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Applying Self Tanner

Applying Self Tanner


Article by Helene Sheehan from Tan by Lucy Lane |

Getting a safe Self Tan glow without sun damage is easier and faster than ever before.

It is as easy as choosing the right sunless tanning product, following some simple steps in prepping, and the correct post tan care of the skin.

If you’re going to do it yourself, you might want some advice before you get started. Asking a Spray Tan Technician, Beauty Therapist and even reading Blogs and Forums is a great place to start.

Choose Your Sunless Product

There are a lot, in fact way too many, choices in products to achieve a sunless tan. You might even want to use different products for various body parts. My advice in the Salon to home tanners, for example, can be to use a spray for their back if they can’t reach it or don’t have a friend/partner to help, and a cream/gel/mousse for everywhere else.


Self Tanning Moisturisers

Also known as Gradual Tans. With a lower concentration of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in sunless tanners, these gradually build a sun-kissed glow with daily use.
 These are best for achieving just a hint of colour or to prolong a Salon Spray Tan.

Tanning Towelettes

Presoaked with self tanner, these sheets just need to be unfolded and swiped across skin for an even glow.
 Best for maintaining your tan while you’re on holidays as they are lightweight, space savers. These pads are stress free as long as you keep them stored correctly once opened.

Self Tanning Lotions and Creams

The most common of sunless tanning, these formulas are often brown in colour so you can see if you’ve missed any spots.
 Best for home tanners with skin on the dry side, experienced home tanners as well as newbies. These formulas don’t absorb into the skin instantly so you have a few extra seconds to blend giving you a little more time to perfect your application.

Self Tanning Mousses and Gels

Lightweight and fast drying, these formulas are easy to layer, so you can build coverage or customise for contouring.
 Best for skins on the not so dry side. You need to work relatively efficiently and blend faster than a cream/lotion before the colour is absorbed.

Home Tanning Sprays

This is the fastest way to cover large areas for tanning but you must have a good tanning technique down pat as you need to apply evenly from about 6 inches away in a circular motion for a light, even application. Best for all skin conditions and for those hard to reach areas like your back.

Applying Self Tanner


Whatever type of Self Tanner you choose, the desire for a smooth, natural looking, even colour tan is the same. Here are some great tips to help you achieve a perfect sunless tan;

  1. Prepare your skin. To achieve a streak free tan, you need to start with the best canvas you can; smooth skin. A loofah and an oil free body scrub are perfect to slough away rough skin areas and remove dry built-up skin. Make sure you stay away from salt or sugar scrubs since those usually contain oils that linger on the skin and form a barrier on the skin thus preventing the self tanner from absorbing and will give you a patchy, uneven end result. Not a good look.
  2. Pat yourself dry. If you have any body parts that are dry, apply a light layer of moisturiser, and give it a few minutes to sink into your skin. Make sure it is not an oil based moisturiser, as it will linger on the skin and form a barrier on the skin, thus preventing the self tanner from absorbing and will give you a patchy, uneven end result.
  3. Pull on some gloves. This will keep your palms from staining and also give you a smooth applicator to work with. You can use powder-free disposable latex gloves, readily available at supermarkets. These days there are some fantastic Tanning Mitts available and I personally think they are better than using latex gloves as they glide more easily on the skin and can be washed and reused.
  4. Toe to Top. Apply the self tanner to your feet, ankles, legs, thighs, abs, chest and arms. Use a small amount each time and blend in a circular motion. Take your time and only apply sparingly to the feet/knees as these areas tend to be the driest and really grab tan.
  5. All about the face. Choose a self tanner formulated for the face or mix the product you’ve used on your body with a light facial moisturiser. Put a dot on your cheeks, forehead, nose and chin, and blend. Apply it as you would a moisturiser and blend it out to your temples, hairline, and jawline. Always remember no one’s face is the same colour as their body, so less is more in this area.
  6. Tan your hands last. Remove the gloves. Apply a hand sanitiser to your palms so they won’t absorb any formula, then put a very small dab on the tops of hands and blend palms of the hands on top of each other. Be sure to spread and also bend your fingers to ensure the tan is applied lightly everywhere.
  7. Buff before it grabs. With a slightly damp washcloth, buff any areas that tend to grab too much color, such as elbows, knees and anklebones.
  8. Be patient. Read the package instructions on how long to wait before you get dressed/go to bed/shower so you don’t stain your clothes or sheets or wash off before development time. With some formulas this might be just a few minutes, however others can take longer.
  9. Fix streaks if you have any. After the development time has passed, check the tan and look for any streaks or unevenness, and reapply a small amount of the tanner again to just those areas and blend in.
  10. Maintain your tan by using a moisturiser every day. I recommend a gradual tan moisturiser after the first day or two to prolong the tan you have just created.

When your sunless tan fades, exfoliate the skin from top to toe before reapplying. If you apply new Self Tanner over old, you’re going to end up with an uneven, dirty looking tan, so ensure your canvas is in it’s best shape possible for the best results possible.

Helene | Tan by Lucy Lane

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