The Definitive Self-Tan Guide || What to Use, How and When

Self-Tan Guide

If you are a child of the Eighties and Nineties it may be hard for you to come to terms with the fact that suntanning is no longer a thing.  And come to think of it, it was a royal pain.  Other than the terribly harmful sun rays there were the hours on end perfectly positioning yourself for an even tan, the sun tan stains on your new bikini and of course the awful peeling you may expect after the first few exposures.

Today we prepare our skin for that perfect tan in the comfort of our own homes, before we hitting the beach.  Self-tanners from a decade or so ago, were stinky, streaky and fake!  Fast-forward to today where the cosmetics aisles, be it virtual or real, are chock-a-block with self-tanners of every description. Enough to render us totally and completely confused!  Well we are here to break it all down for you.


What is on Offer

Self-Tan Guide


There are three types of tanning techniques available to us in the world of self-tanning.  The original express self-tan which you apply for anywhere between one and three hours, after which you are totally and completely done.  So the time factor on this one is important, it takes a while to apply and process but then you are totally done for 2-3 weeks.  The second category is the gradual tan variety, which are shower gels, body lotions and mists that need a couple of days to layer on.  These come on clear or white and then change color after a few hours.  They are, as mentioned gradual..  Lastly is the instant tan, which is basically a body makeup, perfect for a night out.  It will simply wash off in the shower, so there is no commitment on either side.  It won’t stay on, and you can wash it off…


What is Self-Tanner Anyway?

Self-Tan Guide


The ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is actually a special kind of sugar that reacts to the amino acids on your skin and the oxygen in the air to turn you a beautiful bronze color.  When it was first introduced it had a very distinct scent that we used to refer to as ‘fake tan smell’.  Thankfully those days are gone, and most quality self-tanners no longer smell this way.

Side note if you ever wondered why your pet insisted on sniffing and licking you while you self-tann, it has a lot to do with the sugar!


How Many Forms Do Self-Tanners Come In

Self-Tan Guide


Self tanners come in a variety of forms, the traditional creams, mousses, sprays, waters, shower gels, body lotions and now even wet wipes. The form you choose for yourself will depend on how skilled you are at self-tan application, how much of a hurry you are in, and how often you are willing to top it up.  Traditional self-tan creams, come in two colors, either a brown or a white and believe it or not, it will NOT affect your final skin color.  The color in the cream merely helps in the application process because you can see it, so you can tell if it is even..  It is however extremely messy, and transfers miserably onto bed sheets and clothing so tread with caution.

The mousse form is probably the easiest to apply, it is quite drying however, so probably not ideal for dry skin.  A 360 degree technology spray is a great option for tanning those hard to get parts like your back, but you will need to be careful with the application process, as it is harder to control.  Water-based mists, shower gels and body lotions are best for gradual tan.  The water-based mists, although consider immediate tanners, not gradual are quite mild, and so you will need to apply over a number of days still.


How To Apply

Self-Tan Guide


Well the gradual self-tans and the instant self-tans are pretty self-explanatory.  Gradual tans are easy enough because you can layer on over a number of days till you feel you have reached your ideal color. As for instant tans, the fact that you can wash them off means that you are in full control.

As for the self-tanners that will give you the right amount of color within a 1-3 hour period the way in which the product is applied is important.

Before applying the tanner it is important to exfoliate the skin.  The exfoliant used should be water not oil-based.  An oily residue post-exfoliating will give you an undesirable streaky effect.  Do not moisturize your skin after exfoliating, the skin should be clean and dry for application.

There are some parts of the body that are particularly dry, elbows and knees specifically.  In order to ensure that the skin doesn’t soak up too much product apply a thin layer of moisturizer to these areas.  It is also worth applying some moisturizer to the backs of your wrists and hairline.  Tricky areas that can get a little too much, uneven color.

Always wear gloves, and when possibly use a mitt to apply the product.  Although it may feel natural to use circular motions, it is actually best to use a ‘swiping’ motion to keep the application as even as possible.  Start from the ankles, work upwards, leaving feet and hands to the very end.  When applying on hands and feet, do not add more product to the mitt.  Just use the excess on the mitt already, it will be more than enough.   As for your back, just turn your mitt around so the face of the mitt is on the front of your hand, it will allow you to access your back with more ease.

We don’t think there is any reason to use self-tan on the face, if you insist, add the cream to your moisturizer, this will ensure that the face doesn’t get too dry and irritated.  There are also wipes that are recommended for self-tanning the face.  We would much prefer the bronzer serum available from companies such as Clarins, that can be added to your moisturizer for a daily glow.

Body contouring (just like face makeup contouring) is an art, and can create the perfect cleavage, collar bone and biceps.  This, as we mentioned is an art, so let’s leave it to the professionals!


Maintaining Your Self-Made Tan

Self-Tan Guide


So basically whether you have used a gradual tan or an original tanner, the results are the same.  The upper skin cells of your body have changed color.  How moisturized these skin cells are will determine how long they will survive on the body before they are shed.  So the moral of the story is, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

Just because you look tanned, doesn’t mean that you are.  Once you do venture out to the beach in your newest swimwear, remember that your skin is white under all that color and needs significant protection from the sun.