Self-Tanning Tips

The weather is finally getting warm enough to let your legs out, and if you’re like me, they haven’t seen the sun since last summer!

I used to be all about laying in a tanning bed multiple times a week all throughout the year, but now that I’m more educated about the risks involved with doing this, you couldn’t pay me to get in one. Because of this, I have turned to things like self-tanning lotions & mousses to give myself that summer glow without damaging my skin.

Results using Ulta's Instant Tanning Mousse. 1.Before | 2. Right after application | 3. Post rinse, 8 hours after application

Over the years, I’ve tried an uncountable number of different brands and products seeking the perfect glow, and through years of trial & error I’ve found a few stand-out products that I reach for again and again. I’ve also discovered many tricks for getting streak-free results & avoid the dreaded orange patches around my ankles and hands.

Keep reading for my self-tanning process and favorite products!

Preparation: This is a step so many people don’t give enough attention to, and it’s SO important for a good application!

  • I start by taking a shower and doing a thorough exfoliation of my whole body using a really good scrub (I like making my own coffee scrub using coffee grounds, cinnamon, & oil)

  • I then make sure to do a close shave so I’m applying onto smooth skin

  • Once out of the shower, I apply coconut oil to dry places such as my knees, elbows & heels, and I make sure to apply the oil around the bottom edges of my feet & along the tops of my toes as well. I also apply the oil around my wrists, fingers, & palms. This moisturizes these areas and prevents the tanning product from settling into the dry skin & creating orange patches.

Application: Depending on what type of product I’m using, the application process varies a little. Be sure to follow the instructions on the back of the product bottle to ensure you get the best result!


  • Gradual Tanning Lotion: If I’m using a gradual tanning lotion such as Jergens, I’ve found I don’t have to be quite as careful as I would with an instant tanning lotion or a mousse. I still follow all the preparation steps, but if you miss a spot it’s not going to be as obvious.

>> If you’re new to the self-tanning game, gradual lotions are the best product to start with!

  • Instant Tanning Lotion: The difference between a gradual tanning lotion & and instant tanning lotion is the time it takes for the color to develop. A gradual tan will develop slowly over a few days and will usually take multiple applications to get your desired color. With an instant tanning lotion, the color is usually fully developed in as little as 3 hours. When it comes to an instant tanning lotion, you have to move a little quicker & be a little more careful with the application since the color gets darker much quicker. If you miss a spot it will be much more obvious, so you want to make sure you’re thorough and spread it evenly.

  • Tanning Mousse: Until you have used one of the lotions above and feel comfortable with the whole self-tanning process, I would not use a tanning mousse. The reason is, you have to move very quickly with a mousse and know the areas of your body that the color tends to settle so you can be careful about applying it to those areas. I always use a tanning mitt when applying the mousse because it dries much quicker than a lotion so will stain your hands before you get a chance to wash them. Using a mitt can also help you ‘buff’ out areas that look a little splotchy. The key to avoiding streaks when applying mousses is to work in small areas of your body and not use too much product. I apply it on my feet, hands, and face very sparingly. Immediately after application (especially if it’s an instant tanning mousse), you will appear ‘dirty’ until you rinse off in the shower, so don’t be alarmed at this!

  • Tanning Mists/Sprays: I am not a fan of these just because I can’t seem to get as even of an application as I can with a lotion or mousse. This may just be user error on my part however, so if you want to give these a try let me know what you think!

  • Tanning Water: This is a product I have not yet tried, but I will give it a go at some point this summer just to see how I like it. Even though I have my favorite products, I’m always open to trying out new options as they hit the market!

Application Tips:

>> I like to apply self-tanner at night before I go to bed. This way, I can put on baggy clothes that I don’t care if they get stained, and I don’t have to spend all day smelling that “tanning” smell that comes with every tanning product. Also, I won’t have to worry about accidentally splashing myself with water or other liquids, which can result in a splotchy tan.

>> Always rinse in the shower the morning after applying tanning product. This will help with the signature tanning smell, and will also help reduce the transfer of the tanning product onto your clothes. It is very important for the staying power of your color that you DO NOT exfoliate (no loofa, scrubs, etc. unless you want to remove the tan) and to pat yourself dry.

>> Always wash your hands after each application, paying special attention to the underside of your writs, between your fingers, and the outside edge of your palms. These are areas that the product tends to settle, which can result in orange patches.

>>To get your desired color using any of the above methods, it may take a few applications to build the shade you want. If it takes more than one application, DO NOT exfoliate again! Doing that will pretty much erase the color you applied the night before. Still shower & shave, but when you get out of the shower- gently pat (not rub!) yourself dry, moisturize the dry spots mentioned above, and apply your tanning again.

>> To prolong your tan and to ensure an even fade, make sure you’re skipping your exfoliator (no loofas or body scrubs in the shower!) and moisturizing your skin with lotion both morning & night.

>> Most self-tanners will have a good color anywhere from 3-5 days between applications. One thing I like to do is use an instant tanning lotion or mousse, and then maintain it with a gradual tanning lotion every couple of days.

Favorite Products: Through much trial & error, I’ve narrowed all the products I’ve used to just 3 dependable favorites.

  • Banana Boat Summer Color- Deep Dark Color: I like this instant tanning lotion because the smell is relatively mild compared to other instant tanners I’ve used (don’t get me wrong, it still stinks) and produces a nice brown color. It also spreads smoothly & evenly for a streak-free result. This lotion isn’t technically an “instant” tanner, but the color is instantly visible and it develops very quickly. You can also get it pretty much anywhere, which is very convenient. I don’t apply this product to my face because it’s too heavy for me and causes breakouts.

  • Ulta Self Tanning Express Tan Tinted Mousse: I really like this instant tanning mousse because the final color is great and the price is amazing. This stuff is as good as the expensive brands when it comes to color development, but only costs $13! Not at all orange, it leaves you with a nice natural brown. On the application instructions, it says to rinse after 3-4 hours, but I have left it on overnight with no issues. I don’t suggest doing this the first time you use it though, in case the color is too dark for you! You do have to work fast and use a mitt when applying, as it dries very quickly. You will also look very 'dirty' after application, so I suggest applying it before bed unless you plan to rinse it off before going out into public.

  • Ulta Bronze Glow Self-Tanning Glow by Morning Gradual Tan Drops: I really can’t say enough about this product. In the past I would use Jergens gradual tanning face lotion, but it would always break me out because it’s too heavy for my oily sin. With these drops, I can simply add it to my nightly moisturizer and I have a slight color change by morning. The tanning smell is very minimal, and never causes any breakouts. I also really like it because I can adjust the color depth just by adding more or less drops so I can get a good match to my body color. There are a few other brands that have similar products at a much higher price point, but at $11 a bottle I won’t be leaving this product any time soon!

I hope the above tips help you get your summer glow without subjecting yourself to the damaging tanning beds or laying outside covered in oil for hours at a time. If you have any additional tips or products that you love, feel free to comment below to share the love!

I hope you all have a glowing summer!


#selftanning #summerglow #bronzer #tanning #summer #beauty #products #ulta #jergens #favoriteproducts #affordable


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