At-home tanning products remain a staple in my summer beauty routine.
As we’ve learned, the sun is bad for our skin, but there are tons of products that will give you a tan in just hours. It’s all about the technique, though. These are some ways to fake the perfect glow without any mess or stress — plus some of my favorite self-tanning products.
Prep is important
There are so many times I hear people say that all at-home tanners are streaky and splotchy, but it almost always depends on the prep. There are two schools of thought when it comes to tanning: to exfoliate/shave the day before and to exfoliate/shave the day of. If you are doing it the day of, you will want to wait a few hours in between prep and tanning. Everything from water temperature to not-fully-absorbed moisturizer can mess up your tan. If you don’t want to prep skin the day before, at least wait 4 to 6 hours after showering/shaving/exfoliating.
Next, exfoliate. Sloughing away dead skin clears a path for the tan to stick. You know I love exfoliating gloves for this job. They’re cheap, they’re available at any drugstore, and they’re mess-free. You want your skin as soft as possible when you exfoliate and shave, so soak in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes prior or do it at the end of your shower. Once your skin is soft, wet the gloves, coat them with a gel body wash since cream can leave a residue (I like Love Beauty & Planet Coconut Water & Mimosa Refreshing Body Wash) and use up-and-down motions all over your body to get rid of any dead skin.
Next up is your hair removal method of choice. If shaving, use a brand new or super-sharp blade. Dull blades can cause irritation and razor burn as well as ingrown hairs. Don’t go over the same spot too many times to curb unnecessary irritation.
Then, moisturize. I’ve heard of people not moisturizing before a spray tan, but my tan comes out insanely uneven if I’m not smooth and hydrated. I prefer to use a light, gel-cream moisturizer like The Body Shop Almond Milk Body Yogurt.
Pick your tan
You can find tanning mousse, oils, lotions or sprays just about anywhere, from Sephora to Target. Some of my favorite affordable self-tanners include SalonBronze Airbrush Tanning System, Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam, Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Tanning Spray, L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse, Jergens SOL Sunless Tanning Full Body Towelettes and Sally Hansen Airbursh Legs Tanning Water.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse is a self-tanning OG for a reason. And Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water or the brand’s Clear Self Tanning Mousse and Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam are both worth every penny.
Mind your face
The skin on our faces is a little different than the skin on our bodies. While some tanners might work great on your arms and legs, they might cause breakouts or irritation on your face. I recommend Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops to give your face a nice glow without undoing all of your skin care’s hard work. Don’t apply it directly to your face, however, as it’s made to be mixed with moisturizer. I mix about a half-dropper with a dollop of moisturizer and apply it to the face.
Find a buddy
This isn’t a necessary step, but it might be worth it to have someone help you with hard-to-reach spots. If you don’t have someone to help, try a handy tool like Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Back Applicator to get all over your back and in between your shoulders.
Another tip: don’t forget to get ALL of you — including armpits — to avoid unevenness.
Give it a rinse
Both me and my BFF Gina swear by the after-tan rinse. The color that comes out on your skin when you first apply your tan is the guide color — that’s not the actual color the product will turn, but a way for you to see what you’re doing. (This doesn’t apply to clear tanning waters, however.) The day after self-tanning (or AT LEAST 12 hours after applying), rinse your body in the shower under lukewarm water, but don’t use any products, as they can disrupt the new tan’s barrier. This will rinse off any excess residue and guide color, leaving you with a gorgeous, even glow.
Fix your mistakes
There definitely are things that can go wrong with self-tanning. Tanning mitts typically are used to administer mousses or foams, but I would pick one up anyway to help even out any splatters or streaks. For too-dark patches, use an oil-based sugar scrub or a depilatory cream (be careful if you have sensitive skin) to even out areas where there’s too much pigment. You also can buy a tan eraser, such as Isle of Paradise Over It Magic Self-Tan Eraser, to keep on hand for any mishaps.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT