my friend Deirdre’s hands-down favorite self-tanner, and she’s tried dozens. She loves that it’s gradual because she has super pale skin and one-application self-tanners tend to streak on her. She has used this daily after her shower for years, and while it does smell (testers found the scent overpowering and rated it poorly because of it), she deals with it.
Deirdre loves to apply Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Leg Gloss over it for added tan and extra glow.
Nature’s Gate Glow Lotion, Medium Skin Tones
I love this self-tanner because it’s one that works well and gets rave reviews but also has no parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum. It’s also super moisturizing because it contains 7 moisturizing ingredients including shea butter, apricot kernel oil, soybean oil, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil.
Tantowel Plus Self Tanning Towelettes
Tantowel Towelettes have been around for a while and continue to be beloved for providing a hand-on tan in wipe form without costing a fortune – simply wipe on and go.
Clarins Liquid Bronze Self-Tanner for the Face
The most loved and highest rated Clarins self-tanner on Makeupalley.com. Reviewers raved about the ease of use, didn’t complain about the smell, and said the product worked great on oily skin.
I also recommend Clarins Radiance-Plus Self Tanning Cream-Gel.
Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel
You can’t go wrong with any of Clarins self-tanning products. All of them get great reviews on the various sites I research when looking for the best products. But of all the gels and creams, this particular self tanning gel from Clarins takes the most reviews. It’s loved for providing skin a soft glow without being obvious. It’s non-oily, lightweight, and dries quickly, so you don’t have to wait before dressing.
Users recommend exfoliating first before applying.
This is formulated for the body, but if you’re looking for a good self-tanner for the face, I suggest a couple of great Clarin’s tanners in the next slide.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.