Self Tanning: You Don't Have to Be an Oompa Loompa

Summer is by far the best season of the year! Vacations, the beach, bonfires…pasty skin. I know what y’all are thinking…Did she just say pasty skin? Indeed I did. For a lot of us, that is our year long reality. Some of us just never get tan no matter how long we bake in the sun. But fret no more about your fluorescent skin! It’s time to ditch the tanning oil and pick up some self tanner! No really! Self tanning is really scary to most of us because who wants to look like they just walked out of Willy Wonka’s factory? It’s true, a lot of self tanners have very orange bases and can make you look like a bit of a carrot but I’ve got a few tips and product suggestions that won’t break the bank and will deliver that gorgeous summer glow we all crave.


The number one reason for a self tan looking really unnatural is not exfoliating. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t slough off your old skin cells to reveal your nice new fresh ones, you’re gonna be stuck with a really uneven, patchy tan. You cannot cut corners on this one. Before applying your tan, you should hop in the shower and with a body scrub or loofa, exfoliate every nook and cranny EXTREMELY well. This will aid in an even application of your tan.

#2 Shave

This might seem like a pretty obvious one but it’s really important. There’s nothing worse than doing all that work to apply your tan and get it nice and even and then shaving the next day and your tan just comes right off. Shaving is part of exfoliating because it sloughs off dead skin cells so make sure you get this done about 12-24 hours prior to applying your tan.

#3 Moisturize

Make sure you moisturize in really dry areas to avoid those spots from soaking up too much product because, believe me, they will! Common dry areas include your knees, elbows, ankles, feet, wrists, and hands. Go in with a good moisturizing lotion before applying your self tanner to ensure that those spots aren’t splotchy. I use a scentless lotion so it doesn’t mix with the tanner smell. My favorite lotion is Lubriderm for normal to dry skin. A lot of people really like Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant lotion as well. I would’t recommend putting regular moisturizing lotion all over your body before applying self tanner because it acts as a barrier and your skin won’t soak up as much. If you’re using a lotion rather than a mousse, I would suggest mixing a small amount of tanner with a larger amount of lotion to do your facial area, hands, and feet. This just dilutes the tanner a bit and helps them to match the rest of your body. They do make self tanner lotions for your face but they seem to have the same effect on me so I just mix it with a little moisturizer first. Moisturizing is important not just before you apply your self tanner but also in the days following application because it will help your tan to fade slower and keep your skin looking healthy.

#4 Use Baby Body Wash

This is just a tip to help your tan last longer. Baby body wash doesn’t have harsh chemicals that regular body washes and gels have so they don’t strip your tan quite as quickly. Dove body washes and bar soaps are some of the biggest contributors to stripping fake tans so try to steer clear of those while self tanning.

My fave Self Tanners

St. Moriz Dark Tanning Mousse – $12.99

My all-time favorite self tanner is this instant tan mousse in the shade dark. This tanner is sent from Heaven, I’m telling you. If you want to look like a bronzed goddess, this is the tanner for you. It applies so evenly and easily and is great for self tanning beginners. To start out it has a really nice clean scent but as it develops it does have a slight DHA smell. It does a have a guard color so you can tell where it’s being applied and that’s something I love about it. The best time to apply this tan is at night before you go to bed because it is an instant tan and it makes you look alarmingly dark when it’s first applied. The first time I used this mousse I was a little bit scared when I woke up the next morning because it was extremely dark but once you shower off the guard color, you’re left with a super nice glow that isn’t orange. When you shower, quite a bit of color comes off but don’t be alarmed, it’s just the guard. If you do apply this before bed, make sure you let it dry completely and wear dark clothing to bed. It may transfer a little to your sheets throughout the night so sleep on a towel or dark sheets. I have only ever tried the dark mousse but I do know it comes in a medium shade and also comes in a lotion but I am just in love with the dark shade and I have very fair skin in the winter. This tan lasted me about 7 days before it faded completely so it has a really long wear. You should use a tanning mitt when applying this because it will definitely stain your hands and leave them brown/orange. Mitts usually run about $5-6. It’s comparable to the high end self tanner St. Tropez but at a fraction of the cost! It is made in the UK so it takes a while to ship it but it is absolutely worth the wait. I have gotten so many compliments on my tan using this product. When you want to have a really dark tan, this is the way to go.

Banana Boat Summer Color Lotion in Deep Dark – $7.99

This is another one of my favorites because it’s also really easy to apply because of the guard color. It has red undertones so it won’t come out orange. This is also an instant tanner but it does take a few hours to develop. I don’t recommend layering this tan because it does tend to get a little orange when layered but one application will do the trick. It blends really well into your hands when mixed with regular lotion and provides a seamless finish. It does come in a light/medium shade that is great in the winter when you don’t want to be too dark. It does have a pretty bad DHA smell but once again, it will wash off. This lotion delivers a really natural looking tan and it’s my go-to when I don’t have my other tanner on hand.

Self tanning doesn’t need to be scary. Hopefully these tips and products work for you as well as they work for me!