The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Self-Tanning

Photo: Ian Dooley/Unsplash

Soaking in the sun or jumping inside a tanning bed is bad for your skin (no surprise there); but you can still get a gorgeous summer glow the safe way, by using self-tanning products.

A first-time fake ‘n bake can be tricky business even for the beauty experts among us. If you’ve never dabbled in fake tan, or simply need a faux-glow refresher, here are some simple tips to achieve a natural-looking, UV-free tan.

Tanning should be the last thing on your beauty to-do list

When it comes to self-tanner, your attention to detail can be the difference between a glowing complexion and telltale orange palms. When incorporating tanning lotion into your beauty routine, make it be the last thing that you do. Wax or shave the area the day before you self-tan; shaving afterward can remove the products you so diligently put on.

Always remember to exfoliate

Self-tanner sinks into dry skin, leaving patchy-looking areas. Slough away dead skin cells with a coarse scrub and focus on rough spots like the knees, elbows, ankles, and heels. Avoid oil-based exfoliants as they can leave behind a residue that causes streaks.

Photo: Stylight
Choose a self-tanner for your skin tone, not your desired results

The color of your skin should help determine which self-tanner you purchase. If you have pale skin, opt for subtle shades. If you have medium or olive skin, you have more flexibility between medium or dark tanners.

Olive skinned? Try this natural gradual tan lotion from NKD SKN. It comes in medium and dark and will develop into a natural bronze tan when applied over 2-3 days.

Start at the bottom and work your way up

Using a tanning glove, smooth a small amount of self-tanner in circular motions onto your legs. Start at your ankles and work your way up to prevent marks when you bend over. Save your hands and arms for last.

Go easy above the neck

Apply a dime-sized amount of product where you would naturally tan on your face, i.e. your forehead, apples of your cheeks, the bridge of your nose and your chin. Blend the self-tanner outward using your fingertips and wash your hands immediately after application.

Don’t know where to start? This organic pre-shower tan lotion can be applied to both your face and your body. Unlike other lotions, it’s meant to be applied before you jump in the shower.

Photo: Stylight
Give the formula time to dry

Need an excuse to skip the gym? Avoid sweating or showering for at least 6-8 hours after applying self-tanner to avoid streaking your skin.

Mistakes happen

Self-tanner mistakes happen, it’s ok! Get rid of streaks and splotches by rubbing half a lemon on the area for two minutes before lightly buffing it with a damp towel.


Last but not least, prolong your tan by keeping your skin moisturized. Avoid abrasive products like retinols and acne treatments because they can dissolve your tan.

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