9 of the Best Self Tanning Tips – At-Home Self-Tanning Routine

By Tara | Updated: 15/04/2024

If you are not someone who applies fake tan regularly, there can be a lot of trial and error in getting it right.

Having used self tanner every week for the last 8 years, I have had my fair share of tanning mishaps and things going terribly wrong. My routine has evolved over time and I have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting bronzed.

With so many tanning products available on the market it can take time to understand what will work best for you.

If you want to get the most out of your fake tan, there are a number of self-tanning tips and tricks to use in order to get and maintain a flawless look.

9 of the Best Self-Tanner Tips

1. Exfoliate 

Kicking off our list of fake tan tips is to exfoliate before application. This is one of the most important steps to prep before you apply fake tan as it works to remove dead skin cells and dry or flaky skin prior to your tan application. There are many great exfoliating mitts that remove the tan well.

I find self-tanner typically lasts a week and towards the end of the 7 days it can become quite patchy.

Start your routine by having a warm bath and gently exfoliating your skin with a mitt. The hot water softens your skin and allows the existing tan to be removed more easily.

Once you have removed any existing self-tanner or exfoliated any dead skin, wait a day or a minimum of 5 hours before applying your new layer of tan. Skin tends to be quite sensitive after exfoliating and applying tan immediately after can irritate and sting. Also, I find fake tan doesn’t apply as well on freshly exfoliated skin.

If needed, shave your legs before you apply the self tanner. Shaving them after the fact tends to scrape much of the tanner off with it.

2. Moisturise Dry Areas

For dry-prone areas such as elbows and knees and hands and ankles, it is recommended to place moisturiser on at least a day prior before you apply the self-tanner. The self-tan product can cling to drier areas and can end up looking relatively darker or stained than the rest of your body and is harder to remove.

Apply a small pump of moisturiser on dry areas and allow it to absorb into the skin before applying your self-tanner.

3. Use a Foam Tan

Over time you will begin to understand what self-tanner works best for you.

My experience using many different types of products and formulas, I have come to have a preference for foam tanners or tanning mousse over spray bottles.

Why? You can use a small pump of the foam which spreads over an area nicely. A spray bottle tends to run out quickly and can take a while to absorb into the skin.

Consider some of the best-rated foam tanners below or check out my full list of favourite foam tanners.

4. Use a Self-tanning Mitt

There is not a more obvious sign of wearing self-tan than bright orange-stained hands. This is why I wouldn’t dream of applying self-tanner with my hands. The solution is to get yourself a good quality tanning mitt.

A self-tanning mitt allows for a streak-free application and makes the process a breeze.

5. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes

This should go without saying, but there is no worse feeling than putting on a tight pair of jeans straight after applying self-tanner. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also end up removing some of the tan or leaving lines where the jeans fold.

It is always recommended to wear dark, loose-fitting clothes after you apply a fake tan. If it is a possibility, try not to put any clothes on for at least 10 – 20 minutes after the application to let it dry.

6. Tan Maintenance

This is probably one of the most important fake tan tips!

One of the best ways to extend a new coat of tanner is applying moisturising tanning lotions every 2 – 3 days after initial application.

Not only does it keep your skin hydrated (if you are someone with naturally dry skin), but also maintains the colour of your tan as, without it, it would begin to gradually fade from showering.

I have tried a few brands of tanning moisturiser but find that Dove Summer Glow Body Lotion – Medium to Dark provides the most natural glow.

7. Protect Your Sheets!

Tanning overnight can be a convenient way to avoid being sticky and uncomfortable throughout the day if you have applied a fresh layer of self-tan.

While it’s great waking up with a deep tan, it can also stain your sheets or even mattress if you are not careful.

There are a few options to safeguard your bed from fake tan stains.

8. Mix Up Your Face Tanner

If you want to use a self-tanning product on your face, I would strongly recommend you dilute it with a serum or moisturiser — especially if it is your first time using the product.

I have tried several face tanners and almost all of them turn out to look much darker than expected. Add 1 -2 drops of your favourite moisturiser or serum and wash off when the colour has developed. You can then adjust your drops depending on the colour you are looking to achieve.

Related Read: 9 of the Best Self-Tanners for Face for a Natural-Looking Glow

9. Use a Lighter Shade on Hands and Feet

I will often use fake tan (either spray or foam) that is a lighter shade for my hands. This is because if you have ever used a self-tanner before, you will know it generally looks most obvious on your hands. Using a lighter shade on your hands will allow you to build the colour and avoid the obvious fake tan look.

Wrap Up

Whether you are a tanning beginner or looking to improve your routine, these are some practical fake tan tips you can follow to get the best possible faux tan. For more self-tanner tips, check out my post on how to make your fake tan last longer.

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Tara Lusk is the founder and creator of Beauty Space
Tara Lusk is a Sydney-based beauty enthusiast and the founder of Beauty Space. She launched the blog in 2018 to showcase the best beauty and skincare brands emerging from Australia, while also providing insider tips and tricks for hair and skincare. With a focus on tried-and-true products, Tara puts the latest cult products to the test to separate hype from substance.

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