It is almost December, and the weather in the Northeast is getting colder as the days go by. With talk of snow flurries heading our way, I find myself dreaming of those long, lazy summer days lounging in the sun. Sun Kissed skin reminds me of the summer fun spent outside with my young kids running around in the sprinkler, drawing with chalk in the driveway and blowing bubbles on the lawn. Those memories are part of the reason why I love to self tan, especially as the months get colder and the summer fun becomes a distant memory.
Specific products/brands aside, there are some general guidelines to help you achieve a flawless, even self tan application at home.
- Pick your product!
Know what kind of formula you are using. Are you using a gradual tanning product, instant tan, face product, temporary color? Your formula will help you determine what application method is the most appropriate
- Pick your color!
If you are fair skinned, pick a light to medium shade. If you are olive skinned, pick a dark or deep shade. If the color is initially too light for your taste, you can easily reapply to product to deepen the color.
- Remove hair from the places you want to tan!
Thick body hair can get in the way of an even tan application. Remove hair by your preferred method (shaving, waxing, cream, etc) the prior day or several hours prior. By removing the hair prior, it will help reduce the chance of creating self tanner deposits within the hair follicle. (You know those tiny, blackhead looking type of dots you can get after your tan develops? Shaving too close to your tanning application can open up the pores and open up the chances of tanner depositing too much pigment within them.)
Exfoliating your skin before tanning is SO important! By exfoliating your skin, you will be removing any dry, rough patches that would cause the self tanner to have an uneven application. An uneven application will lead to one thing, a streaky and uneven tan. Also, exfoliating your skin prior will help your tan last longer! Let's get into the basic science behind that quick. The chemicals in the self tanner react with the amino acids in the skin, which is what creates the bronze color we are looking to achieve. Your skin will naturally shed itself and generate new skin cells daily. By exfoliating you will be removing the uppermost layer of skin which is about the be shed by the body, leaving a new, “fresh” layer of skin on the surface for your self tanner to react with. The newer skin cells will stay around longer, which is how the tan will last longer.
Similar to exfoliating, moisturizing you skin will help to lessen the chance of dry patches, leading to an uneven tan. Dry skin will absorb more color than moisturized skin. Make sure your moisturizer is completely absorbed before applying tanning products.
- Make sure your skin is dry!
If applying self tanner after showering, it is important to make sure your skin is completely dry before application. Also, make sure all humidity from your shower has disappeared from the bathroom before application. Wet skin and humidity will lead to, guess what, an uneven tan.
Now that we have covered preparation steps, let's look at the application process.
- Apply moisturizer to any moving parts!
This is my secret trick to getting an even and natural looking tan. You know how earlier I mentioned to make sure your moisturizer is completely absorbed before applying product? Ignore that for this moment only! Apply a thick moisturizer or cream, to all of your joints. Cover your toes, around your ankles, front and backs of the knee, all around your elbows, your hands (extra focus in between the fingers and on the fingers) and around your armpits (the last one sounds silly, but trust me on this one!) These parts of the body tend to have much drier skin than other areas of the body. Prevent the color from collecting too heavily on these spots by applying an extra layer of moisture to them prior to self tanning.
- Start from the bottom up!
For the most even, natural looking tan, apply product starting from your legs working up to you torso, then arms, and if your tanner is safe for use on the face, apply to the face last.
- Blend, blend, blend, blend, blend!
When you think you have blended enough, keep going! For larger areas (legs, torso, arms) using a tanning mitt, or even your hands, to apply product and blend/buff it into the skin will work well. For the back, a long sponge brush or strap will help get those hard to reach areas. (or if you have a friend do it, even better!) For areas such as your ankles/feet, wrist/hands and face (areas that have more crevices and bends which equal a higher chance of uneven color) using a makeup buffing brush will help to seamlessly blend the product into the skin. (ELF Beautifully Bare Blending Brush and ELF Beautifully Precise Airbrush Blender are my two favorite brushes to use for this purpose.) Using circular motions for applying the product will help yield a more even tan.
- Keep those hands free of product!
I know, it sounds weird to keep the tanner off of your hands during application. Hello, how do I apply it if I cant use my hands?! Here is the thing, you can use your hands to apply product, but thoroughly wash and scrub your nails in between each body part to prevent the tanner from overdeveloping on your palms and fingernails/cuticles. Make sure to completely dry your hands after washing!
- Be careful on your face!
Certain parts of your face will naturally absorb more color than other parts so be careful on application. The upper lip will absorb the most color so use very little product on that area. Also, self tanner will collect on the skin under your eyebrows, so apply a thick layer of your facial moisturizer over your eyebrows (My trick that works, apply your face moisturizer to your eyebrows immediately before applying a light layer of self tanner all over the face. Then when there is little to no product left of the brush sweep it over the upper lip to blend into the surrounding skin.)
- Keep those armpits bare!
It sounds silly, but your underarms normally do not get tan, so after applying your self tanner in the area take a damp washcloth and give those underarms a good wipe. Also, make sure to blend the sides of your underarms into your chest and back. No one wants a strange, tan colored ring around their armpits!
- Let it dry!
After applying your self tanner, wait at least 15 minutes for the skin to fully absorb the product and at least an hour for it to fully dry. After those 15 minutes, if you have to get dressed, put on loose clothing that you don't mind getting stained with self tanner. The longer you can let the product dry without disturbing it, the better outcome you will get.
- Missed a spot? Not a problem!
If after your tan is developed and you notice you accidently missed a spot, go back in with some of the product on a brush and apply it directly to those areas.
- Did you really read the product instructions?
Some self tanners have specific instructions for use. If your product indicates after wearing the product for 1 to 2, or 4 to 6 hours, to wash it off in the shower, do it! Some products can “over process” and leave you looking like an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka’s factory! So make sure to rinse the product off in cool water when it is time to do so. The cool water will A) rinse the product off, as indicated by the usage instructions and B) help prevent leakage of color out of the skin (warm/hot water will fade your tan faster than cool water.)
Last but not least, to really help extend the life of your tan, keep your skin moisturized! Moisturized skin is happy skin!
Those are all of my tips and tricks to creating a flawless, even, streak free, natural tan at home. What do you like to do when applying your self tanner? Do you have any secrets to help achieve a bronzed goddess glow?