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