How Long Does Self Tanner Last? It Depends…

How Long Feature

By Ashlyn Noah
October 6, 2021

Having a sun-kissed tan is more easily attainable now thanks to self tanning products. 

Without the harmful exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, self tanners make it possible to look like you just got back from an exotic vacation without leaving your own home.

But how long will that flawless look last?

If you have been using self tanning products, you may be wondering how long it will take before you need to apply more lotion.

We have done our research and figured out how to best use these self tan moisturizers to consistently have a bronzed glow your friends will be jealous of.

How Long Will A Self Tanner Last?

Sunless tanners are a safe alternative for tanning beds or possibly getting a nasty burn from laying out outside.

Harmful sun exposure from tanning beds / sun tanning darkens skin by increasing production of melanin, while self tanners safely, temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

Self tanners never expose your skin to UV radiation (UV rays) like tanning beds/sun tanning will.Your exfoliating mitt will scrub away the dead skin cells that sit on the top layer, which then scrubs away your self tan. 

A good high-quality spray tan may last for up to 10 days, depending on how dark you want your golden glow. 

Whatever self tanner route you go, lotion, spray, or self tanning mousse, only covers the top layer of skin compared to actual sun tanning or tanning beds.

Sun tanning and tanning beds use UV rays to create a tan that develops deeper than the first layer, which is why actual tans last longer than self tans.

If you would like your self tan skin to last longer than 5 days, there are simple tricks you can add into your skincare routine to help it last just a little bit longer. 

Leave The Self Tanner On For Its Certain Amount Of Time

If you read the label of your bronzer carefully, there’s a specific amount of time your self tanning lotion recommends you leaving on before washing off.

Some sunless tanners recommend an hour while some recommend overnight.

This allows the product to have ample time to set into the top layer of skin and develop the tan before you get in the shower to wash it off.

A good self tanner will typically suggest letting the product set for 6 to 8 hours.

An excellent tanning tip is to apply your self tan product at a time where you will not interact with water or sweat during the recommended drying time. 

Showering after applying your self tanner can also result in streaks or a splotchy tan. 

woman with tan legs laying down on the beach

Look At The Shade

Your self tanning lotion or body mousse can vary in shades.

The typical sunless tanner shades come in:

  • Light
  • Medium
  • Dark

Each shade will vary in days the tan lasts with the lighter shade starting somewhere around 5 days. 

Self tanners typically contain dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in the product that develops the pigment of tan you’re looking for.

Medium and darker shades will contain more DHA, which means your product will last a few days longer.

Your Prep Work Matters

Besides being consistent in applying your self tanner, having a bronzed glow for longer starts with your skincare prep.

To best prep your skin and give your self tanner the right canvas to work with, you should exfoliate to scrub away the dead skin cells and have smoother skin for your product to absorb in.

If you wait to exfoliate a day or several after applying your self tanner, you will risk scrubbing it off and erasing your tan. 

After exfoliating, it will be tempting to apply your lotion for daily moisturizer. Do not do this!

Natural self tanners will still give you the moisturizer you need, but your skin should be completely dry after exfoliating and showering so your self tan can go on evenly. 

If you really want an even sunless tan that will last, rub your self tanner on your skin with your applicator mitt in circles to blend the product naturally and evenly.

When you get to areas such as your elbows and ankles, use less product to not overwhelm your skin and cause it to turn orange.

Wait To Shower And Shave

The best time to apply a self tan is right after a shower when you have given yourself ample time to dry off.

Just like exfoliating, shave beforehand so you don’t apply your self tan then shave the next morning and erase the product.

When you put your self tan on, you should ideally wait for 6 to 8 hours before submerging in water or doing physical activity that will cause you to sweat.

Sweat, or swimming, can cause your tan to develop streaks and dry unevenly. 

The best time to apply a self tan would be at night so that you can sleep and allow your tan to dry for the next morning. 

Keeping The Tan After Application

If you decide to use a self tanner, you will reap the benefits of having a golden glow, but you will not have the benefits of sunscreen!

​With that being said, if you are using sunless tanning products while you’re vacationing or going outside on a sunny day, you still need to apply SPF. 

Once you’ve applied your self tanner, one way to keep it lasting longer is to hydrate your skin, and yourself, by drinking lots of water! 

Drinking lots of water will keep your skin hydrated and not dry your skin out to cause your tan to flake off.

You should also avoid harsh products that contain chemicals that will irritate your skin and erase your tan.

Of course, if you really want your tan to last, you will need to reapply consistently!

Applying your self tan body lotion or mousse every few days will help the color to develop evenly, but do not go crazy in applying every day unless you’re using a lighter self tan.

​Applying your product every day can cause your tan to build and turn orange from the overuse of the product.

Once you apply your self tan, be sure to wear loose clothing if you can for the next 8 hours while your tan starts to set. 

Conclusion

Keeping a self tan can be a tricky task, but it’s worth it to always have a sun-kissed bronze glow without the sun!

To ultimately keep your tan lasting longer, incorporating these helpful tricks into your skincare routine will help to keep your self tan longer than what it suggests on the product.

Staying hydrated and avoiding self tanners with harsh chemicals will also work wonders for your health! 

Self tanners that use natural products are not only better for the environment, but better for your overall health.

Ashlyn Noah

Ashlyn Noah is an author in the skin care industry.