Beauty Note: Sunlessly Sun Kissed

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Tanning is so old school. These days we ladies know better than to coat our skin in oil and bake all day in the sunshine. No thank you! I love a good glow, but I’ll opt for a self-tanner and skip the premature aging and skin damage please. Unfortunately there are many lessons to be learned when it comes to self-tanners. Self-tanning mishaps are embarrassing, but they happen to the best of us. Streaky application and orange palms are just a few of the easy-to-spot giveaways that you’ve been (shhh!) faking it.

So here are a few tips on how to look sun kissed without the sun…


  • One of the most important steps for self-tanning is to exfoliate your skin. Before you get started, hop into the shower and give your skin a good scrub.
  • Also, avoid shaving immediately before (or after) applying self tanner.
  • When your skin is nice and clean, towel off and make sure you are completely dry. Once you’re dry, apply a barrier ointment (Vaseline, Aquaphor, Bag Balm…) onto your fingernails, toenails and cuticles to avoid discoloration.


  • Every self-tanner is different and they come in all different forms (gels, foams, lotions, sprays, towelettes… just to name a few). Your application strategy will depend on which one you choose to use. Sprays are pretty simple. They can be done over an old towel and dry fairly quickly. When applying gels, lotions or foams, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is getting it on their palms. This just looks unnatural and a little weird. You can avoid this by cleaning you hands immediately after applying the self-tanner.
  • Using a nailbrush and soap, scrub your palms to make sure none of the tanner remains. This strategy comes with some risk though and might not be 100% effective. If you don’t want to use your bare hand you can always slip on a pair of disposable latex gloves to protect them. Another way to avoid orange palms is to simply not use your hands. Instead, use a sponge paintbrush (you can buy these at hardware stores). Try to get one that is 3 inches wide for effective coverage.
  • Before you get started, always test a small amount of self-tanner on your skin. The same tanner can react differently on two separate people, so always try a test spot the day before to make sure you won’t end up looking like an oompa loompa.
  • When you are ready to apply begin at your feet and work your way up to avoid creasing the color by bending over.
  • Once your entire body (with the exception of your palms and the bottom of your feet) has an even coat of self-tanner on it, apply a layer of lotion around your wrists, ankles, elbows, the backs of your knees and underarms. Basically you are slightly diluting the color in these areas that naturally appear lighter on your body. This will make your tan appear most realistic.


  • Wait at least ten minutes before putting any clothes on and when you do get dressed wear something dark to avoid stains.
  • I personally prefer to use self-tanners in the evening because I don’t like the scent or the feel of them on my skin. That way I can tan before bed and wake to a shower and bronzed skin.

If all this just sounds a little to scary for you then try a gradual tanning lotion. They take longer to show results, but they are effective with a lower risk of streaking and orange palms. Many of you recommend Jergens Natural Glow as your favorite gradual sunless tanner in the comments to my Get Gorgeous… Gams blog. If you haven’t already, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Oh no! Something has gone wrong. Your color is uneven, too dark or too orange. There are a couple tricks to shortening the lifespan of your less-than-perfect paint job. One is to take a dip in a pool! The chlorine will help to fade your tan. Another option is to use a scrub in the shower for the next couple of days. And if all else fails… wear long sleeves and pants. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Personally, my favorite sunless tanner is Kate Somerville Somerville360 Tanning Towelettes. But I have also used Dior Self-Tanner too.

Do you have any extra tips or tricks for applying self-tanner?

XO Lauren

Photo: beautifulmakeupsearch
*Affiliate links used
Categories: Beauty Note, Primp
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  • Kelly Hardtmann

    great tips! One of my bestfriends are school mixes her daily body lotion and tan foundation… looks natural, smells good, is safe and looks great!

  • Jennifer Houlahan

    I don’t have any tips but I think that it’s great you’re promoting a sunless way of tanning! :)

  • Julie Haugan

    Well, the best thing is to let your best friend do it for you! If your not a shy lady, that`s a great way to do it! We “”tan”” each other, and the results are way better than when we dfo it alone:P

  • diana seitanidou

    i am really afraid of using self tanner… i tan naturally and i use a sunscreen with high SPF… is that still dangerous??

  • Jhays

    I really love fake bake for fair skin. I have red hair and am very self conscious of my skin color. I don’t tan what so ever and I enjoy having a little bit of color. The lotion comes out nice and even not looking orange (take it from me I’m very very very pale)

  • V K

    I love Jergens Natural Glow Foaming Moisturizer. It looks so natural, dries in seconds and you can see results fast. It’s my go-to for sun-kissed skin without laying out in the sun and damaging my skin.

  • cassandra lobo

    When I dont get the chance to lay out in the sun, I apply Jergen’s Natural Glow. This stuff is heaven in a bottle! Read more about my sunless tan routine here at FrillyFabulous!

    xo, ff

  • Lo

    That was so helpful thanks lauren! :):)

  • Melissa K Weber

    Thank you for including a SAFE way to darken your skin!!! It means a lot of me and lots of other fans I’m sure. You’re a big inspiration Lauren.

  • Toni Collings

    I personally favour the tanning mitt for applying tan, they are great for protecting the palms of your hands and I tend to find they give a better application than anything else I have used.

  • Patrice Lynch

    I’m a redhead which means I have VERY pale skin, I’m obsessed with using tan! I try my best to avoid looking like Casper the ghost but then again I don’t want to look like an extra from Jersey Shore! These are my top picks for Tan :)

    Instant Self Tan:


  • veronicag

    Ive been using self tanner for such a long time now and I am really happy about all the tips you gave… pretty much resolve all my problems. However, one of my problem right now is that Im having a hard time applying it on my back. I always leave darker and whiter spots its so annoying. Any suggestions ?

