The Art of Self Tanning

Hi, I am Samalamadingdong and I am a recovering tan-aholic. I loved tanning, as did many of my peers in the early 2000’s (just look back at some prom pictures and you’ll see what I mean.) The warmth of the tanning bed, cooking my insides and slowly giving me melanoma, kept calling me back at least once a week. In the summers, I would go to the beach with sunblock only on my lips and come home with wicked sunburns as if they were a badge of honor.Eventually, common sense set in and I realized the damage I was doing was not only detrimental but permanent to my almost 30-year-old skin. I stopped tanning cold turkey and began using wrinkle creams. As the winter months went by, my olive skin, starved of vitamin D, started looking more grey and sickly than olive. I started investing in bronzers but they were not doing enough for me. I relapsed once, and then apprehensively decided to try out fake-tanners.

I had heard all the concerns; the stained hands, the streakiness, the Oompa Loompa like effect; but since the early 2000’s self-tanners (as they preferred to be called now-a-days) are way more advanced and less likely to make you look like a human sized Cheeto.

Let’s start off with the self-tanner I use;

1. St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse; $40 – This was the first self-tanner I ever purchased. The brave novice I was decided to start off with the darkest tanner they had because… why not? The mousse takes 4-8 hours to develop and claims to last 10 days, but for me one applications usually gets me thru about 4-5 days. Because it takes so long, I tend to go to sleep with it on. (Note: this is not a great idea if you have white sheets.) It is easy to apply and the mitt is decent enough but I had to buy that separately for $6.50. If you have an olive skin tone or are looking for a more Mediterranean tan this is for you; the product is borderline green but develops into a beautiful bronze tan. My friend and I call this process “hulking out” due to that green tone.

Do keep in mind St. Tropez has express versions of this product, as well as, an entire range of self-tanning products; this is just one of many.


2. Loving Tan 2-hour Express Mousse in Dark; $39.95 plus shipping and handling- I discovered this product on YouTube and Instagram. It is a social media star in and of itself. This product comes from Australia and is paraben and alcohol free. It comes with a great quality, velvety mitt. I love that it only takes 2 hours to develop. I plop it on, turn on a movie and relax for that time. The developed tan is gorgeous and last at least a week. I would care to guess that one bottle is enough for 10, full body applications.


3. Tarte, Limited Edition glow with the faux foaming self-tanner; $39 – So I purchased this but haven’t used it yet. I still think it’s worth mentioning if you want a product similar in price and quality to Loving Tan but prefer to purchase in-store. The mitt is similar to the latter and it is vegan, hypoallergenic & alcohol- free.

Tarte, like St. Tropez, has many tanning products that are earth friendly. I have heard great things about their Brazillance face wipes and body tanner.

How To:

Always start with testing a patch of skin that can be covered by clothing. No need to lather up your whole body with product only to discover the color is wrong. Once you’ve established that you won’t melt, it’s time to prep your skin. Prepping helps the tan last longer and apply easier.


1. Exfoliate – dead skin will grab onto the tan and slough off quickly. Exfoliating will extend the life of your tan, as well as remove old tan left behind from previous processes. I like to use LUSH ocean sea salt for this. 

2. Shave – Shaving exfoliates and creates a good base for application.

3. Lotion up! – Apply lotion to your feet, hands, elbows, knees and face. Dry skin will absorb the product and make your elbows and knees very dark; and it will help hands\, face and feet look more natural.

4. Make sure skin is completely dry before applying – I would take a shower then apply and found that my tan didn’t last as long as if I waited an hour then applied.

5. Apply tan in smooth, up and down, strokes onto arms, legs, torso etc.

6. When applying to feet and hands only use the remaining product on the glove. Slathering it onto these areas will create an unnatural look. Make sure to get ankles and sides of feet. For hands, go onto the sides of hands and even up a little into the meaty part of your palm (not much, kind of like shading.)

7. Use a kabuki brush to apply tan to the face. The mitt is great but I don’t think it’s conducive to getting into all the areas on the face. I have seen that some companies sell a smaller mitt for the face but I don’t see a need to buy something else when this brush works for me.

8. I start my face by applying a pump onto my forehead and upper checks; places the sun usually hits, and then blend out from there. Blend into the hairline. Apply more as needed.

9. Don’t forget your neck! – Other places I have missed are the back of the knee, under my arm in the triceps region, ears, knuckles and under the tushy where the leg meets the torso.

10. Turn on a movie (or whatever floats your Caribbean boat) and wait! 

After care:

1. I usually wash my hands after one hour of development. Just in case I put on too much, I can stop the hands from getting excessivly dark. Remember: its always easier to enhance than to remove.

2. When the tan is fully developed I shower as normal (minus exfoliating), dry off and spread on the lotion to my entire body. I keep using lotion throughout the week with the purpose of extending the tan life.

3. I lose the color in my face first, probably because I wash it so much. I haven’t found a fix for this yet, but hear there are tanning products geared towards the face that may help.

 I’d love to hear any other tips and tricks for self-tanning! So be sure to let me know if you have any.


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