All Systems Glow: Self-Tanning Tips

Goof-proof products? Check. Expert application tips? Check. You're officially cleared to self-tan. No streaks, no hassles!

1 of 16

Prep & Apply


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.

2 of 16

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.

3 of 16



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.

4 of 16

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

5 of 16

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

6 of 16

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

7 of 16

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

8 of 16

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

9 of 16

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

10 of 16

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

11 of 16

Product Picks to Accentuate Your Tan


Physicians Formula Bronze Booster

Blends multiple golden shades to match any and all complexions.

Available at drugstores, $15

12 of 16

e.l.f. Radiance Enhancer


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

Available at, $3

13 of 16

Maybelline New York Fit Me! Bronzer


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

Available at drugstores, $5.50

14 of 16

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

15 of 16

Slide belongs to All Systems Glow: Self-Tanning Tips @ page 15

16 of 16

Slide belongs to All Systems Glow: Self-Tanning Tips @ page 16


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.