Although it can be a tricky product to master using, self-tanner is one of our favorite skin care products. That’s because applying one is the only safe way to get a tan since spending prolonged periods of time in the sun sans protection is a serious skin care no-no. And after covering up in turtlenecks and snow boots for what has felt like months on end, you may want a hint of golden color—it’s only natural. But what if you’re hesitant to try self-tanner again because you’ve experienced streaky, orange color after using one in the past? We’re here to convince you to give it another shot. Avoid common self-tanner mistakes, and you can apply your fake tanner like a pro. Here, we're talking about top self-tanner mistakes and how to avoid them, along with sharing our best self-tanners.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #1: YOU DON’T EXFOLIATE BEFOREHAND
When it comes to applying self-tanner, do you simply slather it all over your skin without any prep work? It’s time to stop that! Your first step to getting a seamless-looking fake tan is to exfoliate your skin in the shower. Dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin, and this can lead to uneven or patchy coverage—which is why exfoliating beforehand is such an important step. Pay particular attention to areas that can get rough—like your knees and elbows. Use a body scrub while you shower, or try your hand at dry brushing.
To exfoliate your face before tanning your visage, use the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Resurface & Energize Kona Coffee Scrub, which is formulated with three pure sugars, finely ground Kona coffee, almond oil, and coconut oil. This face scrub helps to gently remove impurities from the skin for a smooth and supple finish.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #2: YOU DON’T MOISTURIZE FIRST, EITHER
Once you’re done exfoliating in the shower, applying moisturizer is key. Don’t towel off, though—slather a body lotion onto damp skin to help lock in hydration, paying particular attention to areas that tend to be on the dry side. As for your face, we love the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30, which is formulated with Pro-Retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C and will give your skin a brighter appearance. It also works wonders to help protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #3: YOU DON’T USE A TANNING MITT
Do you want your hands to look darker than the rest of your body? We thought not! If you’re using a self-tanning lotion, serum, mousse, or any other formula that requires you to rub the self-tanner directly onto your skin, considering investing in a tanning mitt so that you can avoid staining your hands.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #4: YOU PICK THE WRONG FORMULA
If you thought there was only one type of self-tanner you could use, it’s time to think again. There are many different kinds of self-tanning products out there, so you can easily find one that suits your needs. Have your pick from our favorite options below.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Milk Medium: If your skin’s on the dry side, try this gradual tanning lotion. In addition to delivering an even bronzed look over time, this self-tanner is formulated to nourish and soften the skin.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion Medium Natural Tan: Alternatively, if you need moisture and a more immediate tan, this self-tanning lotion with vitamin E will do the trick.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Serum: Fancy a serum? This offering may be your perfect match. Formulated to give your skin a long-lasting natural glow from head to toe, chances are it’ll become your go-to in no time.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion Deep Natural Tan: Ideal for those who want to ease into a faux tan, this self-tanning lotion will give you instant shimmer and a gradual glow.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Mist: Want to mimic a spray tan at home? This spray-on offering will coat your skin evenly and make tanning hard to reach areas a breeze.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Water Mousse: Self-tanning may seem like it always makes a mess, but clear formulas fix that issue. This clear mousse won’t stain your sheets or clothes!
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Towelettes for Body: Tanning on-the-go just got easier! Each towelette contains enough self-tanner for a gorgeous, streak-free tan. Pro-tip: Unfold the towelette as you use it to keep it from drying out.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #5: YOU APPLY IT TOO HEAVILY TO CERTAIN AREAS
Areas like your elbows, knees, and ankles can be drier and rougher than the rest of your body, so you should apply self-tanner with a light touch to avoid having them become too dark.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #6: BUT YOU SKIP YOUR NECK ALTOGETHER
Want to use a self-tanner specifically formulated for your face? Cool—just make sure you extend it down to your neck. If you don’t want the secret that you’ve been bottle bronzing to get out, your neck is one area that you’ll definitely want to pay attention to. When your face and neck are significantly different shades, it can be a total giveaway that you’ve used self-tanner.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #7: YOU USE TOO MUCH
Sometimes, less is more—and that’s surely the case as far as self-tanner goes. Generally, you really only need to make one pass over your skin to get adequate coverage. Of course, as we told you earlier, applying a moisturizer beforehand is a prep step you shouldn’t skip out on—it can help make your self-tanner glide on easier.
SELF-TANER MISTAKE #8: YOU’RE NOT FLEXING AND BENDING
It’s easy to think that you’ve covered all of your skin. However, spots that tend to crease, like your knuckles, knees, and elbows, may not get the coverage they need. Be sure to flex and bend those areas so you can sport a flawless tan. And remember: These are also key spots to exfoliate and moisturize before tanning since they tend to be on the dry side.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #9: SHAVING AFTER TANNING
If you want your self-tanner to go the distance, it would be smart to avoid shaving after tanning. After scoring a flawless tan, do you really want to shave off your perfectly bronzed skin? We think not! Play it safe and shave before you apply self-tanner. Shaving can also help exfoliate your skin, so this really is the way to go.
SELF-TANNER MISTAKE #10: YOU GET DRESSED TOO QUICKLY
We’ve all got places to be—but you should be patient after you’ve used a self-tanner. That means you shouldn’t throw on your fave pair of skinny jeans immediately afterward. Instead, wait for your self-tanner to dry fully before putting on clothes, and when your tan is finished drying, opt for loose, dark clothes to help avoid any staining.
Now that you’re caught up on self-tanner mistakes, it’s time to learn how to self-tan your face. Check out our article, How to Use Self-Tanner on Your Face, for a lesson on exactly that.
Discover more tips & tricks
Shop Featured Skin Care products