You are here

All Systems Glow: Self-Tanning Tips

  • Tom Corbett/Shot on location in Playa Del Carmen at

    Step 1: Prep

    To end up with the most even color, you need to do a little advance work. "It's like a painter prepping her canvas," says Ricky Croft, VP Marketing for Sunless Inc. "Always begin with a clean slate." The day before you self-tan, exfoliate from head to toe, using an oil-free body polish or scrub in the shower. You should also shave at least 24 hours prior.

    Step 2: Apply

    Start with clean skin. Rub a light moisturizer on extra-dry areas—hands, elbows, feet and knees—to prevent over-absorption. Standing in front of a mirror, begin with your feet, applying a thin layer, and work your way up. Fiona Locke, tanning expert for St. Tropez product line, suggests using a self-tanning mitt to prevent staining on hands and ensure an even application.

    Choose a product with bronzer—it helps you see where you've applied. Let it dry completely before dressing (15 minutes is a safe bet), and the tan will develop over the next four to six hours. Afterward, if you desire a darker shade, add another thin layer.

    Tip: Before using a new tanner, apply a test patch on your lower leg to see how the color turns out. The exact shade can vary due to the pH level in your skin.

  • Tom Corbett/Shot on location in Playa Del Carmen at

    Step 3: Extend

    For lasting results, avoid chlorine and salt water—both will fade your shade. The key to prolonging color, says Croft, is keeping skin nourished. DHA, the primary active ingredient in all tanners, is extremely drying. Either slather on your go-to cream, or apply a glow lotion, which contains subtle amounts of DHA. The latter will gradually increase your tan's life, while minimizing any imperfections and fading. And lastly, don't forget to drink H20! Being hydrated from within helps too.

  • Tom Corbett/Shot on location in Playa Del Carmen at

    Step 4: Accentuate

    For the final touch, Joanna Schlip, Physicians Formula makeup artist, suggests using a powder bronzer for your face, because it's easier to blend. Choose one that's two shades darker than your skin tone, with some shimmer—not glitter.

    "Bronzer should mimic the way the sun naturally hits the face," Schlip says. Start at the forehead, and draw the number "3," sweeping across the cheekbone, then circling down to the jaw line. Repeat on the opposite side, continuing down to the décolletage.

    Liquid luminizers are a great way to highlight any area you want to emphasize. Try some underneath brows, atop cheekbones and along collarbones. Complement your coloring with the perfect pearlescent shade: olive complexions look best with beige tones; pinky/peach accentuates fair skin.

  • Bryan McCay

    Product Pick to Prep Skin for Self-Tanning

    St. Tropez Tan Optimiser Body Polish

    Massage in circular motions to slough off even the toughest dead skin cells.

    Available at, $20

  • Bryan McCay

    Product Picks: Self-Tanners

    Fake Bake Flawless

    Made from the same luxe formula as the brand's in-spa spray tans. Plus, it comes with a professional mitt to even out and blend.

    Available at Ulta stores, $24

  • Bryan McCay

    Victoria's Secret Beach Sexy Custom Tan

    Twist the dial to choose how subtle or dark you want your glow to go.

    Available at Victoria's Secret stores, $14

  • Bryan McCay

    L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Gel

    Cools upon contact, and dries in seconds. Read: no anxiously waiting to get dressed.

    Available at drugstores, $10.50

  • Bryan McCay

    TanTowel Classic Full Body Self Tanner Towelette

    Just one will cover you from head to toe. Wipe, toss and wash hands. No stress, no mess!

    Available at, $21/5

  • Bryan McCay

    Product Picks to Extend Your Tan

    Jergens Natural Glow Foaming Daily Moisturizer

    Gives you just-right color, but it's so lightweight, you'll forget you've got it on.

    Available at drugstores, $9

  • Bryan McCay

    Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion Medium Bronzing Formula

    Moisturizes to the max with shea butter, almond oil and aloe vera.

    Available at, $14.50

  • Bryan McCay

    Product Picks to Accentuate Your Tan

    Physicians Formula Bronze Booster

    Blends multiple golden shades to match any and all complexions.

    Available at drugstores, $15

  • Bryan McCay

    e.l.f. Radiance Enhancer

    Brush over makeup or on bare skin to highlight your favorite feature.

    Available at, $3

  • Bryan McCay

    Maybelline New York Fit Me! Bronzer

    An a.m. application keeps you glowing through nighttime—no touch-ups required.

    Available at drugstores, $5.50

  • Bryan McCay

    Editors' Pick: Tanee Tan Line Corrector

    Swipe over any missed spots or faded areas—its sponge-pen applicator blends tanner into existing color seamlessly.

    Available at, $7

  • Courtesy of

    Model shot on location in Playa Del Carmen at, toll free (USA) 1-866-479-2738

    Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

    This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.


Love it? Share now!


Loading comments...