Self Tanner Tips & Tricks for Perfect Application

Tips and Tricks Feature

By Ashlyn Noah
October 20, 2021

Are you trying to achieve the perfect golden glow from a self tanner? Beginners and experienced people using these tanning products often find themselves trying to find the best way to apply the moisturizer.

Sometimes it’s streaky, too light, or too much. You’re aiming to achieve a bronzed glow, but getting it can be rather difficult if you do not apply the product correctly. 

We have researched the best self tanner tips and tricks for perfect application straight from tanning experts to achieve streak-free results. 

Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate! 

Having a natural glow from a sunless tan all begins with the prep work! You have to prep your body to give the product the canvas it needs to work with.

To properly prep your skin, you need to exfoliate with a high-quality body scrub. Exfoliators will remove any dead skin cells you have from the top layer of skin since this is where self tanner products sit.

Your skin needs to be cleaned with the right cleanser before you apply the body lotion or self tanning mousse after your shower, but you shouldn’t rub it on right away as many people think.

When you get out of the shower, your body needs to completely dry before you rub on any sunless tan product. Water and moisture that is still sitting on the skin can cause the product to dry streaky and uneven.

Because of this, you should also avoid putting on any extra body lotions that you use for a daily moisturizer. The oils in the lotion can affect the drying portion of the process, so if you feel as though you need to moisturize, make sure you use an oil-free product and only put on a small amount. 

Find The Right Product For Your Skin Tone

A part of using self tanner products is to achieve a natural glow that fits your skin tone and makes it appear you just got back home from vacation.

Self tanning products come in a variety of skin shades and forms, so it’s important you select the right one that’s easy to apply and will match your skin tone when it dries. 

Finding the right bronzer is a mixture of personal preference and dermatologist recommendations. 

There are different bronzing shades and forms of self tanning products for you to choose from. Some forms of self tanner you may like using for different areas of your body.

For example, you may like using tanning lotion for your face and mousse for your body to build up the gradual tan. 

You may have to try out different forms of self tanners before you find the product you like working with the most. Apart from selecting the appropriate method for your skincare routine, it’s important you look at the shade options next.

There are 3 different shading options you will likely see:

  • Light
  • Medium
  • Dark

The option you choose depends on how dark you want your sunless tan to be. If you already have light skin, you should not go higher than a medium-shaded product. The goal is to build a gradual tan that looks natural instead of insanely dark.

Don’t Use Your Bare Hands. Use A Mitt! 

self tanning mitt in green, blue, and pink

Unlike regular moisturizers where you lather it in your hands to apply to the skin, self tanning products work differently.

Not only does applying sunless tan products with your bare hands cause staining, but it can also cause the product to appear streaky from the lack of even rubbing. 

To get an even tan with the product, it’s important that you use an applicator mitt for several reasons. The first is that this helps to protect your hands from orange discoloration.

If you are not familiar with self tanner lotions or mousses, then you should note that they are notorious for leaving behind a residue on the skin if there isn’t something there to protect them.

Applicator mitts are perfect to use for tanning mousses. They look like gloves that cover the whole hand and help to spread the product on evenly and can reach the hard-to-reach areas of your skin.

When you use the applicator mitt, do not put more than one to two pumps of the lotion or mousse on the mitt. The rule for a faux glow is to not over-apply too much product and cake it on. The sunless tan should look natural and build up.

Be sure to rub the product in circular motions on the skin to cover all areas. This is the best application method to ensure even coverage. 

You will be so glad you decided to use an applicator mitt when your product goes on evenly and leaves behind the natural glow you’re after. 

Remove Caked On Areas

While you’re applying your tanning lotion, it’s common to run into build-up in areas such as your elbows, ankles, knees, and neck.

If this happens, you can buff out the product using a damp washcloth. 

You do not want to leave too much of the bronzer in these areas as this will cause discoloration and a burnt-orange residue.

Your face is one area of the process that can suffer from too much product.

When you’re applying the tanning lotion to your face, apply less of the product than you normally do to other parts of your body.

Work in the self tanner on your face like you would foundation. A little goes a long way. You only need a small dollop on your cheeks and nose to blend in with your tanning mitt for an even finish. 

Follow Correct After Care 

Once your sunless tanning product is applied, there are strict rules you should follow as a part of the tanning tips to give you flawless results.

The first is to not shower, swim, or get sweaty for 6-8 hours. The product needs to sit on your skin and absorb into the first layer to correctly set. The best time to apply a self tanner is at night before you go to bed since this gives you the best time to let the product set.

However, if you find yourself needing to apply in the morning or midday, wait about 10-15 minutes after application before putting on your clothes, and try to wear loose items. 

You should also apply your tanning lotion after you shave. Do not shave your skin the next day or a few hours after putting on your mousse as this can remove the layer of product you just rubbed on.

Stay Consistent In Application

The best way to build a gradual tan that looks flawless and exotic is to be consistent with how often you wear the product.

The more you apply the product, the more you allow the faux tan to set in and darken your skin. Some self tanners will leave behind a noticeable difference after one usage while others take about 2 to 3 times of application to begin to work.

Getting your faux glow to last a while all depends on how well you prep the skin and perform your skincare. 

Following these tanning tips and giving your dry skin something to work with will help the self tanner appear more radiant and natural. 


Finding the right way to apply self tanning products in a way that appears natural and even can be challenging, but with our tanning tips, you’ll be fast on your way to having a natural glow.

The biggest thing in achieving even application is using the tanning mitt and prepping your skin before and after for a flawless finish!

Note: Want to give yourself an even, natural-looking sunless tan without exposing your skin to toxic chemicals, dyes or synthetic fragrances? Get Naru Organics self tanner and try the very first flawless self tan with no nasty ingredients. Learn more now!
naru organics self tanner

Ashlyn Noah

Ashlyn Noah is an author in the skin care industry.