How to Apply Self-tanner

After Self-tanning

Don't plan to go out on a date 30 minutes after you applied self-tanner on every inch of exposed skin. Self-tanning products go on wet and need ample time to dry (and let's not forget the smell). If you have the time and the privacy, stay undressed for as long as you can. If you need to cover up, choose loose-fitting clothing that breathes well.

You should avoid sweating or getting wet while the DHA is actively reacting with your skin. Give yourself at least six hours before engaging in vigorous activity or taking a shower [source: Chalmers]. Don't lie down on those 400-thread white cotton sheets, either, or you might stain them.

Self-tanning is an art, not a science, and it's likely that you missed a spot or overapplied the product in some areas. For light patches, simply add a dab of self-tanner. For blotches or streaks, you can lighten or erase them with an exfoliant. Cosmopolitan magazine says that a simple solution of baking soda and water on a loofah works well [source: Langston].

If your tan looks even and natural, congratulations! The good news is that you won't blind anybody at the beach. The bad news is that your new tan is very temporary. Your body is constantly shedding layers of dead skin cells. In fact, the entire epidermis is replaced every 35 to 45 days [source: Brody]. Since self-tanners only tint the very topmost layers of skin, you'll need to reapply the product every three to five days.

And remember, tanned skin is not protected from damaging UV rays. In fact, a recent study showed that skin treated with self-tanner is 180 percent more susceptible to the destructive effects of UV-generated free radicals [source: Baumann]. So apply a strong sunscreen -- with at least a 30 SPF -- if you're going to be in direct sunlight.

For more information on skin care and beauty products, take a look at the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Baumann, Leslie. "Take the Drama Out of Sunless Tanning." Yahoo! Health. June 8, 2007 (September 17, 2009);_ylt=Arcfd7fxwtqwCGhIWddAKIdLvs8F
  • Brody, Jane E. "A Healthy Glow That's Truly Healthy." The New York Times. June 1, 2009 (September 17, 2009)
  • Chalmers, Kara. "Self-tanner doesn't have to be scary -- or stinky." May 25, 2007 (September 17, 2009)
  • Langston, Eleanor. "Wacky Beauty Tips That Work." Cosmopolitan. (September 17, 2009)
  • The Mayo Clinic. "Sunless Tanning."
  • Quenqua, Douglas. "Rub On, Spray On, or No Tan at All?" The New York Times. August 12, 2009 (September 17, 2009)