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Self-Tanners: Your Guide to Sun-Kissed Perfection, Safely


All about self-tanners.

Looking to keep that sun-kissed glow all year 'round? Want to rock a radiant, sun-kissed glow without subjecting your skin to harmful UV rays? Enter the world of self-tanners, your secret weapon for a healthy, bronzed skin tone. In this comprehensive guide, we'll answer all your burning questions about self-tanners, so you can confidently embark on your glow up journey!

What is a Self-Tanner?

A self-tanner, also known as a sunless tanner or faux tan, is a cosmetic product designed to give your skin a tan appearance without the need for sun exposure. It's like bottling sunshine! They come in various forms, including lotions, creams, sprays, mousses, and even wipes. They work by using active ingredients to darken the top layer of your skin temporarily.

How Do Self-Tanners Work?

Self-tanners contain active ingredients like dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and erythrulose, which react with the amino acids in the outer layer of your skin. This chemical reaction creates a brown pigment called melanoidins, resulting in a tan-like appearance. The tan develops gradually, typically within a few hours to a day after application, and can last for several days.

How Long Does a Self-Tanner Last?

The longevity of your self-tan depends on several factors, such as the product's formulation, your skin type, and how well you prepare and maintain your skin. Generally, self-tans last anywhere from 3 to 10 days, depending on the quality of the self-tanner. To prolong your "sun tan", moisturize daily and avoid activities that can exfoliate your skin, like hot baths or vigorous scrubbing.

how do self-tanners work

What Are Self-Tanners Made Of?

Self-tanners primarily consist of three key ingredients:

DHA (Dihydroxyacetone)

This sugar-derived compound is the star of self-tanners. It reacts with the amino acids in your skin to create a tan color.


Often used in combination with DHA, erythrulose helps provide a more even and longer-lasting tan.

Additional Ingredients 

Self-tanners may also contain moisturizers, antioxidants, and botanical extracts to nourish and protect your skin.

Are Self-Tanners Safe?

Yes, self-tanners are generally safe when used as directed. Unlike sunbathing or tanning beds, which can increase your risk of skin cancer and premature aging, self-tanners don't expose your skin to harmful UV radiation. However, it's essential to perform a patch test before applying a self-tanner to ensure you don't have any adverse reactions or allergies to its ingredients.

Pros and Cons of Using a Self-Tanner


Safe Alternative: Self-tanners provide a safe way to achieve a tan without UV exposure.

Quick Results: You can achieve a sun-kissed glow in just a few hours, with no need to spend hours in the sun.

Year-Round Tan: Self-tanners are perfect for maintaining your tan during the colder months or when sun exposure is limited.

Customizable: You can choose the intensity of your tan by selecting a product with the desired DHA concentration.

Minimize Skin Damage: By avoiding sunburn and UV damage, self-tanners help protect your skin's long-term health.


Learning Curve: Achieving a streak-free, natural-looking tan may require some practice.

Temporary: Self-tanners fade over time and require regular reapplication for a lasting tan.

Odor: Some self-tanners can have a distinct scent, although many modern formulas are designed to minimize this issue.

Risk of Staining: Be cautious around clothing and fabrics immediately after application to prevent staining.

How to Choose the Best Self-Tanner

Selecting the right self-tanner can make all the difference in achieving a beautiful, natural-looking tan. Here are some tips for choosing the best one for you:

  1. Skin Type: Consider your skin type when choosing a self-tanner. Different formulations work better for dry, oily, or sensitive skin.
  2. Tanning Intensity: Determine how dark you want your tan to be. Self-tanners come in various shades, so pick one that matches your desired level of bronzing.
  3. Application Method: Think about your preferences and skill level. Some people find lotions or creams easier to apply, while others prefer sprays or mousses.
  4. Ingredients: Check the ingredient list for any potential allergens or irritants. Look for products with added moisturizers and antioxidants to benefit your skin.
  5. Brand Reputation: Research brands and read reviews to find trusted self-tanner options with a reputation for quality.

What Are the Best Self-Tanners?

While the "best" self-tanner can vary depending on individual preferences and skin types, here are some popular options that consistently receive positive reviews:

  1. St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse: Known for its natural color and long-lasting results, this mousse is a favorite among self-tanning enthusiasts.
  2. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam: This Australian brand offers a wide range of shades, making it easy to find the perfect match for your skin tone.
  3. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer: Ideal for beginners, this gradual tanning lotion allows you to build a subtle tan over time.
  4. Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops: These customizable drops can be added to your favorite moisturizer for a tailored facial tan.
  5. Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops: Available in various shades for face and body, these drops are vegan and cruelty-free.

