How to use self tanners

Get the hue without the harm by following these easy steps

1. Explore your options
All self tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) the staining agent required to create a faux tan. The goal is to find a formula that fits your needs. Beth Witkowski, of Kao Brands Canada Inc. advises that self-tanning newbies use a formula that promotes a gradual, natural-looking colour to avoid “the typical drawbacks of self-tanners such as streaking and orange-colour development.” This is especially crucial for fair-skinned women as these colour mishaps really show. For time-strapped types, Witkowski recommends foams and mousses which dry quickly. Self-tanning moisturizers with an emphasis on hydration are the best bet for dry skin. And if you’re nervous to take the first step yourself, head to a reputable spray-tanning salon that uses a high-volume, low-pressure application process, then go D.I.Y. with a store-bought formula to maintain your golden-goddess look.

2. Prep your skin
“The number one thing to do before applying a self tanning product is to exfoliate” says Laura Downing, owner of Sundrops Spray Tanning Studio in Calgary, AB. “You want to get rid of the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin.” Dry skin absorbs more of the product which results in a blotchy effect. Pay extra attention to spots prone to roughness like elbows, knees and ankles as they can catch extra tanner and create dark patches. It’s a good idea to exfoliate and remove unwanted hair and nail polish the night before your self tanning application. And remember to forgo moisturizing right before applying so your self tanner will absorb well and evenly.

3. Application
“Less is more,” advises Downing. “If you’re not happy with the initial results, you can always go back and re-apply.” Begin applying the lotion at your feet, where you have a full view of what you’re doing and work your way up. When you get to your back, ask a friend to help or leave it up to a professional for fool-proof results. Take your time and apply the product up and down in smooth, even strokes to ensure that you haven’t missed a spot. Once you think you’ve blended, blend again. To prevent unwanted staining on hands and feet, sweep a cleansing wipe over palms and heels right after the application. Downing recommends a tanner with little to no oil as the residue will affect the finish.

4. Après-tan TLC
To maintain your glow, avoid moisture for 8 to 10 hours. This includes showering, working out or swimming, says Downing. Some formulas can rub off on clothing so be sure to let the lotion dry fully and avoid wearing light colours right after. Other fade factors include exfoliation, pool chemicals and salt water. Ideally, avoid for 2 to 3 days after applying self tanner and don’t exfoliate until the night before your next application.

5. Faux tan faux pas
Even though formulas are constantly improving, there’s still the chance of goof-ups. If you’ve got streaks, you might have gone too dark, too fast. Next time, try a formula containing a lower concentration of DHA and take the time to build results gradually. Blotchy, too-tanned areas can be camouflaged by re-applying a thin layer of product and then dusting a bronzing powder over lighter areas. If your colour is fading fast, make sure you’re not using over-drying cleansers that contain alcohol. Instead, look for ones with moisturizers.


Self-tanning newbie: Joico Skin Luxe gradual self-tanner, $14.95 (250 mL) OR Aveeno Continuous Radiance moisturizing lotion, $9.99 (222 mL)

Fair skinned: Clinique Self Sun body tinted lotion for light/medium skin, $24 (125 mL) OR Jergens Natural Glow daily moisturizer for fair to medium skin tones, $6.99 (150 mL)

In a hurry: Jergens Natural Glow foaming daily moisturizer, $9.99 (150 g) OR ROC Minesol Bronze express drying self tanning foam, $24 (125 mL)

Dry skin: Avene moisturizing self-tanning lotion for sensitive skin, $27(100 mL) OR Jamieson ProVitamina E Natural Radiance Moisture Lotion, $12.99 (75 mL).

Fast results: Shiseido Brilliant Bronze quick self-tanning gel for face and body, $32 (150 mL)

Bronzer for blotches: Physicians Formula Self-tanning Bronzing veil, $21.99 (8 g)

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