Gorgeous Tan without the Sun

If you’ve ever used a bad self-tanner, you will know exactly what I’m talking about… seeing an orange color develop with streaks stretching down your arms and legs. This is not exactly the look you had hoped for when applying the lotion a few hours before.

I was in 7th grade when I tried my first self-tanner. I had applied it the previous night, following the instructions on the bottle, but awoke the next morning to find my skin the color of a carrot. I had large patches of my actual skin shade where I had clearly missed with the lotion. I begrudgingly went to school that day. My friends were kind, not saying anything about my “Cheeto look”, but I was still greatly embarrassed.

Self-tanners have come a long way since my 7th grade year. In fact, the lotions now are so superior to the earlier versions that it is very difficult to tell the difference between the lotion and a real suntan. You just need to know which tanning lotions give the best color and how to effectively apply them to prevent streaking.

A photo of me with a self-tan, and Chris.

Let’s start with the application process… here are my tips to get your skin ready for a smooth tanning experience:

  1. Exfoliate! Before applying any tanning lotion, you MUST exfoliate your skin. Get rid of dead skin buildup that could cause tanning lotions to concentrate in certain areas and create a blotchy look. Make sure to do this especially if you have on a previous coat of self-tanner. I like Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant used with an exfoliating brush.
  2. Tanning lotions can sometimes be drying to the skin. I like to slightly moisturize prior to  an application, especially my face, knees and elbows. Wait until your moisturizer is fully absorbed and dry before applying the tanning lotion.
  3. Applying a self-tanner with a tanning glove is a MUST. The glove provides a smooth application while minimizing the potential for streaking. The gloves also keep your hands free of the lotion and prevents discoloration of your nails and palms (trust me, I’ve made the mistake of not using a glove many times…not a good look).
  4. After you finish applying to your body (in a continuous circular motion), take off the tanning gloves and wash and dry your hands. Place a small drop of the lotion on the top of the tanning glove and work it into the top of your hand (making sure to blend with your wrist). Repeat with the other hand. Next, take a wet paper towel and remove any excess lotion from your palms and fingertips.
  5. Wait for the lotion to dry before dressing. The time to dry is dependent on the lotion and will be indicated on the bottle.

Now that your skin is ready for the tanning lotion application, which self-tanner do you use? Don’t worry, I have done the grunt work over many, many years and, at this point, have practically tried them ALL…

My Top 3


This tanning mouse by Vita Liberata is excellent. The lotion is long-lasting and not streaky as it wears off. It’s moisturizing and locks in color for two weeks-really! I use the mouse form and have found it the best in winter especially for dry skin. Con: It can look green-ish when first applied. Best to apply at night when you can shower it off in the morning.


Sun by Giesee has been a longtime go-to of mine. It comes in different forms, from mouse to spray to lotion. I prefer the lotion as it goes on evenly. It’s smells great, gives a nice glow, and wears off well. Con: Can be slightly drying so make sure to moisturize.

Bondi Sands

Bondi Sands is a recent favorite of mine. The tanner comes in the form of foam so the application goes on light and absorbs quickly. The smell of the lotion is nice and wears off well over a week’s time. Con: Like Phenomenal, it goes on with a green-ish color before turning into a beautiful tan. Also, the color is dark so this may be a lotion better used in the summer.

Please note, many sunless tanners offer a separate lotion for the face. If your skin type is normal, you can use a lotion that works for both your face and body, like the ones I have outlined in this article.

Let me know what your favorite self-tanner is, and why, in the comments below! Happy Tanning!


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