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How to Apply Self-Tanner

Listen carefully or you'll end up orange and embarrassed.


  • Step 1: Exfoliate Shower or bathe, rubbing an exfoliating scrub over your entire body with a washcloth in a circular motion. Pay extra attention to areas where the skin is thicker or more stretchy, like your elbows, underarms, bikini line, knees, heels, and the tops of your feet.
  • TIP: Don't shave now. If you've properly exfoliated, you can shave after you tan and it won't remove the color.
  • Step 2: Dry off Pat your body dry. Make sure your skin is not still moist and that the room is not steamy or humid.
  • Step 3: Apply Begin applying the self-tanner, starting at the tops of your feet and working up. Use a circular motion to rub it into the skin, and apply sparingly in the places you took care to exfoliate well, since these areas often end up darker.
  • TIP: A tinted self-tanner lets you see exactly where you're putting it, reducing the chance of streaks and missed spots.
  • Step 4: Wash hands Keep an eye on the clock—after five minutes, stop applying and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and a nail brush to prevent the dreaded orange palms.
  • Step 5: Continue Continue applying up to your neck, taking care not to miss any areas—like the back of your hands, the inside of your wrists, and the sides of your torso—and to stop every five minutes and wash your hands.
  • Step 6: Apply to neck & face Apply tanner sparingly to your neck and face, especially at your hairline.
  • Step 7: Wash hands When you're all done, wash your hands again. Pay special attention to under your fingernails and the sides of your palms.
  • TIP: Apply a little ordinary lotion to any or all of the areas that might be too dark—like your feet, knees, and hands—to dilute the effect of the tanner.
  • Step 8: Wait Wait as long as you can—at least 15 minutes or more if possible—before dressing to let your skin absorb the lotion. Try to remain standing during this time with your arms straight and away from your torso to avoid creased tan lines.
  • Step 9: Put on clothes Once your skin is completely dry, put on loose-fitting, dark-colored clothing.
  • TIP: Self-tanners can stain light-colored fabrics, so if you notice a mark, wash it immediately.
  • Step 10: Check for streaks Wait 2 to 4 hours for the color to develop. You'll then be able to see if you have any streaks or missed spots.
  • Step 11: Buff streaks If you have a streak, gently buff that area of your skin with a washcloth or a pumice stone. You can also try erasing the streak with an astringent pad.
  • Step 12: Prolong tan To prolong your glorious bronze, be sure to use an alcohol-free body wash in the shower, because alcohol can cause the color to fade.
  • FACT: The first sunless tanning lotion was introduced in 1960, when Coppertone came out with QT, or Quick Tanning Lotion.

You Will Need

  • Exfoliating scrub
  • Self-tanner
  • Loose
  • dark-colored clothing
  • And an alcohol-free body wash
  • A pumice stone or astringent pads

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