Do you ever look at photos of yourself from the summer during these cold, dark winter months and wonder where that bronzed goddess went? Well, fear no more! You can achieve that most confident, bronzed version of yourself without the harmful UV rays in a matter of hours! Self-tanner can be so amazing to give you your summer glow in the middle of January – but at the same time, it can go horribly wrong, causing you to look like a streaky clementine. It’s all about learning the necessary steps to get that amazing tan and what works best for your skin. 

I firmly believe that to have a good self-tan, it is all about the prep. The first step is to exfoliate–this will remove your dead skin cells and even out the skin’s surface. The day before you plan to self-tan (about 24 hours), you need to shave and exfoliate. This will give your skin time to settle and your pores to close before applying the tanner. Prep is so important! If you shave right before applying tanner, the tanner will seep into your pores and give you a very uneven, splotchy tan. Then, the next day, a couple of hours before you plan to self-tan, take a shower, rinse off any deodorant or perfumes, and lightly moisturize around your driest areas. Put lotion around your ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. This will help to ensure that your tan will not be patchy.  

Now that your skin is properly prepped for the best tan of your life, it’s time for the fun stuff: the actual tanner application. The first rule is always to use a tanning mitt; never apply it with just your bare hands. My personal favorite is the Loving Tan self-tanner mitt – it’s made of a dense, almost velvet material and provides a streak-free application. It’s also water resistant inside to ensure your hand is not stained with any tanner.  

When applying tanner, my best tip is to just apply one pump at a time and blend into the skin – you can always add more coats, but it’s hard to remove tanner once you have put on too much. When applying it to difficult spots such as your knees and elbows, bend your knees and form your hand into a claw shape. Lastly, make sure you are applying your tan in a well-lit area in front of a mirror to ensure that you are evenly tanning your whole body – don’t forget your back! 

After your tan is applied, ensure it’s dry before wearing dark, loose clothing. If it feels sticky in some areas, apply a little baby powder to make sure that the tanner doesn’t rub off. I recommend doing it before bed and sleeping in it because, personally, I despise the feeling of marinating in the tan for hours. If you are going to sleep in your tan, I would recommend getting a sleeping bag liner – it sounds so weird, but it is essentially a liner that you can slip into your bed to avoid getting orange stains on your sheets. If you do get self-tanner on your sheets or clothing, fear not: while every self-tanner is different – they are usually water-based and will come out in the wash, maybe with a little spot treatment.  

So you know how to apply the self-tanner – but the question remains: What self-tanner should you apply? There are so many tans on the market, and it’s overwhelming, to say the least. I think that some self-tanners can work great for some and not for others. Here are some highly recommended brands at a few different price points and personal favorites of mine. There are also different types of tanners- some are a mouse with a pump applicator, and others are drops that you put in lotion. Personally, I like to use mouse formulas so that I can see where I am applying the tanner, but a lot of people prefer to use the tanning drops for easy application.

Loving Tan

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St. Tropez

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Coco & Eve

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B. Tan

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Bondi Sands

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Tanning Drops

Isle of Paradise

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Honorable mention: Jergen’s gradual self-tanner. It smells amazing and is perfect if you just want a little color and moisture to your skin. It’s also super affordable; you can get it at most drugstores and Target. Just make sure to wash your hands after you use it because it can leave a little stain on your hands from applying the lotion, but you can apply it with your hands and get a nice streak free bronze. 

Lastly, to maintain your tan make sure to moisturize and don’t use harsh exfoliators (luffas, scrubs, etc.) until you are ready to have your tan come off! You are now on your way to be a self-tanning professional; your skin will thank you in 20 years! Lastly, if you ever have an awful tan experience, know that there are self-tan removers you can buy. When first starting to tan, or if you self-tan regularly, it might be a good idea to stock up so that if you ever have awful streaks or apply too much tanner you have a backup plan. I would recommend of my favorites: the Bondi Sands Self-Tan remover. 

Featured image via Pinterest.

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