How To Self-Tan, Without Messing It Up

Follow the tan commandments

It’s a no-brainer: skip time in the sun and seek out formulas that deliver glowing results as believable as the real thing, without the steep (and orange or patchy) learning curve. 

Get Even

The trick to a natural-looking tan is smooth, freshly exfoliated skin. Buff away rough skin around your hands, elbows, knees and feet with an oil-free scrub to prevent dry patches from absorbing excess colour. Follow with a tan eraser to lift any existing colour and finish with a lightweight lotion.

TRY: GOLDFADEN MD Doctor’s Body Scrub Body Dermabrasion, $138;

This scrub works double-time with polishing crystals and fruit enzymes for soft, smooth and tan-ready skin.

Goldfaden MD Doctor's Body Scrub

TRY: ISLE OF PARADISE Over It Magic Self-Tan Eraser, $37;

Erase clingy colour with this exfoliating glycolic acid and micellar water mist.

ISLE OF PARADISE Over It Magic Self-Tan Eraser

TRY: GO-TO Skin Party Body Lotion, $34;
A lightweight body lotion will help you achieve a streak-free application and extend the life of your colour, too.

Go-To Skin Party

Feel Your Way

For novices, tanning mousse offers quick-drying colour with a built-in bronzer that guides you to an even finish. Once you’ve gained confidence, Tan-Luxe founder Marc Elrick suggests trying a clear formula, which is easier to formulate without that scent and even less likely to streak.

Tanrixx Self Tanning Mouse

TRY: TANTRIXX Self Tanning Mousse in Dark, $29.95;

This classic mousse formula delivers a deep bronze hue while nourishing skin with kakadu plum, coconut and avocado.

Gear Up

Just as you use tools to give your foundation a flawless finish, your tan can also benefit: work a tanning mitt or brush across your skin in circular motions to buff the formula. You’ll have a smooth and natural-looking finish (and cleaner hands).

TRY: BONDI SANDS Body Brush, $24.95;

For zero streaks, this kabuki-style brush works like your foundation brush, ensuring a smooth and even application.

Bondi Sands Body Brush

Go Slow

There’s a lot to be said for taking the time to build up to your desired shade. Gradual tanner hydrates neglected skin while imparting a subtle tint. “These formulas are foolproof,” says Luna Bronze director and co-founder Rhiannon Hall. “They apply like a normal moisturiser and develop so slowly that you’ll never wake up to orange streaks.”

TRY: TAN-LUXE The Body Illuminating Self-Tan Drops, $75;

For custom colour, this concentrate transforms body lotion into a self-tanner that is perfectly suited to your skin tone and desired depth.

Tan Luxe The Body Illuminating Self Tan Drops

TRY: CLARINS Self Tanning Instant Gel, $40;

For a day-by-day glow, this gel sinks into skin for lightweight, gradual colour that’s easy to control and deepen.

Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel

Love Your Dial

Slathering fake-tan on your face can be intimidating, but the skin-glowing benefits make it worthwhile. For best results, face-specific tanners are formulated to be lighter since faces have a tendency to go darker than bodies. At a pinch, a diluted body tanner works too. Before applying, Hall recommends you “prepare your face like your body, but avoid oil-based skincare, which can create a barrier and stop your tan from working”.

TRY: LUNA BRONZE Good Night Face Bronzing Serum, $45.95;

To add colour to your face, this serum is packed with skin-loving ingredients, providing a soft glow overnight.

Luna Bronze Good Night Face Bronzing Serum

Make It Last

“To extend the life of your tan and ensure an even fade, treat it with hydration,” says Elrick. In the shower, Hall also suggests steering clear of exfoliating AHAs and body washes with synthetic fragrances, as they will break down your tan faster.

TRY: ST TROPEZ Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Mist, $49.99;

Top-up your tan with this quick-drying mist, which imparts a flattering glow with the added skin-brightening benefits of vitamins C and D.

ST TROPEZ Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Mist

TRY: KORA ORGANICS Sun-Kissed Glow Body Oil, $80;

Boost your glow on the go by massaging bronzing oil into your limbs and décolletage. Also perfect for fake-tan-phobes.

KORA Organics Sunkisssed Glow Body Oil

This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of marie claire.

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