10 Tips for Sunless Tanning

Eileen Bailey Jul 25th, 2014 (updated Jun 2nd, 2015)
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Prepare for sunless tanning products several days in advance
Prepare for sunless tanning products several days in advance

Shave or wax to remove thick hair. Exfoliate the skin on your entire body for several days paying extra attention to dry areas, such as your elbows and knees; this removes any dead skin cells and makes your skin more receptive to the product. Make sure you apply moisturizer to your skin for several days (at the least) before applying the product.

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Apply the tanning in a cool, dry location.
Apply the tanning in a cool, dry location.

Don’t apply the tanner in the bathroom right after your shower. The humidity will interfere with the application. If you are using the bathroom, wait until the humidity in the room has subsided. Make sure you are applying the product to dry skin.

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Use a gradual tanning formula
Use a gradual tanning formula

This type of product darkens your skin a little during the first application and then darkens a little more with subsequent applications. Using a gradual tanning formula lets you choose the shade best for you. If you have fair skin, choose a light or medium color, if you have olive skin, choose a dark formula.

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Use gloves when applying a self-tanner
Use gloves when applying a self-tanner

When you apply a self-tanner without gloves, your hands can absorb the color, making your hands look darker than the rest of your body. If you aren’t wearing gloves, be sure to wash your hands several times through the process. Once you have finished, use a small dab on the tops of your hands so they match the rest of your body.

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Use uniform, broad strokes to apply the self-tanning product
Use uniform, broad strokes to apply the self-tanning product

Work from the ankles up to your torso. Start with a small amount in your hand and use broad, circular strokes. When applying to your feet, avoid the sides of your feet and in between toes as these areas don’t normally tan. Apply the product lightly on areas that tend to be dry such as knees and elbows as these areas will absorb more of the product and can end up darker.

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Dilute the product with moisturizer for certain areas
Dilute the product with moisturizer for certain areas

This includes your knees, ankles, wrists and elbows. Areas where you bend can end up with extra tanning product, using a moisturizer to dilute the product gives these areas a more natural looking tan. If you prefer not to dilute the product, use a tissue to wipe some of the product away from these areas.

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Use the tanning product sparingly on your face and neck
Use the tanning product sparingly on your face and neck

These areas darken more easily than other areas of your body. Start with a small amount in your hands and apply it in circular motions on your nose, cheeks and chin, smoothing the product outward. Use petroleum jelly to protect areas you don’t want to darken, such as your lips and eyebrows. 

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Allow the product to dry
Allow the product to dry

Wait at least an hour before getting dressed to avoid having stains on your clothes. If you need to speed up the drying process, you can use a blow dryer for a few seconds, but you still don’t want to put on any clothes that you won’t mind if they get stained. Wait at least 8 hours before showering and avoid exfoliating for several days.

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Managing streaks
Managing streaks

If you notice streaks of color, there are a few ways you can try to make your tan look more even. Once the eight hours have passed, take a shower, scrubbing those areas that look too dark. You can also dab a tissue or cotton ball in lemon juice and wipe on the spots that are too dark. Leave the lemon juice on for about 15 minutes before washing off.

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Continue to moisturize your skin every day
Continue to moisturize your skin every day

Self-tans disappear as the top layer of your skin dries and flakes off. Keeping it moisturized will help keep it looking even. Some people prefer to use baby oil as a moisturizer. Keep your showers warm rather than hot. Self- tans usually last anywhere from three to seven days.