Tips for a Better Self Tan

Dr. Marc-André Doré

Friday, August 26, 2022

Self tanner is an awesome product that will give you a glowy finish without the hard work of spending days at the beach or in the tanning bed. You've likely heard stories of orange skin or streaky mishaps, though, so getting into self tanning can be intimidating. With attention to detail and proper research, however, you'll get that seamless bronze glow in no time.

Wax, Shave, and Skincare First 

If you've never used a self tanner before, you probably don't know how delicate it can be after application. The product can strip off in unexpected ways, but as long as you're doing all of your hair removal and skincare before you apply the product, you probably won't have too many smudging mishaps. 


Exfoliation is essential before a self tan. It provides a smooth, even finish to your skin that makes the tanner glide on and spread evenly. Try to avoid chemical exfoliators that contain oils, as they are not ideal for use with self tanner. You can use exfoliating gloves, some chemical exfoliators, and you can even shave to assist in evening out the skin before application. 

Use Primer 

A high quality primer will provide the perfect amount of moisture before self tanner application. It can be the difference between dry, patchy, uncomfortable skin and a seamless finish. Much like you'd use primer before applying foundation to your face, you'll want to use primer to prepare the skin for application as it can help with spreading the product evenly, and it can help your tan last longer.

Avoid Using Your Hands 

You'll want to do your best to avoid extended contact between the product and the skin on your hands. A frequent tell of a fake tan is overexposed, dark color on the hands from the application process. You can wear rubber gloves to apply tanner, or even use a self tanning mitt. Mitts are designed to spread self tanner and can make it much easier to apply to areas that are otherwise complicated to maneuver, such as the upper back.

Clean Up and Touch Up 

Clean up is probably the most important part of having a believable-looking tan. If you make a mistake, immediately clean up the affected area with wet wipes. Make sure the hands, elbows, and the soles of the feel do not have too much color as this is where self tans usually get too dark. If you don't notice streaks or patchiness until well after the tan has set, you can blend and remove some color by using a physical exfoliant on the area while wet. 

Self tanning can be stressful, but with quality products and some patience in application, your tan will come out indistinguishable from a beach tan. Know that self tanner usually lasts around a week, and you can remove it earlier if needed with exfoliation and moisturization. With sufficient preparation, you'll end up with a smooth, effortless looking self-tan.

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