Self Tanning Prep

It’s finally sunless tanning season! Maybe you bother year ’round, maybe you’ve already started for the year – but for the rest of us, here are some tips on how to achieve a great sunless tan regardless of the products you’re using.


Self Tanning Prep - Original Dove Beauty Bar

For best results, you should always apply to just-cleaned skin! When I’m showering with self tanning prep in mind, I use a mild soap like classic Dove (which is what I use in the shower most of the time anyway). Some of the richer, creamier body washes contain oils (great for ultra-moisturizing, not great for self tanning prep). While you’re at it…



…at least the areas you wish to tan with coarser hair, such as the lower legs. Don’t feel like you need to shave everywhere – for instance, I don’t shave my forearms; the hair that grows there is fine and light.. If you wax or have removed the hair via a laser device, you get to skip this – lucky you! Still, you need to…


Self Tanning Prep - Eco Tools Shower Gloves

While in the shower, exfoliate your skin to remove any dry or errant patches. Sunless tanner works best when everything is smooth; otherwise you risk a patchy or muddy application. No product can prevent it – you simply have to do your due-diligence. I use a pair of scrubby shower gloves or a sugar- or salt-based scrub. If your scrub has oils (many do!), you might want to do this before you suds up to remove any oils.

Dry Off

Sunless tanner + Wet Skin = Streaks! Be sure you’re dried off before starting!

Moisturize Dry Areas


…like your knees, elbows, and ankles. Apply a scent-free, lightweight lotion to these areas and allow to fully absorb before moving on. I like this one from Eucerin. Some conventional wisdom says NOT to do this – but I find that drier areas such as these tend to overdevelop and get too dark if I skip this step.



I like to use a mitt like this one from St Tropez for my body, and I alternate between using a beautyblender or a using a buffing brush to apply it on my face. If you tend to keep your hair up, don’t forget to make sure you apply behind your ears and the back of your neck.

That’s it!

The order in which you proceed through these steps MAY differ depending on your hair removal and exfoliation methods! For instance, if you use an electric shaver, you might shave, exfoliate during your shower, and then wash up. Just keep in mind that you want to don’t want any residue on your skin pre-application.

5 thoughts on “Self Tanning Prep”

  1. Yeah, shaving the arms is not needed. However can someone choose to shave them as an aesthetical choice if she/he thinks they are too visible and dark?

    • Absolutely – your body, your decision. Just keep in mind that upkeep will be necessary; regrowth can be sometimes be more ‘obvious’ than it was unshaven.

      • Yeah, we definitely agree on that, the pressure should stop.
        I heard the obvious growth was a myth, maybe it just grows sooner, not faster because unshaven hair is fully grown and although we notice some shorter hair here and there which recently shed.
        It should actually be like it is for us guys, a free choice, although influenced, like most of what us humans do, but an aesthetical one, some might like it more, some less, but the respect should never be in discussion, let alone the shaming. Actually I noticed some guys shave and although some girls have preferences in one sense or another, there (sometimes) is less rigidity, because other things count more.

      • The obvious growth thing is neither because it grows faster nor thicker, but because when we shave off a hair, what eventually grows out is a blunt end – it’s easier to see, rather than tapering. :)

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