Self-Tanning Tips: How To Get a Safe with Self Tanner Products

Written by Erica Stevens, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on June 1, 2020 No Comments

self tanner tips

With spring wrapping up and summer quickly approaching now is the time to prepare for bathing suit season. Many people feel it’s necessary to pair that bikini with a tan. You are likely already aware of the dangers of traditional tanning: lying out in the sun or using a tanning bed is extremely dangerous. However, you can still get a great tan using safe self-tanning products.

To get the best tan possible grab a high quality self-tanner that is suited for your normal (starting) skin tone and follow these simple how-to tips:

Do other treatments first

Whether you’re thinking of changing your hair color, getting a mani/pedi, or undergoing laser hair removal, make sure to do any other treatments you plan to do before applying a self-tanner. Undergoing these types of treatments after applying self-tanner can remove the tanner completely or negatively affect the end result.

Exfoliate

If you have patches of dry, damaged, or dead skin the tanner will leave unnatural appearing dark patches. Use a high-quality exfoliator on problematic areas of skin. Choose an exfoliator that is not oil-based as excess oil on the skin causes self-tanning products to streak. Make sure to pay attention to your elbows, knees, and ankles as they are the most common areas for accumulating old skin cells.

Cleanse your skin

After exfoliating you should thoroughly cleanse and dry your skin. Any dirt, debris, or other particles left of the skin can result in uneven tanning.

Moisturize

The final step before applying self-tanner is to use a high-quality moisturizer to add moisture back into your skin. Go for a lightweight, oil-free lotion moisturizer as residue from heavier creams can manipulate self-tanners to the point where the skin turns overly dark or orange.

Apply from the bottom up

The best way to apply self-tanner is to start at the ankles and work your way up to your shoulders (saving your arms for last). Either use clean hands or disposable gloves to smooth on your self-tanner in a circular motion. Focus on applying the tanner evenly on the entire surface of your skin.

Save face

Save your face for last. Use a small (dime sized) amount of tanner on the areas where your skin will naturally get more color (apples of your cheeks, forehead, bridge of your nose, chin). Using your fingertips blend the self-tanner outward. Go for a lighter layer around the nose and above the lips, this area is usually drier than other areas of the face and thus it picks up more color. Finally, blend the tanner into your hair line and past your jaw bone.

Finishing up

Allow sufficient time for the self-tanner to dry. When fully dried try sprinkling baby powder over your skin to stop tanner from transferring to your clothes. Do not shower and try not to sweat for 6-8 hours following application.

If you notice any splotchy or streaked areas try rubbing a slice of lemon on the area followed by lightly buffing the area with a clean towel. Many times this can correct the appearance.

Preserving your tan

To keep your tan for as long as possible wash with a gentle cleanser and make sure your skin stays hydrated. Also avoid using retinol or salicylic acid based products as they typically dissolve color provided by self-tanners.


Erica Stevens, MD

Erica Stevens, MD is a board certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Stevens is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is currently a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Texas Medical Association, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and the Skin of Color Society.


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