You might have already read our guide on how to use self-tanning lotion, also called sunless tanning lotion. There’s a lot of information in that guide, so I’m going to share my take on how to get a sunless tanning routine going. We’ll start with a quick look at what sunless tanning is, go over how I use it, and then end with my routine that you can use to keep that glow all year round.
What is Sunless Tanning?
Sunless tanning, also known as self-tanning, is using products with bronzing ingredients in them to give your skin that golden look without having to go out in the sun or visit your tanning salon. It’s an easy do-it-yourself method that you can do in the comfort of your own home to get the look you want. As an added bonus, it starts fading after a few days so you don’t have to worry about ending up with a look you don’t love.
(image from jonesdesigncompany.com)
How Does It Work?
All you really need to know about how sunless tanning lotions work is that most self-tanners use DHA (dihydroxyacetone) to darken the dead skin cells on your body. DHA is sensitive to how much old or dry skin you might have in certain parts of your body. This means you need to keep freshly exfoliated and watch out for putting too much product around spots like your hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
(image from minetanbodyskin.com)
My Self Tanning Process
Before we get started, keep in mind that what works for me might not be best for everyone. Again, head over to our full guide on how to use self-tanning lotion to get all the details on everything you need to know about sunless tanning.
Also, before you get started at all, you should be ready to take it easy for at least the next 4-6 hours. This means no getting wet, working up a sweat, or doing anything that could remove any self-tanner from your skin. I’ll touch on this more when we get there.
I always start by taking a shower and giving myself a good scrub. Keeping your skin freshly exfoliated is the key to getting an even tan all over your skin. Normally, I love how oil-based scrubs leave my skin feeling so moisturized. Before I self-tan, sadly, I use a non-oil-based wash I keep on hand to leave my skin fresh and dry for my self-tanner.
(image from dhresource.com)
I know some people do put other lotions on right after the shower, but personally, I like knowing there’s nothing getting in between my self-tanner and my skin.
After I am completely dry after the shower, I get right to work. Using a mitt to apply my lotion, I work it everywhere starting from my arms down to my legs. I leave my face for the very last and take off the mitt so I can work more precisely.
I also highly recommend getting a mitt. With a mitt, you get to worry less about streaks and getting a self-tanner all over your hands and nails as you’re applying product.
(image from xonoelle.com)
After I’m all done applying the lotion, I take my towel and wipe off the product from places I don’t want to get too dark. This definitely includes my knees and elbows. And since I take off my mitt for my face, I make sure to give my palms, nails, and between my fingers a good wipe.
Dry (and stay dry!)
When I’m finished, I let my product completely dry before I think about putting on any clothes. Follow the instructions on your product! You don’t want to stain your clothes or start an impromptu load of laundry because you got some self-tanner on a shirt you love.
(image from huffingtonpost.com)
Now, I like to give myself at least 6 hours before I think about taking another shower or going to the gym. This means my favorite times to put on self-tanner are either right before bed or early in the day on a laidback weekend.
I love finding reasons to spend an easy Saturday just reading a book or meeting friends for lunch or coffee. And a morning sunless tan is the perfect excuse.
Generally, though, I find that putting it on in the evening and leaving it in overnight is the easiest and most worry-free way to make sure I don’t mess up my tan.
Keeping a Routine
The results you get from sunless tanning start fading after about 4-5 days. It really depends on each person, but I like to apply self-tanner to my body twice a week. And I’m not sure what it is about my face, but I end up applying self-tanner more often to maintain the same color as my body. Maybe it’s my face cleansing regimen or maybe my face just naturally exfoliates faster. Whatever it is, keep a close eye on how your color fades over time.
If you find that your sunless tan fades unevenly, my recommendation is to be sure you’re regularly giving yourself a good exfoliation. Exfoliating helps the color fade and blend naturally over time. If you ever find that a part of your body just got a little too dark, giving it some extra scrubbing time will help even it out over a couple of days.
I completely understand that not everyone loves the idea of putting on self-tanner. Maybe you’ve done it just once and decided never again. I promise once you’ve done it a few times, all of the steps and things you have to worry about starting to come naturally. At that point, it’s just a matter of finding the time that works for you. It can be as easy as just putting on self-tanner instead of lotion after your bedtime shower.