Sunless Tanning Tips and Tricks!

Back in my high school days (aka wayyyy too long ago ;)),

I used to go to the tanning bed!!!

What in the heck was wrong with me?!?!?! LOL.

Now, I know the damage that sun and artificial sunlight does to your skin. Gosh I wish I could turn back the clock. Anyways, I digress :).

The point is – now I know better, and I SUNLESS tan. Once a week, like clockwork.

I used to do it every Monday night while I watched The Bachelor, LOL! Now, I’m kind of over that show lately, so my newest drug of choice is the Real Housewives franchise. 

It took me YEARS, and I mean, YEARS, to figure out how to just get a natural glow, without looking orangey, streaky, with blotchy weird hands and elbows!

So, I wanted to give you girls a quick rundown with my best tips. I’ve found a few faves over the years, in all price ranges, and I’ll link them all at the bottom of the post for you girls.

I always recommend doing this before bed, so you can sleep on it for maximum results, and rinse off in the morning. I do have an “express” version I love for when I need a quick tan, and it develops in 2-4 hours, so I’ll link that one for you girls too!

First step, get a good, thick lotion (faves linked).

Apply it GENEROUSLY on your elbows, knees, ankles (all the way around, blending into the tops of your feet), toes (in between and all over), and then also your hands. Do NOT be afraid to do too much. Trust me. I used to be afraid if I did too much, those areas would not tan. If you do it right, they will. So lotion up, baby!!

Next, get either latex gloves, or a good tanning mitt.

Some people even prefer to wear the gloves UNDER the mitt. Some of the mitts i’ve come across are totally subpar, and they don’t have a waterproof lining. Make sure you get the ones with a waterproof lining, I’ll link one below. Don’t forget to stick your hair up in a good shower cap!


Now that your dry areas are buttered up, and your hands are protected, it’s time to get started. If you’re new to sunless tanning, I highly suggest a tinted mousse. The color guard will help you see exactly where you did (and did not) apply it, and a mousse easily spreads, and quickly dries. The only thing I do not like about a mousse is that you go through the product quickly. Now that I have experience with sunless tanning, I use a spray liquid, because I think you get the most bang for your buck. This one is my favorite!

UPDATE on this post as of October 2019 –

I previously had different tanners linked in this post, but I have been using Isle of Paradise Tanning Water now for 3 months, and I can honestly say it is the number one best self tanner I’ve ever used! NOT SPONSORED!!!

It’s organic, WAY cheaper than other brands, one bottle lasts me at least 15-20 tans, doesn’t get stuck in my pores, and literally never streaks or smells weird! I’m going to copy a line directly from the back of their bottle that explains one of the reasons I love it so much!

“Self tanning water with colour correcting actives + a violet base for a natural, bronzed glow, with no streaks, no smells or orange tones. Formulated with HyperViolet complex, to reduce orange and sallow tones, and raise your tanning game.”

Now, back to HOW I do it :)!

I start with arms, one at a time, working from my wrist up. I blend into the tops of my hands and around my wrists. I then move to neck and chest, you may need some help with the back of your neck/upper back. I only do the areas that will show in clothing, so if it’s fall/winter, I do just enough to be able to wear a workout tank to the gym. I know, my poor husband who has to see me naked and half tanned, hahahah!

Then move on to the face, being sure to blend WELL into your hair line. If you’re super blonde, blend into your hair line and just be prepared to wash your hair in the morning. I also blend into my ears, and behind my ears.

Then, I move on to the legs, starting at the bottom and working my way up. Use it sparingly around ankles, on tops of feet, and toes, just gently buffing and blending. 

Now you’re done with the main tanning part. The next thing I do is strip off the gloves/mitt, and rub EXTRA regular, non tanning lotion, into all of those same areas that we applied to before. The elbows, knees, feet, ankles, toes, hands, and fingers. GENEROUSLY. Last step is your hands. This is the most telltale sign of a sunless tan, so I work hard to make this as natural as possible. I mix about 75% regular lotion, with about 25% sunless tanning solution, and rub into my hands like a normal lotion. Once it is all rubbed in, I take a towel (that I don’t mind staining), and rub it in between my palms pretty hard, basically rubbing off any leftover residue from the actual palms of your hands. I then brush that towel gently over my BENT knuckles, and in between all of my fingers, focusing on the base, where the webbing between your fingers is. DO NOT WORRY IF YOU LOOK LIKE A CRAZY PERSON – this is JUST the color guide and the finished product won’t look like this, I promise :).

Now, let it dry for 5-10 minutes, put on some loose pajamas, and go to bed!

Once you get used to this, the whole process takes less than 15 minutes.

And if you’re using the right stuff (like the ones I recommend below), then it won’t bleed onto your sheets, for the most part. When you wake up in the morning, take a shower, and use a light body wash, no scrubbing or exfoliating, and don’t panic when you see brown going down the drain! That is simply the color guide rinsing off, the main tan will stay,  and with most brands, will even continue to develop a bit over the course of the day. I immediately moisturize with a scented lotion. This will help your tan last longer, and will hopefully cover up a bit of the faux tan smell. No matter what I do and what brands I’ve tried, there’s always a smell, unfortunately. Although I would say the ones I’ve listed below definitely have less of a scent than others i’ve used in the past.

That’s it! I know it seems scary and daunting, especially after a post that long (insert face palm emoji!)!

I wanted to make sure you girls who had questions REALLY got the full scoop on how I do it, because it’s taken hours of youtube video watching, and years of screwups to get this down. And I’m not the type of friend who will let you go out with a bad spray tan… so here I am. With a blog post 19 hours long. But if it helps save one girl from one bad tan… my work here is done ;)!

Comment with any questions and tag me on Instagram if you try any of this out!

Do you guys wanna see a video tutorial, or did this do the job?!

Favorite MOUSSE tanner HERE

Favorite LIQUID SPRAY tanner HERE


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