How To Apply Self Tanner With No Streaks

Stevi Incremona
Stevi graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Drama. When she's not auditioning and running around New York, she's escaping to her original home at the Jersey Shore and most definitely lying on a beach somewhere equidistant between the ocean and tiki bar. She's a coffee snob, craft beer enthusiast, technology nerd, and obviously (most importantly) has a very real addiction to buying and trying affordable beauty products.

Self tanners can be tricky. With so many options, choosing one can be a feat of its own (take a look here to figure out which one to go with tho), then somehow figuring out how to apply it and not end up looking like a streaky monster is another big challenge. Here are some steps to follow when applying these tanners to assure you end up with a natural, even glow.


Step 1: Prep your skin.

This step is insanely important. The dye in self tanners is made to cling on to skin, and the drier the skin is, the more the product will cling. To avoid streakiness and uneven color pay-off, you want to prime your skin by cleansing and exfoliating in the shower. Clean to remove excess oils and grime, then go in with a body scrub (try SheaMoisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Hand & Body Scrub) to remove any dead skin. Pay close attention to drier areas like your elbows, wrist, knuckles, ankles and knees.


Step 2: Moisturize.

You don’t want to apply a moisturizer to your entire body if you’re looking to get the most color out of your tanner, because the lotion will create a barrier the product can’t completely penetrate. However, a smart trick is to apply moisturizer to the drier areas mentioned above that would naturally hold on to more product than other areas. To avoid uneven dark spots, apply some of your favorite moisturizer to your wrists, knees and elbows, and allow to sink in for a few minutes.


Step 3: Tan Your Body.

Put on your gloves or tanning mitt and squeeze a pump of the mousse into your hands, apply directly to skin and immediately work it in. If you have not worked with a particular product before, err on the side of lighter coverage. You can always reapply for a darker base later on.

Because tanner takes a moment to set, I like to apply first to all of the areas that don’t require me bending and creating any creases in my body that could move product around unevenly. So, I do my stomach and chest first, then my arms while my stomach is drying. Then I apply tanner to my calves, knees, then upwards to my thighs. I finish with my back.


Step 4: Get Your Back.

This is the trickiest part of self-tanning, in my opinion, but this tip has changed the game a bit. Do yourself a favor and purchase a tanning mitt on Amazon (I like the St. Tropez one best). You can definitely get away with applying most tanners with gloves, but tanning mitts really do make everything easier – especially this.

Take a loofah that has a handle and cover it with the mitt. Secure the mitt over the loofah with a hair tie, and voila! You have just made your wingspan double. Squeeze one pump of the self tanner onto the mitt and apply it to your back working in circles to make sure the coverage is even. This will work so much better than the awkward dance you’ll inevitably do trying to get your fingertips to evenly apply product to your chicken bones. Trust.


Step 5. Hands and Feet.

You’ll want to have saved your extremities for last as they are a bit troublesome. Because the skin on our feet and hands are exposed to more, they’re inherently a bit more calloused and rough, which means they’ll cling to the tanner. Also if you’ve noticed, when you naturally tan, your feet – and especially hands – are often times lighter than the rest of your body because you wash them or cover them more often, leading to more cell turn over.

Ergo, when applying tanner, I do this: Mix 1 part self tanner with 1 part moisturizing lotion and apply to the hands and feet, making sure to blend in between your fingers and toes. Pay close attention to knuckles, joints, wrists and ankles and try to avoid letting excess product settle into those areas. The wash of color will be lighter, but I promise it will look so much more natural this way.


Step 6. Face.

This step is totally optional. A lot of people choose not to self-tan their face, and instead purchase a darker foundation to match their bodies. I, however, prefer an all over even look. There are tanners out there specifically formulated for the face, so if you have super sensitive, reactive skin, they might be worth looking into. To tan my face, I simply take my favorite moisturizer and mix it with about a half a pump of self tanner and allow it to soak in. The lotion gives me a lighter wash of color that I find appears most natural.


Step 7. Make it last.

After you’ve let your tanner set overnight, and washed the color guard off in the shower, you want to make sure you stay on top of moisturizing your skin. Occasionally the tanner will have a drying effect, so you’ll want to be diligent about using a lotion to ensure that dry patches that could cause flaking and uneven fading don’t occur. Jergen’s actually makes a lotion that’s specifically formulated to make your tan last. It is highly possible that this is a gimmick, but I have certainly bought into it and use it on the reg. Any moisturizer you like will do just fine, though. When your tanner begins fading, go in with an exfoliator and start all over again. Happy tanning!


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