Self-tanners offer a great, safe way to get the look of glowing skin. You don’t have to spend hours baking in the sun, damaging and aging your skin. Using self-tanner also means you don’t have to reserve the look of a bronzed complexion for the summer—if your glow isn't achieved via sunbathing, you can hold onto it all year long. While you likely know this all to be true, you may still find excuses not to give a sunless tan a try. Is the possibility of streaks, spots, orange palms, or stains at the root of your hesitation? If you find yourself nodding yes, then first consider that sunless tanning options have come a long way. Not only are there a wide variety of formulas, ranging from serums to lotions to mousses, but many modern self-tanners offer streak-free, transfer resistant formulas that can build the look of a natural-looking tan without any of the traditional self-tanning pitfalls. Of course, you don't achieve a perfect tan without a little effort, there are certain self-tanning rules you should follow to avoid the fake bake disasters you've always feared. Below, find our six self-tanning rules for achieving an even, sun-kissed glow—from a bottle.
Self-tanner application rule #1: Exfoliate beforehand
No one wants a patchy tan and exfoliating is key in preventing exactly that. Start your self-tanner application process by sloughing away dead skin cells from skin’s surface to help create a smoother, flake-free surface for your self-tanner. Using a body scrub and face scrub before attempting to tan will help your self-tanner formula of choice apply more evenly.
Self-tanner application rule #2: Use a mitt to prevent orange palms
One way to avoid orange palms is to wash your hands thoroughly immediately after application. Or, you can sidestep this common self-tanner mishap entirely by using an applicator mitt. Not only will this keep your palms from getting stained, a tanning mitt will help you achieve the most even, believable fake tan possible. Slip the mitt over your hand and apply your self-tanner in sections, massaging the formula onto your skin in uniform circular motions.
Self-tanner application rule #3: Don’t overdo it
While you may think that applying a generous amount of self-tanner will give you a deeper tan, it’s more likely to lead to increased errors. For your face, all you really need is a pea-sized amount of self-tanner. Dab it onto your face and blend out using upward motions, starting at the base of your neck and working your way up and out. We promise a little will go a long way! And if you want a deeper tan, you can always use your self-tanner again the following day.
Self-tanner application rule #4: Blend at your joints
Spots where you have joints, like your knees, are the areas most likely to show you trouble during self-tanning sessions. The skin in these spots tends to be drier and more rough than other areas, which can lead to too much self-tanner being absorbed. To prevent this, you’ll want to spend a little extra time blending in your self-tanner—which should be used sparingly—around your knees, elbows, ankles, and wrists.
Self-tanner application rule #5: Make sure your skin is dry
Allow enough time for your skin to air-dry, or pat it completely dry, before applying self-tanner. Seriously, don’t rush into it—self-tanner and water don’t mix.
After application, give the self-tanner formula enough time to dry before getting dressed. Immediately throwing on your favorite white dress will likely lead to staining. As an extra precaution, you can wear loose clothing and avoid sweating or showering for a few hours post-tanning.
Self-tanner application rule #6: Pair with SPF
You’re already on the right track, given that you’re applying a self-tanner in place of tanning oil—but your work isn’t finished yet. Keep the good skin care habits going by also applying sunscreen. UV rays can damage and age your skin, causing fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin to develop prematurely. Keep these signs of skin aging at bay and maintain the focus on your glowing skin by applying broad-spectrum sunscreen to your skin on the daily.
Our Best Self-Tanners
Now that you know the rules of self-tanning, here are a few self-tanners to practice them with:
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze™ Hydrating Self-Tanning Milk Medium: This gradual self-tanner is designed to gradually deliver an even, bronzed glow while softening and nourishing skin. Use it three times a week to build your glow.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze™ Self-Tanning Towelettes for Body: These convenient, single-use wipes have an advanced skin-smoothing formula with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and vitamin E for a smooth, streak-free tan.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze™ ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist: Want a salon-inspired airbrush tan at home? The 360-degree wide angle jet applicator of this self-tanner mist provides continuous coverage for a 100 percent natural-looking tan. The jet applicator also allows you to quickly cover more skin for easy application. Further, the super-fine mist formula applies evenly and dries quickly with no need to rub the self-tanner in (another way to avoid messy palms).
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze™ Self-Tanning Serum: Featuring a quick-dry formula, this self-tanning serum goes on streak-free and can last for up to two weeks.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze™ Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion: This transfer- and water-resistant formula creates an instant bronze tint as your flawless-looking sunless tan develops. The bronze tint has a hint of shimmer and dries quickly.
For more sunless tanning advice, read our article, How to Use Self-Tanner from Head to Toe.