Guide for the perfect self-tan

Using self-tanning products at home is better for your skin than sunbathing and better for your wallet than getting a spray tan in a beauty salon. You’ll get a more permanent result than by applying a bronzer or a tinted day cream which give instant results but will also rub and wash off easily. Self-tanner doesn’t need to be added on daily or after each time cleaning your skin, as it will usually stay on for two to three days at least. If you’d like to keep a subtle, healthy tone on your face all year round or get a darker tan for your body in summer, these tips will help you achieve a nice, even outcome.


You should exfoliate the skin either the day before or just before applying the self-tanner. Self-tanners dye the cells on the surface layer of the skin, so it’s good to get rid of the dead skin cells on top first. In this way, the self-tan not only stays on a little longer, but is also easier to spread evenly.


Self-tanner is absorbed better and more evenly into moisturized skin, but depending on the product, the moisturizing is usually better to be done in the previous days. Most self-tanning products also do the moisturizing, and using a moisturizer under one can prevent the self-tanner from being properly absorbed. However, on particularly dry or wrinkled areas or where you want the self-tanner to appear less dark, you can apply moisturizer right before it. For example elbows, knees and knuckles are areas where self-tanner tends to stick to too much, causing these areas to get darker than others.

Careful application

Focus and take your time when applying the self-tanner. Use rotating movements and try to keep the amount of product even all over the skin. Pay special attention around the hairline, eyebrows and the borders of applying the product. You can make the borders less visible and more faded by careful patting or rubbing with a smaller amount of product, or blending it with moisturizer. You can wear a self-tanning glove or a regular rubber glove to avoid discoloration of nails and fingers, although careful washing after should also be enough. In the end you can apply a bit on the self-tanner to the back of your palms and then carefully wash only the fingers.

self-tan guide

Avoid stains

Allow the self-tanner to dry thoroughly before contact with white or light colored textiles. Having a dark pillowcase in the night after application can be a good idea, maybe bedsheets, too. Intense sweating and abrasion can make some color come off from a self-tan even once it has already dried. Self-tan stains do usually come off relatively easily. For example, dishwashing soap can be used.

Adjusting the intensity of tan

The use of gradually tanning products is usually considered safer when worrying about a too dark result. With them you get a light color, which is then layered up to darker in the following application times. You can, however, do basically the same by mixing a non-gradual self-tanner with moisturizer if you think the shade might be too dark. Use only a little the first time and gradually increase the amount of self-tanner until you get to the shade and darkness you want.

Products for the face and body

If the skin on your face is not particularly sensitive, the product intended for the body usually works for the face as well. If you tend to get clogged pores, make sure the product you apply to your face does not contain the commonly pore-clogging ingredients. If you use different products for your face and body, try to find as similar shade as possible or stick to products from the same brand or line. Also pay attention to carefully blending the border of different products used on your neck or décolleté.

Make it last

Don’t shower, bathe, swim or wash your face until the self-tanner has completely dried and set. Preferably give it 7-8 hours at least. Long baths, swims and excessive sweating even after it’s dried will make the tan come off faster. Don’t exfoliate again until you want to get rid of the tan or apply the self-tanner again. If possible, use a gentler cleanser than usually and avoid rubbing the skin too much to preserve the tan longer. Keep moisturizing the skin so the tan will fade more evenly instead of coming off in patches.

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