Remember, the best self-tanner for you is the one that suits your skin type, desired tan intensity, and application preferences. Experiment with different products to find your perfect match.

How to Use Self-Tanners: Best Practices

How to use self tanner.

So, you've got your self-tanner ready and are eager to get the process started. But, how do you apply self-tanner effectively and evenly for the best results? Here's your step-by-step guide to mastering the art of self-tanning and some essential rules to follow along the way.

How to Apply Self-Tanner

Step 1: Prepare Your Skin

Exfoliation: Gently exfoliate your skin in the shower to remove dead skin cells and create a smooth canvas for the self-tanner. Focus on rough areas like elbows, knees, and ankles.

Shave or Wax: If you plan to remove unwanted hair, do so before applying self-tanner.

Moisturize Dry Areas: Apply a lightweight moisturizer to particularly dry areas, such as elbows, knees, and ankles. This will help prevent the self-tanner from clinging to dry patches.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools

Self-Tanner: Choose a self-tanner that suits your skin type and desired tan intensity.

Application Mitt or Gloves: Using an application mitt or disposable gloves helps prevent stained hands and ensures an even application.

Mirror: Position yourself in a well-lit area with a full-length mirror to see all areas of your body.

Towel or Tarp: Lay down a towel or plastic tarp to catch any drips or spills and protect your flooring.

Step 3: Apply the Self-Tanner

Work in Sections: Begin with one section of your body, such as your arms or legs. Apply the self-tanner in long, sweeping motions, blending it evenly as you go. Avoid rubbing too vigorously to prevent streaking.

Use Light Strokes: For areas like the hands, feet, and face, use a lighter touch and less product. These areas tend to absorb self-tanner more quickly, so go easy to achieve a natural look.

Blend Well: Be meticulous about blending at the edges of each section to prevent harsh lines or uneven color.

Step 4: Allow Time to Dry

After applying the self-tanner, allow it to dry completely before getting dressed. This typically takes about 10-15 minutes, but it's a good idea to check the product's instructions for specific drying times.

Step 5: Maintain Your Tan

To maintain your tan and keep it looking fresh:

Hydrate: Moisturize daily to prolong the life of your self-tan. Dry skin can cause the tan to fade more quickly.

Avoid Exfoliation: Skip harsh exfoliants and scrubbing, as they can strip away the top layer of your skin, taking your tan with it.

Shorter Showers: Try to take shorter, cooler showers to minimize the fading of your self-tan.

What is a self-tanner?

Rules for Applying Self-Tanner:

1. Always Do a Patch Test: Before applying a new self-tanner, perform a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for any allergic reactions or skin sensitivities.

2. Start Light: If you're new to self-tanning or trying a new product, opt for a lighter shade initially. You can build up to a darker tan if desired.

3. Wash Your Hands: After applying self-tanner to your body, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid stained palms and fingers.

4. Blend and Buff: Ensure you blend the self-tanner evenly and buff out any streaks immediately after application.

5. Don't Forget Ears and Neck: Pay attention to often-overlooked areas like the ears and neck to maintain a natural look.

6. Watch for Water: Avoid activities that cause excessive sweating or exposure to water for several hours after applying self-tanner to prevent streaking or uneven color development.

7. Patience is Key: Allow the self-tanner to dry completely before dressing or coming into contact with fabrics to avoid staining.

8. Be Wary of Your Face: Be cautious when applying self-tanner to your face. Start with a small amount and blend well. Many people prefer using self-tanning products specifically designed for the face.

9. Maintain and Reapply: Keep your tan looking fresh by moisturizing regularly and reapplying self-tanner as needed.

By following these steps, tips, and rules, you can achieve a beautiful, streak-free self-tan. With practice, you'll become a self-tanning pro and enjoy radiant skin year-round!

Keep in mind, while self-tanners are a fantastic way to achieve your bronzed beauty goals, they are not a replacement for sunscreen. Some self-tanners even include SPF in the formulation, but you still need additional protection! Using a light SPF mist is an easy and convenient way to reapply every two hours. Remember to shake vigorously, spray about nine inches from your face five or six times, and allow to dry completely. This will ensure you don't ruin your self-tanner but maintain proper sunscreen coverage.

With the right product and proper application, you can enjoy a beautiful, natural-looking tan year-round. And, just as a reminder, while a healthy tan is always in, tan or no-tan, you are beautiful just the way you are!

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