Now that summer is in full swing, chances are that getting a tan is one of your biggest beauty goals of the season. As much as we love the sun, we know better than to spend hours baking in hopes of a bronzed bod (and we know you do too!). Enter at-home tanning. No matter your skill level, you can learn to get a gorgeous, even tan in the comfort of your own bathroom. We chatted with tanning expert Alexandra DiMarchi to create your ultimate at-home tanning guide.
Step 1: Choose your product and your shade
Lotions, mousses, waters, and drops: with so many types of product available, how are you to choose? “It’s honestly just a matter of personal preference & what you feel most comfortable using!” says DiMarchi. Turns out, each type has its pros and cons. “Lotions are great for beginners as it’s a more familiar form, and tend to give off a more gradual glow as opposed to a darker tan. If you’re looking for something more noticeable and want to tan your entire body, mousses are a great choice,” she says. “If you’re still trying to figure out exactly how tan you like to be, drops allow you to completely customize your shade. I like to recommend waters for touching up areas or to set your makeup.”
When it comes to shade, DiMarchi recommends choosing one that is most similar to your natural skin tone. “This will help ensure your tan looks as natural as possible, and you can always add more drops if you end up wanting a darker shade,” she says. For the most control and customization, DiMarchi swears by The Face Drops and The Body Drops from Tan-Luxe. “They’re the perfect way to experiment and discover your perfect shade,” she says.
Lastly, make sure you consider your goals for your tan. “Is it for a photoshoot? Do you want a healthy glow? Want to look like you came back from a tropical destination? Customize accordingly!” she says.
Step 2: Prep Your Body
According to DiMarchi, there are three things you absolutely MUST do before tanning: “shower to remove any topical products, shave to avoid having to do it for a few days as shaving can strip your tan, and exfoliate to remove any dead skin to ensure a smooth and even application.” That last one is the most crucial step. “Proper exfoliation will directly affect the longevity of your tan, and also helps ensure an even result all over, therefore helping your tan look as natural as possible,” she says.
So how can you ensure you’re properly stripped of dead skin cells? “Some of my favorite forms of exfoliation are dry brushing, and using a dry cloth in a shower after your skin has been loosened up by the hot water,” says DiMarchi. Of course, you can also use your favorite physical scrub or chemical exfoliant. No matter what you’re using, the key is to “focus on your elbows, knees, hands and feet.” After you’re thoroughly scrubbed, take a few moments to moisturize. “Apply lotion to the drier areas of your body (like your hands, feet, elbows, nails, and cuticles) before applying any tanning products,” says DiMarchi.
Step 3: Apply
Here’s where most of us start getting nervous — after all, who wants to end up a streaky mess? But don’t get too hung up on technique. “There is no perfect method to application,” says DiMarchi, “People tend to try to rush the process instead of taking the extra time to make sure they prep and moisturize the areas that are naturally drier.” So take it slow — no need to rush on your quest for a great faux tan.
Once you’re all prepped, use a tanning mitt to spread product smoothly across your skin. When it comes to parts of your body that require more delicate application, like your hands, neck, and ears, use a kabuki brush for flawless blending. As you work, DiMarchi suggests setting your tan with translucent setting powder to help the product stay put while it’s still developing. She also recommends tanning drier areas last with product left over from larger areas. “If I am using a mousse and mitt, I will add 1-2 pumps into the mitt and tan my legs, and then use the leftover product to tan my feet,” she says. “This method avoids applying too much product to the drier areas that can over develop and look unnatural.”
Once you’ve finished applying the product (hooray!), it’s super important to pay special attention to your hands. “I see a lot of people neglect to thoroughly wash their palms afterwards, and it’s the biggest giveaway that someone has applied a self-tanner,” says DiMarchi. “I suggest using a cleansing wipe to remove excess product from your palms, in between your fingers, and on your wrists and ankles and then blending with your kabuki brush. The key to a flawless tan is for no one to know it’s a faux tan.”
“The key to a flawless tan is for no one to know it’s a faux tan.”
Step 4: Troubleshoot
So you’ve taken your time to fake your most perfect glow. What do you do if you notice a streak or a splotch? Don’t panic: there’s a fix. “Glyco Water is amazing for fixing any mishaps,” says DiMarchi.” If I have product build up in a specific area, I’ll spray the area and leave it for about 20 mins before buffing with a mitt or dry cloth to lighten the area.”
Step 5: Make It Last
You’ve put in so much effort, so how do you make that summer glow last? The first part is what you’re putting on your skin. “Adjust your skincare and body care products to make sure you’re not stripping color and make sure you’re evenly moisturized to ensure an even fade,” says DiMarchi. Also make sure to avoid extra exfoliation. “Always pat dry when you get out of the shower,” she says, “the towel can actually act as a dry exfoliant if you use it too vigorously, and therefore take off your tan prematurely. Sweat can also affect your results. “If you’re working out a lot or doing things that make you sweat, I recommend tanning a day or two beforehand if tanning for an event” says DiMarchi.
To maintain your color between larger tans (the kind you devote an entire weekend afternoon to), you can use lighter weight products that deposit slightly less color. “Using gradual self-tanning products like The Gradual are also great for maintaining your tan,” says DiMarchi. If you take good care of it, you can usually expect your tan to last for 7-10 days. Now that you have a tanning guide to help you, go and get the at-home tan of your dreams!