Self-Tanning 101: Do’s & Don’ts and How To’s

This is a Part 2 of what I started in yesterday’s post

(go HERE to read that one).

DO your prep work

  • Exfoliate
  • Moisturize
  • Wear Gloves

For a more in-depth look at why prepping correctly is important read (HERE). As I stated in that post, the success of your self-tanning experience can and will be effected by this step!

DO stick to small areas

I have thought A LOT about how to explain exactly how I apply my self-tanner. I discovered this process over many summers and it sort of evolved into what it is.

Basically the idea is to “Stick to Small Areas” because they are easier to manage! Self-Tanning isn’t difficult you just have to make sure that you have it rubbed in completely.

Working with small areas makes that more doable.

Always start from the bottom up. Always work in sections. I have 15 sections (they are all listed below in the “How To” section.) Don’t worry it’s not as time consuming as it seems!

Do pick the right color

Remember as I stated earlier the colors listed on self-tanner bottles are indicators of the type of color they will produce: light, medium, dark.

However, you should take into consideration your skin tone. If you are fair skinned then picking a “dark” self-tanner will result in your tan looking too much too soon and artificial. Picking one marked “light” or “medium” is a better choice.

DO self-tan at night

While researching for a moisturizing post, I discovered that our skin is more thirsty at night. Therefore, it will soak up any lotions that come in contact with it. This is one reason why we should self-tan at night…our skin will soak it up more effectively.

Another reason, the average drugstore self-tanner takes about 7 to 8 hours to activate the DHA. Meaning that it will take that long for your tan to fully develop. So, go to bed pale and wake up freshly tanned.

DO take a shower

When you do this is completely up to you, you can take it first thing in the morning or later on that day if you don’t have anything going on. Just take it before you put on good clothes, or go anywhere! Waiting longer than overnight won’t make you any darker, but it also won’t hurt anything either. The tan you have after the 8 hours is what you will have.

Also, don’t be an over-enthusiastic scrubber. Remember the idea is to NOT exfoliate until you are ready to reapply. So, wash with a light touch and pat dry with a towel.

Do use a moisturizer

In the post “Self-Tanner 101: Basics and Prep Work,” I discussed how self-tanners work without going into that again I will just give you the basics. They work because the DHA chemical attaches itself to the dead skin cells on the skins surface. If you want your tan to last longer, keeping your skin moisturized is a key component to that. Any moisturizer is good but NOT an oil based one.

However, if you want to really help the life of your self-tanner using a gradual self-tanner moisturizer is extremely beneficial. I do this actually. I have always used a tinted self-tanning moisturizer.

do watch out for your hair

If you are blonde or gray be VERY careful around your hair line or you can color your hair. You can apply a heavy amount of moisturizer around your hair line to act as a barrier between your hair and the tanner.

Don’t forget about your face

I tan my face with the same tanner I apply to my body. I always have. I will have a few extra pimples at the beginning but they will stop once my face adjusts to the tanner. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not a lot because if it were I wouldn’t do it.

Now, you know your face better than me. You know how sensitive it is, just like I know that mine is not sensitive at all really. So, you know if tanning your face with self-tanner is a good idea or not.

If you don’t think your face can handle it there are some good face tanners on the market that could be beneficial to you. You could also consider using the gradual self-tanner moisturizer only, instead, of the more traditional self-tanner.

If you don’t think that your face can handle any tanner of any kind be careful that you have a foundation that will match the new color of your body!

Don’t expect it to last two weeks

You will have to reapply.

Some of you will have to reapply once a week and some of you will reapply twice a week. The amount of time you reapply is really a personal thing and somewhat dependent upon your body.

The length of your self-tanner depends on a few factors. One of them being how fast is your skin’s turnover rate. Meaning how fast does your skin lose it’s dead skin.

If you apply moisturizer, especially a gradual self-tanner daily you can extend your time.

Don’t forget to prep before reapplying

Every…single…time…it’s time to reapply do your prep work.


It’s important to remove the hold-over self-tanner before applying fresh because applying new tanner over old tanner will make you look splotchy.

This does NOT count those times you are applying back to back to achieve a darker color. In those instances, don’t exfoliate.

This will be about once a week to make sure that all the old self-tanner is exfoliated off.

DON’T Skimp on the self-tanner

I get it. Your thinking that if you use too much tanner you will streak and while that is somewhat true, the opposite is true as well. If you use too little lotion it will not go on evenly and will dry splotchy.

This is a trial and error kinda situation because you will have to learn how much tanner is needed in each section. For instance when using a moose it’s one pump for my lower leg and two pumps for my upper leg.

How To’s

Remember the wise words of Mr. Myagi from Karate Kid…”Wax on–Wax off”. Well that’s kinda how it works with self-tanner. Always…Always…Always apply in a circular motion until you have every single drop of the tanner rubbed into your skin.

Rub….It…In….have I mentioned that yet?? You HAVE to do this. If you don’t you will be streaky!

Order (Don’t get scared! This isn’t as hard as it might seem.)

  • #1 (Left Leg) | right below your knee to right above your ankle
  • #2 (Left Leg) | right above your knee to your whole thigh
  • #3 | The Knee | with the lotion on your gloves rub lightly and sparingly over your knee and the back of your knee
  • #4 Left Foot | with whatever product you have on your gloves rub lightly and sparingly on your foot
  • #5 (Right Leg) | Repeat #1
  • #6 (Right Leg) | Repeat #2
  • # 7 The Knee | Repeat #3
  • #8 Right Foot | Repeat #4
  • #9 Left Arm | work from above the wrist to shoulder in a circular motion avoiding the elbow until the end
  • #10 Right Arm | Repeat #7
  • #11 Chest | work all over your chest below your neck
  • #12 Face | work all over your face if you are blonde watch your hair
  • #13 Neck | without adding extra product to your hands rub your neck front and back
  • #14 Hands | take a SMALL SMALL SMALL amount onto your fingers and rub onto the back of our hands, then wash the fingers that you have used
  • #15 Buff with your sock the following areas: feet, knees, wrists

I know these last two posts were lengthy and weren’t exactly what I usually produce but I felt like it’s important to get these basics out of the way before we get to the good stuff….the products!

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