  • chloe george

    Thanks for the blog :) its what i needed for summer in aus.

  • Toni Collings

    @Veronique – get someone else to do it for you 😉 my favourite tip for tanning my back is to use a spray. Bend forward and spray above your back. The tan falls and settles. Try and only spray from one place to avoid any streaks. It sounds weird but its my failsafe backup plan for when I can’t persuade one of my girls to do it for me!

  • Casey Lynn

    Love that you’re talking about sun-safety and promoting sunless tanning. As a fair skinned, freckled, Irish girl, I am a seasoned sunless tanner PRO. I have some different advice to offer than what you lay out here just based on my personal experience which you can check out by following the link below. Mainly, I address how to tackle your HANDS which is the hardest part, and the faux-glow giveaway if not done properly. My product pics are Jergens & Kiehl’s.

    ^Follow the link to my blog and additional tips and directions on how-to apply sunless tanners like a professional. Thanks!!

  • FIDM Fashion Club

    Self tanning is so new to me but I love it that you’re again tanning salons because they are so bad for your skin! I’ve tried the self tanning and now I’m addicted and won’t ever go back to a tanning salon again! Thanks Lauren for the tips :)

  • Keeler

    I love self-tanner, I have been doing it for years. My mom used to bake in the sun all day and had me addicted to laying out (with no sunscreen) and going to tanning beds. Thankfully, I have stopped both bad habits and replaced them with sunless tanning, and so has my mom. I love Jergens, it is very natural looking a subtle (if you are new to it, it is a great place to start). I use a spray canister, which is great because it doesn’t get on my hands, but it does get on the bottom of my feet, which is gross so make sure to put lotion there if you do the same type of tanning. I also do it right out of the shower when my hair is still wet, that way I can blow dry my hair, and my body at the same time to make sure the tanning solution is dry before putting clothes on. I also wear super baggy clothes after so they don’t touch as much skin.

    Thanks for the post Lauren!!

  • adina carmeli

    Love this blog post! I have quite tanning beds and am now looking into sunless tanning! I have just began using Jergins and i LOVE it!

  • Mackenzie Parker

    It’s funny, because I used to tan all the time and lay out and bake all summer long, and I would get so dark, but now that I have stopped I can’t find a self-tanner that makes my tan look quite as natural :(

  • kmal9er

    I’m 28 yrs old and, thanks to my Norwegian/Polish heavy heritage, have never been much of a sun worshipper. Alas, if only sunless tanning formulas were around when I was in high school (read: really pale prom photos). I happen to love Bare Escentuals Faux Tan. Although I wait until it comes on sale in the very large bottle on QVC (about twice a year). The color is extremely natural looking. Much like Lauren’s post mentions, exfoliating well is crucial. I once read an article on self-tanning tips and it recommended the Baiden Mitten. Honestly, the website for it seemed a bit gimmicky but I bought it anyway. I have to say, it does a ridiculously good job at exfoliating your skin. Almost too good, so you need to be gentle with it. It’s better than any loofah or sponge I’ve ever bought in a pharmacy store. I use it before every self-tanning application or trip to a mystic spray booth and always have pleasing results! Happy and healthy tanning, ladies!

  • Kelly Kugler

    I can honestly say, Jergens Natural Glow is a GREAT summer time moisturizer. I am Irish and German (aka fair skinned with some freckles!) and I do get naturally sunkissed and get a golden tan, but Jergens help keep this glow lasting longer and makes my skin feel great. I like to use the firming version of the product. For the colder months of the year, I use Xen tan products and they are AWESOME. I haven’t had a chance to try the newest product they have (the one with the dial to adjust the color) but it is featured in various magazines and I’m sure it’s great.

  • Andry Paez

    I honestly think that it more fun to go to the beach or a pool and just lay there and get a good tan… I even up the color on my skin afterwards with a tinted mousturizer and the job is done!
    And for those who are really white, the trick is to use a tanning oil with i little bit of protection, like a 30 spf, its great! you’ll get a really good tan without the redness.

    Go natural taning!

  • Trina Vokes

    I am a total Sunless Tanning devotee! I have been doing it for years now and have tried almost everything. I do have a few tips in addition to everything Lauren has said:

    1) rub a thin layer of moisturizer on your feet and ankles as well as knees & elbows before applying the self tanner. This will help those areas not to soak up as much tanner.

    2) Sprays are great to get your back (if you don’t have anyone to help you).

    3) For your first application, I suggest using a better quality self tanner that give more pigment (my favourite is Mystic Tan Step 2 Build Spray)

    4) To maintain your tan for up to a week, use one of the daily moisturizing self tanners (my favourite is Jergens because the smell is OK)

    5) Another trick to fix mistakes is to put a little bit of bleach on a cotton ball or cosmetic pad and rub the darker areas with it. Be sure to rinse afterwards.

    Happy tanning everyone!!

  • Brian H

    You dont mention how to keep it up or build it up? I have no idea how to keep up the color, the bottle says spray every 3 days but do I exfoliate before? And it never gets me dark enough, what do you use to get dark?

  • Katie

    This helped me so much! Thank you. I jumped on the band wagon just the other day and am semi streaky with crazy wrists and ankles!! The lotion tip is great. Thanks Lauren.

  • Ashley

    Very helpful tips! Thanks! :)

  • emma

    Million dollar tan is the kost natural looking tan ive used 😉 a really god one for first timers too!

  • Timothy Allen

    I really impressed with your post because I get several
    reference from it which will help me lot in future.



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