As you all know, I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to sunscreen. I wear it every day, year round – including my neck and hands.

Except……when I go away on vacation.

I know, I know. But there’s just something about that once or twice a year, being away from my normal routine, and let’s face it – don’t we all look better with “a little color”?

Which is why I love – seriously, LOVE – self-tanner. I embraced it years ago, and – if I do say so myself – have perfected the technique.

I know that many of you are intimidated at the prospect of using it  – the streaks, the blotches, the “orange-y-ness”. And while it can go wrong, if you follow these steps you’ll get natural, even results.

Ready? Let’s get “tanning”:

1.The most important product you’ll need for successful self-tanning is this:

clinique 7 day scrub cream

image credit: Clinique

Exfoliation – removing surface dead and flaky skin cells – is key to smooth and even self-tanning. Don’t even think about skipping this step. Just like sanding and spackling a wall prior to painting, you want to exfoliate your skin thoroughly prior to self tanning. I love this grainy scrub by Clinique, but any kind will do.

2. Now you’re ready to self-tan – throw on an old tee shirt (in case of staining) and pull your hair away from your face. Squeeze about a nickel-sized amount of product into the palm of your hand, and rub it evenly between your two hands (palms only). Immediately apply the self tanner to your face and neck as if you were washing your face with it.

This is key. The biggest mistake people make when self -tanning (aside from NOT exfoliating, see above), is applying the product in sections. This is what results in uneven application and missed spots. If you massage the tanner into your skin in circular, all-over motions, you’ll get the most even coverage.

3. “Hot” spots – I apply the tanner all over my eyelids, even though you’re technically not supposed to. I immediately tissue it off my lids (as well as my eyebrows), so that just a little remains and I don’t wind up with “raccoon eyes”. I also spread it down my neck so that it’s not a different color than my face (another reason for the old tee shirt).

4. As soon as you’re finished, thoroughly wash your hands (who wants tan palms?).

5. Let the product set for about 20 minutes before applying your make-up.

And that’s it! Your own skin tone and type, plus the self-tanner you’re using, will yield different results. So be prepared to experiment a bit.

Some F.A.Q.’s:
How long will my “tan” last?
It depends on a) the product and b) your skin. That said, the color will last longer if you exfoliate regularly. This keeps the skin smooth and will extend the life of your color.

How often should I re-apply?
Again, that’s up to you. Once you get results you like, you can use it every other day to maintain, or just occasionally – when your skin needs a little “boost”.

What’s the best self-tanner out there?
Personal preference for sure, but I like these:

self tanner jergens clarins

Image credit: Jergens/Clarins

Some self-tanners also have a bit of bronzer built in. These can be nice because you can actually see where you’re applying the product, and you get instant color until the self-tanner kicks in. Again, the choice is yours.

Do I still need a sunscreen if I’ve self-tanned?
YES!!! Using a self-tanner does not offer your skin protection from the sun’s rays – don’t be misled into thinking that you are “protected” because your face looks tan. The only exception is if the self-tanner you are using also contains a sunscreen. And no less than 15 SPF.

So what do you think? Do any of you use self-tanner? Do you have a favorite brand or tip? Share it here!


  1. Shalagh Hogan on September 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    And now there’s no doubt that my “I don’t know how” excuse just flew out the window. I have the tanner but not the exfoliant scrub. Thanks Sheri.

    • sherisilver on September 12, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Yay! Get that scrub! xo

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