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How to Prevent Your Fake Tan from Smelling Bad

Sunless tanning is a fantastic way to get that sought after glow without exposing your skin to harmful UV rays. The sun may work fast, but fake tanner works much faster. You can achieve the same level of bronze in less than half the time by lathering on a layer of a sunless tanning product. While there are many pros to self tanning, there is one unfortunate con: the smell. Most self-tanners leave behind a distinct scent so strong that it gives the entire practice a bad reputation. There are, however, ways to manage a smelly tan and avoid self-tanner stink altogether. We’re breaking it all down for you, ahead. 

Tip #1: Choose a Scented Formula

If smell is the biggest problem you run into with self-tanning, look no further than the L’Oréal Paris Sublime Self-Tanning Water Mousse. It’s formulated with coconut water, which gives it a fresh, sweet fragrance. This mousse not only leaves you looking like you’ve just enjoyed a tropical vacation, but it’ll have you smelling like you’ve been on one, too. To see for yourself, apply a generous layer onto clean, exfoliated skin. Allow the product to gradually develop for four to eight hours before showering. 

Tip #2: Use a Fragrance-Free Self-Tanner

Scented products may not be for everyone, and if this is the case for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of fragrance-free self-tanner options available, including our favorite, the L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops. We love these drops for their ability to blend seamlessly into any skincare routine, and they don’t compete with the aroma of other products. For a sun-kissed glow, squeeze five to seven drops of the tanning serum into a dime-sized amount of moisturizer. If you’d like a deeper glow, add a few more drops to reach your desired tan. 

What to Do if You Get Self-Tanner Stink

Sleep It Off

Self-tanner formulas with strong fragrances tend to be smelliest right after application. If you think you might get the self-tanner stink, you can hold off applying your self-tanner until right before bed. Not only will this method help you avoid questions about your smell throughout the day, but it will also allow for your self-tanner to develop for several hours. This way, you can wake up with a stink-less tan. 


If you notice a stink and want your tan to last, you may have to stick out the smell for a few hours. But, rest assured that once the tan has developed, you can wash away the smell in the shower with a pleasantly-scented body wash. Speaking of showers, be sure not to exfoliate your skin when you wash the tan off, since it can cause the tan to fade (and you would have put in all that work for nothing!). 

Focus On Good Scents

When in doubt, counteract the smell of your self-tanner with scents you love. Whether that includes perfume, hair oils or body lotions, self-tanner stink is no match for your go-to fragrances. 

Photography: Matthew Zach, Senior Art Director: Melissa San Vicente-Landestoy, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay

Next: 4 Products to Recreate A Vacation Glow From Home

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