This Is The Proper Way to Apply Self Tanner & Avoid Streaks

apply self tanner the right way with these tips

I’m not a person who typically obsesses over how tan I am. Chances are, you’re probably tanner than I am. I do like to have a little glow and color during the summer, so I’m a bit more prone to slathering on some self-tanner ever since Charlotte Tilbury told me I could do with a bit of bronzer! Duly noted.

I’ve gotten spray tans professionally in the past, but the process itself is a bit more time consuming than I’d like to involve myself with on a regular basis. That leaves me with plenty of opportunities to look like a zebra who’s gone through some savvy sepia toning while I perfect my self-tanning skills and learn a few things along the way.

Will Ferrell’s expert demonstration of a tan gone wild.

First thing’s first, if you haven’t yet applied your tanner: EXFOLIATE THAT SKIN!!!  This is the most important thing you’ll hear anyone say, and for all the right reasons.

Not exfoliating every single inch of your body is almost a guaranteed way to get patchy with self-tanner. You remember those baking soda exfoliation masks that were all over DIY sites not too long ago? They apply to your body too.  The most important part here is to not use any oil products when exfoliating! You can mix up the following:

Place them all in a container, mix them up, and exfoliate away! Make sure to get the rougher areas around ankles, knees, and elbows! If you prefer to use a bit of a less intensive approach on the face, grab a Clarisonic Mia and a gentler facial cleanser.

Your next step is to moisturize your entire body. Yup, you’re going to start this process a day before you’re actually applying your self-tanner. After you scrub down and shave, you’ll infuse your skin with supple moisture overnight. The next day, take a lukewarm shower to wash off excess moisturizer from your skin. Grab your moisturizer again.

This time, only moisturize ankles, knees, elbows and around your knuckles/fingers and make sure the moisturizer is fully absorbed! The rougher areas need a bit of extra TLC to ensure an even application. I also like to apply a light moisturizer to my face at this point. Speaking of application, the type of self-tanner formula you use does matter.

I find I have the most success with a combination of mousse on my body and a wipe on my face. Mousse also works well on the face, but there’s a bit less control with it. If you’re exfoliated well, the formula should sink in well regardless of skin type. I am a devoted fan of St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse. The color is natural, the application process is easy with the mitt, and the bronze tint makes sure you haven’t missed any spots. I’ve been using it for years and haven’t found anything that I prefer more.

When applying the tanner, start from the bottom and work in sections. Your strategy should be to divide and conquer to make things more manageable. There’s no need to rush. Start with the feet and go up to the knees. Then go around the knees and work up the thighs. You get the idea.

To get hard to reach areas (i.e. your back) use a spray formula!  The important part here is to ensure the two formulas have the same tint, so this is best done on a day off if you’re trying out a new tanner. I like to stick with St. Tropez Spray for consistency.

Finally, I do the face with a tanning towelette. I prefer Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad because it’s goof-proof and gives a subtle glow without settling into every crevice of my face. Thanks for coming fine lines, but I’ll see you some other time.

Photo: I really don’t care as much about tans as Kim Kardashian does in this still from “Kourtney & Kim Take Miami.” It’s just one of those things that sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.

If you’re already a streaky sepia zebra (hi, I’m also sometimes part of the club,) use the scrub above to exfoliate as much of the color off as you can! You can also give the Tan Removal Mitt a try. Although I haven’t tried this myself, I’ve read good things! Afterward, repeat the process above to even things out.

Looking a bit streaky every time you apply self tanner? This process ensures you always look flawless, but it does require 24 hours. #selftanner #beautytips

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Nataliya Ogle


Nataliya Ogle likes making sure others live to their full potential. She publishes articles on her primary website and works as a freelance writer for other women's interest sites. Her physical body is in New York but her presence can almost always be found online. The internet is her first love.

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