A Complete Guide to Mastering the Perfect Self-Tan

Professional tanning artist James Read shares everything you need to know to get a streak-free self-tan at home.

We all love the sunkissed look of a summer tan, but sun safety is a priority for maintaining healthy skin. Instead of quite literally baking yourself under the harmful UV rays, self-tanner is the ideal alternative, allowing you to control your tan all season (or even year) long. Sunless tanning is a not-so-secret beauty treatment that celebrities swear by so they always step onto the red carpet glowing. Professional tanning artist James Read is a go-to for models and stars, and he also has his own self-tanning line, plus an arsenal of tips for applying self-tanner at home. 

While self-tanner has a reputation for user-error, leaving streaky marks, patchy spots, or orange limbs when applied unevenly, achieving a natural-looking, seamless self-tan is totally doable. Here, we consult Read on everything to know about achieving the perfect at-home self-tan.

Types of Self-Tanner

With so many self-tanning products available, there are numerous ways to achieve a glow, but not all are created equal. Depending on your skin and what type of tan you’re going for, a tanning mousse might be a better fit than a tanning oil, for example. To help decode the options, Read walks us through the most common self-tanning products:

Mousse: “Mousses are great for people that like an instant tan. They are easy to apply as you can see where the product goes. Use a tanning mitt for the perfect application. Express mousses are good to customize your tan, the longer you leave them on the deeper the tan.”

Lotion: “Lotions are great for hydration. They are easy to apply on the skin, especially overnight creams/serums as they allow you to apply and then go to bed.”

Drops: “Tanning drops allow you to measure your tan, the more drops you add the more you glow. They work with your beauty routine.”

Oil: “Oils are great to give your skin that light reflecting finish, supermodel legs, and extra hydration.”

Before Self-Tanning, Prep the Skin

Once you’ve picked what type of self-tanner you want to use, there are several steps you should take to prepare your skin for the most even results. The day before you self-tan, shave and exfoliate to ensure you have a smooth canvas to work with. It’s also a good idea to moisturize typically dry areas of the body, like your elbows. “Areas that are dryer can absorb more tan, leaving you with a patchy or uneven color,” Read warns. Once you’re exfoliated, moisturized, and ready for your tan, Read says to use a cleansing wipe on your skin before you apply the self-tanner for the best results. 

Get Your Glow On

When you’re ready to apply tanner, it’s best to start with the face because you’ll want to carefully build up the tan there, rather than dive in with color. “When it comes to the face, less is more,” Read says. “It’s best to build your tan up over a few days so you never go too tanned and it allows you to match your face to your body.” You’ll want to use your bare hands to apply self-tanner to the face, but remember to wash them right after. To blend the tanner on your face with the rest of your body, Read reccommends “dabbing cotton balls in self tan and then lightly patting them over the face, down the neck, and around the jawline. This will create a more natural look and transition.” Another pro-tip is to rub an ice cube over your face. Read says “this will help to close the pores and prevent uneven, dark patches.” But don’t forget to dry your skin before applying the tanner. Water can dilute the product and cause streaks when it dries. You may also find that the self-tan may buildup in your eyebrows or create an obvious color mismatch at the hairline—to avoid the former, Read advises dabbing a small amount of coconut oil in the brows, and for the latter, he says rubbing a cotton swab dipped in toner along the hairline will help soften the transition once the tanner is applied.

“Once you have achieved your ideal tan, I recommend enjoying it for several days (four to five) and then exfoliating to help it fade evenly”

James Read, Professional tanning artist

For the rest of the body, Read likes using a mitt to apply product. To ensure a symmetrical finish, you’ll want to mirror your application on both sides of your body. Note the direction you’re applying the self-tanner and copy that on the other. For hard to reach places like the back, have a friend lend a hand or get resourceful and secure a tanning mitt to a wooden spoon or spatula so you can reach all areas yourself. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Applying the Self-Tan

Applying self-tanner sounds easy enough, but we’re too often left with patchy color or an orange final result. To get a streak-free, seamless tan that will leave you looking sunkissed rather than like an Oompa Loompa, Read shares five common self-tanning mistakes to avoid.

Over-applying: “This is the biggest mistake I see people make! It can make the tan look orange and unnatural.”

Not using a tanning mitt: “Avoid having too-tanned hands by applying your body tanner with a tanning mitt. I don’t use latex gloves as they can leave you with a streaky, uneven tan.”

Washing your hands right away: “Once you’ve applied your self-tanner, avoid washing your hands for several hours if you can. You don’t want to remove the tanner from the top of your hands—it may leave you with tan arms and super pale hands.”

Not applying the tanner in the right direction: “I always start from the top of the body and work down, using sweeping motions. Hands and feet should be done last.” 

Not drinking through a straw after tanning:“Avoid turning your top lip white and removing self tanner by drinking through a straw after application to avoid getting this area wet.”

How to Maintain Your Tan

Now that you have all of the steps to apply self-tan like a professional, you’ll want to know how to maintain your glow. “Once you have achieved your ideal tan, I recommend enjoying it for several days (four to five) and then exfoliating to help it fade evenly,” Read says. The tanning artist prefers to reapply a fresh tan than layering on top of old tanner for the best results. But he also says that ther are some ways to help your self-tan last longer. “After-sun products are great to prolong a self-tan,” Read shares. “Also using a waterproof SPF can protect your tan. Applying a hydrating mask to the face a few days after your initial tan can also help extend your bronze.” 

SOURCE: L’Officiel USA

Leave a Reply

By browsing our site or closing this message, you agree to store Cookies by us and third-party partners. Cookies enable certain functions on our site, let you access your account, place orders, allow us to analyse website traffic and usage, and personalise content. We also share certain information about your usage of our site with analytics and app partners. Find out more.