MP! Style Guide: How to get the perfect fake tan at home

These days, we’re well aware of the dangers of tanning. That’s why most celebs turn to faux tanning to keep their skin looking safely sun kissed. Since most of us can’t afford celebrity-level spray tanning, here’s how to use self tanner you can buy almost anywhere.


Different kinds

Self tanner comes in a variety of formats—lotion, gel, mousse, spray, and pre-soaked wipes. It takes a little trial and error to figure out which one works best for you, but lotions are definitely our recommendation for beginners, as they take the longest to absorb and leave you with a little extra time to correct mistakes.

Prep work

Like a painter with a canvas, the number one key to a good fake tan is to start with a good base. Skin needs to be exfoliated, moisturized (especially rough areas like elbows and knees), and fully dried to be able to best absorb the faux tanner product. This helps avoid patchiness and uneven color and makes your tan last longer. Also, shave your legs and underarms the day before, or else the razor will slough off some of your tan.

Use the right tools

The number one telltale sign that you’ve been fake baking? Orange palms and stained fingernails. Avoid these by using rubber gloves or a special applicator mitt made for self tanner. For hard-to-reach places, try putting the applicator mitt over the end of a wooden kitchen spoon to get tricky areas like the middle of your back.

Start from the head down

Use petroleum jelly to block any areas you don’t want tanned, such as your eyebrows and lips. Beginning with your face, work the product into your skin by making small circles. Don’t forget places like behind your ears and along the nape of your neck. Use the product very sparingly on feet and hands, as they tend to absorb the most and look the blotchiest.


Use a tissue to wipe at your underarms, knees, elbows, hands, and feet so these areas don’t become too dark. Even if you used a glove or mitt, wash your hands thoroughly to ensure no product stains your palms or fingernails. If you feel sticky and don’t have time to wait to dry, use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

Be patient

Avoid putting on any tight clothes for at least an hour so the product can absorb properly. It’s best to apply the self tanner a few hours before bed so you can just throw on loose pajamas and go to bed. Most products won’t begin to show a difference until the next day.

Refine again

If some areas don’t look quite right, there are two options. First, you can try using more self tanner to even out areas that didn’t get enough. Second, you can use lemon juice and an exfoliator to ‘erase’ any spots that appear too dark.

self tanner gif

And maintain

Most products are designed to be used once a week. To keep your tan looking its best over those seven days, the number one thing to do is stay moisturized. Then just start the process all over again next week!

Leave a Reply




Written by Jackie Kolgraf

I'm the lead style/beauty writer & U.S. content coordinator here at Maximum Pop!, where I get to combine my love for Louis Tomlinson with his love for Adidas. I hail from Boston, and I'm obsessed with my wiener dog, nail art trends, One Direction, and perfume samples. I believe in daily pizza.

[g1_socials_user user="130" icon_size="28" icon_color="text"]

And the winner is… YouReview: we need 10 MP!ers to review Holly Smale’s ‘Geek Girl: Head Over Heels’

Get ahead of the curve with River Island’s new plus size collection