The 11-Step Self Tanner Prep Process for Best Results
By Emma McNab
August 17, 2022
When it comes to getting the most out of your self tanner, preparation is key. A good prepping process will be the difference between an even, bronze glow and a patchy, orange disaster that will have you hiding from your friends for a week.
A consistent prep process is especially important if you are using a traditional self-tanner and not Naru Organics streak-free formula.
But no matter what you use, best practice for a streak-free golden glow, here’s the Naru guide on how to prep for self tanner:
Remove any existing self tanner
Before beginning a fresh self tan application, you’ll want to make sure that your body is completely free of any old self tanner. Having self tan residue on the skin can interrupt the development process, leading to a dodgy, patchy or uneven color once the new tan develops. For best results, you want to make sure you’re dealing with a totally clean canvas.
Self tan can be difficult to remove using just soap and water, so we’d recommend using something more suited to self tan removal. You can either buy a shop-made self tan eraser or go the natural route with some DIY home remedies. Here are some easy ways to get rid of any stubborn self tan before your next application:
- Coconut oil and sugar
- Baking soda and lemon juice (only use this to tackle small areas of the body)
- Baby oil
For a more extensive list of solutions to remove self-tanner, check out our article on how to remove self-tanner properly.
Shave or get a wax treatment beforehand
Planning your hair removal in advance is key. You can’t perform any hair removal in the 24 hours before your self tanner application, so make sure you’ve booked in your wax or scheduled in your shaving session at least a day or two beforehand.
Shaving on the same day as your self tan can impact your tan’s ability to develop correctly, as most razors contain a film that sits on the skin and can cause a barrier between the DHA and your skin. Ideally, you’ll complete any hair removal 2 days before self tanning.
Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
Exfoliating the body is absolutely key if you want a natural, even tan that won’t cling to any lingering patches of dry skin. Using a body scrub, sugar scrub or an exfoliating mitt, gently scrub the body from head to toe in the days leading up to your tanning application. For optimal exfoliation, use circular motions and give extra attention to drier areas of your body.
If your previous self tans looked patchy when developed, a lack of exfoliation (or improper maintenance) is probably to blame. So don’t skip this step – when you slough off the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, you’re creating a smooth canvas ready for an even application.
Moisturize the body
Equally as important as exfoliating the body, it’s essential to keep your skin soft and smooth in the days leading up to your self tanning session. This means moisturizing the body from head to toe. Whether you use a body lotion, oil or hydrating cream is not too important, just make sure that your skin is soft and free of dry patches before applying any self tanning products.
Even if you’re going to be applying a gradual tan (which tends to be in the form of lotion) you should still moisturize your body beforehand. Moisturizing your body is also super important when it comes to maintaining your self tan once it’s developed, so make sure you’re stocked up.
Pay extra attention to dry areas
Areas such as the elbows, knuckles and knees and need some extra TLC when it comes to applying self tanner. These areas tend to be drier than the rest of your body, so you should moisturize them more often in the days before applying your self tanner. For extra hydration, apply a moisturizer twice a day to these (and any other) drier parts of the body.
Moisturizing any dry areas of the body will ensure that your tan will be even when it’s fully developed. When you have dry patches or dry skin, the DHA (dihydroxyacetone) in the self tanner will cling to it and turn an unsightly orange color. To avoid the dreaded “fake tan hands” that traditional self-tanners are notorious for, keep these areas soft and supple. Already have neon orange hands? Check out our guide to remedy your stained hands.
Once you’ve applied your self-tanner however, do not moisturize until the color has developed! Most products, and Naru Organics self-tanner in particular, have moisturizing ingredients, and adding anything to your skin after the fact could mess with your results.
Avoid hot showers and bars of soap
When you’re preparing to self tan, it might seem like the most natural thing in the world to take a long, hot shower. But in fact, hot water enlarges and opens your pores, so you’ll want to avoid taking a shower right before applying your self tanner. When you apply self tanner directly after taking a hot shower, some of the product might settle in your open pores, giving your skin a polka-dot appearance.
To avoid this, take a lukewarm shower at least four hours before applying any self tanning product. In addition to hot water, also avoid bar soaps and pH-altering shower gels. These types of body washes often leave a film on the skin, which will prevent it from absorbing the self tanner correctly.
Tan-proof your clothes and bedding
We all know that sunless tanning can be a messy business, especially if your self tanning product comes with a guide color. To avoid staining your sheets and clothes, we’d advise you to have everything prepared in advance. This means wearing dark colors and loose fabrics.
Wearing loose clothes will also help your self tan develop more evenly, as tight clothes can cause friction, potentially rubbing off your tan in certain places. We’d also advise against white bedsheets after self-tanning, so you’re not tasked with the job of getting a you-sized self tan stain out of them!
Want a better solution? Give up those tanners with artificial dyes! Naru Organics self-tanner is stain-free and streak-free so you can wear your clothes and hop into your sheets carefree.
Give your tan time to develop
This is one of the tanning tips that is often the most overlooked. No matter what kind of self tanning product you’re using, most will take around 4-8 hours to fully develop. During this time, the DHA gets to work and builds the tan’s color, so you shouldn’t have any strenuous activity scheduled for after your tan, such as exercise or clubbing.
If you can, try to avoid doing too much activity during the development time. If you have a hectic lifestyle and the idea of doing nothing for hours is stressful, you can always apply your self tanner before bedtime and let the DHA work its magic overnight. Although do be aware that the color will probably be more pigmented the longer you leave it on before rinsing if using a traditional tanner. Naru Organics self-tanner does NOT need to be rinsed!
Clean your mitt (or buy one!)
It’s important to regularly clean your tanning mitt. Not only can a dirty mitt spread bacteria, but it can also contribute to a streaky tan if there is still some tan residue lingering on the mitt from previous applications.
If you don’t already use a tanning application mitt, we’d 100% recommend investing in one for a traditional self-tanner. Mitts simplify the self tanning application process and make it easier to achieve an even application. We really wouldn’t recommend using your bare hands, as you’ll finish with stained fingers and end up giving the game away!
Using Naru Organics self-tanner? Then using a mitt is optional! In fact, because our product is stain-free, we recommend using your hands to apply so no product is lost soaking into the mitt. Simply wash your hands after application, and you are good to go.
Or rather, prepare it! If you’re going to be using your self tanner on your face as well as your body, you should be following the same rules to prepare your complexion. Make sure the skin on your face is exfoliated, moisturized and clear of any make-up or old self tanner before application. You can simply use your usual skincare products to achieve this, but maybe throw in a moisturizing mask treatment to ensure your skin will be as smooth and supple as possible. You can also opt to use an application brush for a more luxe application experience!
Choose your self tanner
Now that you’re prepped and primed, all that’s left to do is choose the self tanner that best suits your needs. For a fuss-free process, we really love our Naru Organics Self Tanner. What’s so great about this tanner is not just the gorgeous, natural brown color you’re left with, but the formula itself is free of dyes, chemicals and toxins.
Being dye-free means that Naru tanning lotion comes without the guide color that you find on most tanning mousses. It’s also enriched with Sweet Almond Oil, helping you maintain healthy skin and a glowing tan from your very first application.
The Bottom Line?
Whether you’re opting for a spray tan or a DIY self tanning session at home, the quality of your tan will fundamentally depend on the level of preparation completed beforehand. If you follow these tanning tips and give your tan adequate time to develop, you’ll be guaranteed a natural glow no matter your skin tone.