Tips for applying self-tanner

November 16, 2014

Craving that sun-kissed glow? Tanning puts your skin in danger of premature aging and skin cancer, but there are tips and various ways to safely tan your body.
Self-tanners have come a long way since their early days. They are a good alternative to tanning beds and direct sunlight. First, decide what kind of tanner you want to use: instant tanners are spray-on colour that, depending on the brand, will wash off anywhere from a couple of days to a week. Gradual tanning creams allow you to progressively increase the colour over the course of several days as you apply.

Always spot-test a new product on a small patch of skin to check for reaction before using. Follow these simple instructions and tips for applying self-tanners safely and for best results.


Use a washcloth, loofa or dry skin brush prior to applying tanner to remove the outer layer of dead skin cells. Without exfoliation, a self-tanning cream can get “stuck” in patches of dead skin and turn a darker colour. Pay special attention to the main joint areas – ankles, knees and elbows – where your skin tends to be thicker.

Shaving will exfoliate your legs too, but freshly shaved skin can sometimes react negatively to self-tanner. Always leave at least 24 hours between shaving or waxing and tanning.


Make sure your skin is moisturized inside and out before applying self-tanner. Use body lotion, oil or cream regularly before bedtime and after showering, but avoid moisturizing too close to the time you plan to apply self-tanner. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the day.


Now you’re ready to tan. If possible, position yourself in an area with a full-length mirror and a sink nearby. You don’t want your palms turning brown, so wear protective gloves or tanning mitts. If you don’t have either, plan to wash your hands thoroughly as soon as the application is complete.

Go lightly on the tops of your feet, avoiding the toes and the back and sides of your feet. Use minimal product around the ankles, knees and elbows. The back is obviously tough to reach without a spray applicator, so plan to use a back applicator or enlist a second pair of hands to help.

Make sure you cover all areas using long, broad strokes. If your tanning cream is tinted, you’ll be able to see which areas you’ve missed. Since your skin can only absorb so much at one time, applying more tanner won't make you darker.Be careful not to go overboard.

You may want to use a special face tanner to prevent clogged pores. Apply sparingly to the forehead, tops of cheeks, nose and chin where the sun would naturally hit then use a moisturizer to spread the tanning cream closer to the eyes and mouth.

Once you’ve finished, wash your hands and wait. Try not to wear or touch anything for at least 15 minutes or until the tanner has fully absorbed into your skin. You should enjoy your new bronze glow knowing that you’re tanning safely!

Tips for applying self-tanner
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