The Best Self-Tanning Tips From the Girl Who Has Tried Them All

This article has been syndicated from Kelsey Barnes, an InfluenceHer Collective Member. Read the full post here

My first brush with self-tanning came freshman year of high school: I was entering a ballroom dancing competition, and it was stressed that a deep tan was essential for looking the part. Since that time, I have used self-tanner throughout my figure skating career, as an Ice Girl for the NHL, as a blogger, and as a general pale girl who wants to have a year-round summer glow.

I’ve literally tried them all – liquids, sprays, professional airbrushing, booths, towelettes. You name it. I’ve tried it. Through all these years of self-tanning, I’ve learned quite a few lessons. I’ve also learned the types of tanning that I think work best, which is why below I’m breaking down some of my favorite methods of self-tanning and tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.

General self-tanning tips

The number of times I’ve had streaky legs or orange palms from self-tanning is too high to even count. And to be honest, even the best of us screw up our self-tanner from time to time. The tips below are ones I have learned along the way and will help you keep the number of weird self-tanner accidents to a minimum.

  • Take your time – I can’t stress this enough. Whenever I rush through putting my self-tanner on something ends up going wrong.
  • Exfoliate before your first tan and between the next one – This tip can feel like an unnecessary extra step, but tanner tends to fade in weird splotchy ways. Even if you don’t see it yet, once you apply your next self-tan, you’ll start to see areas fade under your new tan. Not a good look. Plus, tanner realllly sticks to dry skin, so it’s best to get rid of as much of it as possible before tanning.
  • Moisturizer is your BFF – Both when applying your tan to keep certain areas from getting too dark and after to maintain your glow. Avoid any lotions that are super heavy, as these can break down your tan. Go for a light moisturizer after tanning to get the best results.
  • Don’t forget your hands, feet and face – Nothing is worse than seeing someone with a glowing tan and a white face or hands. I usually mix lotion with tanner to make it less potent for the backs of my hands. Do this after washing them, so your palms aren’t orange. If you’re worried about breakouts on your face, there are many self-tanner versions just for that. Although, honestly I sometimes find that self-tanner helps stop my breakouts.
  • Be aware that it’s a learning process – Like any skill, you won’t master it the first time. So don’t give up if you end up with orange palms or streaks your first couple of times. Over time, you’ll learn what works for you so you have the best tan possible!

Professional airbrushing

This method definitely has the best results and takes the least amount of effort on your end. Unfortunately, it can be quite expensive. Depending on your location they can run close to $100 a tan. I recommend this method for special events like prom, weddings, or an important vacation.

A professional who knows what they’re doing can control the depth of the tan and ensure there are no streaks. Feel free to go in wearing whatever makes you comfortable. You will have to be undressed in front of the person doing your tan, but you can undress to the level you want. Just remember that whatever you wear will be covered in tanner (I recommend a dark swimsuit or pair of underwear) and will leave “tan lines.”

Make sure to wear loose dark clothing when you leave to ensure that it doesn’t rub off or stain. As with all self-tanning, make sure not to shower for at least 4-6 hours (yes, you will smell, but it’ll be worth it).

Spray booths

I love using the spray booths. They’re much more affordable than the airbrushing, but a lot easier than putting a lotion on yourself. Always make sure to slather your palms and the bottoms of your feet in barrier cream before stepping in the booth. Make sure to be careful because it will be slippery, but this will keep the bottoms of your feet from ending up a dirty brown.

Follow the instructions inside for the poses, but avoid letting your palms point straight at the spray jets. Even with the barrier cream, they’ll end up orange if you do this. I also like to pop my booty and flex my hamstrings when getting my back sprayed. Otherwise, you’ll end up with white spots under your butt. Not very cute in a swimsuit!

At-home liquids, mousses, sprays, & towelettes

These are some of the most affordable options. The self tanner you buy can range from the more expensive St. Tropez to my personal drugstore favorite, L’Oreal Sublime Bronze. I like to use self-tanner weekly, so I tend to gravitate towards the cheaper versions.

While doing your tanner at home is the most affordable, it is also the most at-risk for mistakes. This is where I really stress taking your time. Just the other day, I rushed through putting my tanner on and ended up with a lot of white spots I had missed. Moisturizer is your best friend for these methods. Rub it into your knees, ankles, and elbows before you start. The tanner will stick to any dry skin like crazy. I like to slather lotion on my palms and wrists before I begin. Often I also wash my hands and reapply lotion to my palms halfway through applying my tanner. This helps minimize the risk of orange palms.

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