How To Apply Sunless Tanner The Right Way

How To Apply Sunless Tanner The Right Way
It was so bad I had to hide my feet in my dress and console myself with a drink.

If you’re anywhere near my age, proud GenXer, no doubt you have a vague recollection of the sunless tanning products available in the 80s.

I cringe when I think about my orange streaked legs in my teen years. Right up there in the “Worst Products Ever Made” with Sun-In.

I tried my first professional spray tan last year and it didn’t go well. We were taking one of the Grands to the Disneyland Hotel and hubby insisted I’d have to get in the pool if we were forking over the big bucks to stay there.

Mind you I hadn’t worn a bathing suit in years so I felt pressure to look decent and not blind everyone.

I waited too long to book with the highly rated spa and went with whoever could fit me in. Once I got in the pool it was a disaster as some parts rubbed off quicker than others. Ever see a Dorito where just the corners have all that cheesy goodness but the rest is plain, that’s exactly what my legs looked like.

I’ve stuck to my DIY faux tanning products ever since!

If you’ve shied away from sunless tanners because of bad past experiences, I have good news. These products have come a long way!

While they no longer leave an orange hue I have seen some ladies struggle with proper application: stained palms, too much color deposited on knees and elbows, and uneven application.

It would be easier to show you a video tutorial but I’m afraid that would be more of myself than I care to reveal. I’m going to walk you through what you need for your best sunless tanning experience ever.

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#1. Find Your BFF Sunless Tanner and Don’t Skimp on a Mitt!

Flawless Sunless Tanners

First off, you need to purchase the right product. I don’t care how amazing a self tanner is, if there is no tint and I can’t see where I’m putting it that’s a deal breaker.

Sprays are another deal breaker, the initial area of application always comes out splotchy on me and I don’t enjoy looking like a Dalmatian.

Second, you need a good mitt for flawless application. Unfortunately my favorite mitt is not sold separately. However it comes along with the Tarte Brazilliance Maracuja Self Tanner which is a fantastic sunless tanning product.

My all time favorite sunless tanner is Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse. I’ve tried many sunless tanning products and this one is the most forgiving to work with and gives me the best color.

#2. Get Your Skin As Smooth As A Baby’s Butt!

You’ll need to shave and exfoliate several hours prior to applying your product.

Keep in mind, don’t apply lotion or use a scrub that leaves an oily residue. You need completely smooth oil-free skin. The best way to exfoliate would be to use a Supracor bath mitt.

If you have rhinoceros skin on your body it’ll grab color and you don’t want this. I know this is the second time I’ve made an animal analogy, I promise I’m done!

If you’re extremely dry you need to take a couple days to exfoliate and heavily moisturize. A good soak before exfoliating helps, but don’t be aggressive with your skin.

It’s Showtime!

How To Use Sunless Tanning Lotion

Now that your canvas is ready you need to place a little moisturizer on some key areas. Think back to anyplace on your body that has grabbed color in the past and put some lotion there. Common areas are knees, elbows, knuckles, and feet. Lesser known areas you may want to dilute with moisture are inner wrist, inner elbow, achilles tendon area, ankle bones, lightly on the top of the foot, around the heel, between the toes, and under the jawline.

Sidenote: I don’t use sunless tanner on my face and neck. I feel that a tan makes a mature face look older. Think of the bodybuilding world. You know how a tan accentuates and defines everything in a good way? The opposite is true here and you’ll accentuate things you might not want to, like marionette lines.

I like to start from the bottom up. Section your leg in two and start at your shin/calf area and use even circular motions. With a tinted product you’ll see where everything is going so make sure to cover every inch. Without applying more rub what is left around the feet.

It’s the same with the arms, you’ll do them first and when most of the product has been blended in you’ll run the mitt lightly over your hands.

Work your way up until you get to the neck and face. my décolleté is forever sun damaged so it easily blends in, you can also use some bronzer to bridge the difference in color.

If you decide to do your face, I would lightly use what is left on the mitt starting with the arms first, do not add a whole pump for this area. Feather the mitt nicely around the hairline, behind the ears, etc.

No Such Thing as a Safe Tan

About your back, hopefully you are staying limber and flexible and can reach all areas. If not you may need someone to assist you there. This alone inspires me to continue yoga and stretching as I don’t find it romantic to ask the hubby for help with this chore.

Be prepared to stand around in your birthday suit for a while so the product can completely dry. Probably a good time to catch up on your correspondence…just kidding you know you’ll be scrolling on your phone.

I leave the product on about 24 hours before showering and then see if I need a second application to intensify the color.

To upkeep your color, you’ll keep your skin well moisturized. Also note, anytime you shave you are removing your color.

Now for the most important part….wear ample sun protection when you are showing off your gorgeous faux tan. There’s no such thing as a safe tan unless it’s fake!

Let me know if my sunless tanning application advice works for you!

2 thoughts on “How To Apply Sunless Tanner The Right Way”

  1. Hello…great tips I can use..I was wondering after you get your tan ,does it all come off in the shower with soap ?
    I’m looking for a tanning product that stays on your skin even after you’ve showered
    Would you suggest this product?

    • Hi Joanne,
      I’m glad you found these tips useful! Most of the time your sunless tan will last a few days. If you shave or exfoliate it will fade quicker. You can also reapply every couple days to prolong your color. It’s important to keep the skin well moisturized.

      Hope that helps,


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