It’s self-tanning Season…are you ready?

It has always been my practice to start my self-tanning the month of Easter. Last year, here on the blog I did a “Self-Tanning Month” all during the month of April. During the whole month, I reviewed all kinds of self-tanners.

This year I’m doing things a little bit differently.

I decided not to dedicate a whole month to self-tanners alone. Instead, my plan is to just add them throughout the summer months as they hit the market. I found that last year some amazing products hit the market after I had finished my reviewing. I hope to avoid that and just do them as I see them pop up on the shelf.

There aren’t many products in the beauty care aisle I LOVE more than self-tanner. Here’s just one reason why…

I was about 4 months pregnant with my first baby when my mom had her first occurrence of Stage 3 Melanoma. 

When that baby was 10, Mom had her second diagnoses of Stage 3 Melanoma. 

That baby is now 19, almost a graduating high school senior, and my mom lost her battle with Melanoma due to horrible side effects from her treatment. 

I have been using self-tanner on and off for almost all of that 20ish years. 

I wasn't what you would call a huge lay-out-in-the-sun or get-in-the-tanning-bed kinda girl, anyway [too much sweat.] After Mom's cancer, I never did it again....Ever.

Over the years, I have become pretty knowledgable of how self-tanners work and the most effective way to apply them. I’m not an expert or anything but I’m excited to pass along all I have learned.

How do they work?

All self-tanning, high end or drugstore…ALL of them…have the same main ingredient…dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

That sounds sort of chemically scary, but it really isn’t that scary.

It is a chemical derived from a sugar acid.

DHA will bind itself to the dead skin cells on the outer layer of your skin. Those same dead skin cells will eventually fall off your body which is why your sunless tanner will have to be reapplied on a somewhat regular basis.

The higher the amount of DHA the darker the tan it will provide.

Do’s & Don’ts

DO your prep work

  • Exfoliate
  • Moisturize
  • Wear Gloves

This could potentially be the most important piece of advice I will give about self-tanning.

I have told countless people to use gloves. They look at me like I’m crazy. I’m not though. I”ve been doing this a long time.


DISCLAIMER: I know that many many self-tanning girls use a tanning mitt. I have read awesome things about them. Personally, I have never used them because when I came up with my "system" they weren't around. Now, since I already have it down to a's kinda like "if it's not broke don't fix it".

DO stick to small areas

The idea here is to “Stick to Small Areas [duh]”

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.

Do pick the right color

The colors listed on self-tanner bottles are indicators of the type of color they will produce: light, medium, dark.

You should take into consideration your skin tone. For example, if you are fair skinned then picking a “dark” self-tanner could result in your tan looking too much too soon and artificial. Picking one marked “light” or “medium” might be better choice.

These descriptives aren’t really about your skin tone color right now prior to self-tanning BUT what it will be AFTER you tan. These will reflect the color you can achieve after the self-tanner has developed.

They describe the end result.

DO self-tan at night

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.

Some self-tanners {although, not all} take about 7 to 8 hours to activate the DHA. Meaning that it will take that long for your tan to fully develop. The idea is to go to bed pale and wake up freshly tanned.

There are some products new to the market that will develop in a few hours. These are different and might could be applied during the day.

Do use a moisturizer

If you want your tan to last longer, keeping your skin moisturized is a key component to that. Remember how I said the DHA attaches itself to dead skin cells?? Well, dead skin cells stay around longer when they are moisturized.

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-tanning 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

DISCLAIMER [yep, another one:] I tan my face with the same tanner I apply to my body 

but I don't have sensitive skin. 

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. You would know best if tanning your face with self-tanner is a good idea or not.

If you are a girl who feels like they should never tan her face with a regular self-tanner. There are some good face tanners on the market that could be beneficial to you.


if you feel like tanner of any kind is a big “no, no” then just use a darker foundation and bronzer to get your face to match your body.

Don’t forget to prep before reapplying


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.

What is the secret to successful Self-Tanning?

Getting all the product rubbed into your skin.

Not leaving any to air dry.

Yep, that’s it.

Just making sure that you fully and completely have every bit of the lotion\gel\moose whatever form you use rubbed into your skin. The streaks and smears are a result of a build up of product that hasn’t been rubbed in evenly and eventually that will dry streaky.

This also helps to insure that you don’t apply too much product which can make you look like you have drowned your body in a bag of Doritos.

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