As with most skincare treatments that go beyond your standard cleansing routine or at-home product, tanning is one of those things that is best left to a professional and far away from harmful tanning beds. However, I won’t knock anyone for wanting to keep up their glow while distancing or spending way less time outdoors. DIY tanning is a viable solution, but not without a few expert tips to keep you from going overboard.

Prep the Skin

First, always shower, remove makeup, and lightly exfoliate your face before applying a self-tanner to the face and/or body. (Keep in mind that certain products may not allow body cleansing up to as much as 8 hours beforehand.) According to Sophie Evans, St. Tropez’s Skin Finishing Expert, the last product in your routine should preferably a toner or a gentle face polisher.

“Always avoid heavy oils. Any oils left on the skin will prevent your self-tan from developing,” she says. “After cleansing, gently blot your face dry and apply any eye creams or serums you would typically use in your skincare routine.”

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Just be sure to give those products time to fully absorb into the skin since facial self-tanner should be applied all over, including over the upper eyelid and under the eye.

Exfoliating minutes before self-tanning is fine, but if you want to achieve a deeper tan, Evans also says “you will find that exfoliating the day before or 8 hours before will allow your skin to be at a more neutral/natural ph which is perfect for self-tan development.”

Pick Your Product

The type of self-tanning product you choose should come depend on your skin type and lifestyle. According to Evans, foams and mousse are lightweight and dry fast, but if your skin is on the drier side, “gels and face serums will be your first choice.”


St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Water Serum

St. Tropez.

Sprays are easy to apply and great for everyone, but again, a serum delivers just a bit more hydration. “With St. Tropez’s Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Face Serum ($30) the formula is compacted down to supercharge your skin with its vitamin complex and hyaluronic acid tanning system,” she adds.

“The unique Sunshine Complex ™ mimics the positive feel-good effects that you would normally get from sunlight exposure, and the tropical fragrance instantly lifts your mood.” (Major plus: it feels powder soft and illuminates your skin with just one application.)

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Gel

St. Tropez.

Buy: St. Tropez Self-Tan Express Bronzing Gel $44

There are also express self-tanners, including the ones in St. Tropez’s famous Purity collection, that doesn’t require showering beforehand if you need to glow on the go.

Whether you go with a spray, foam or mousse, you’ll definitely want to apply it with a tanning mitt to avoid staining your palms or creating visible streaks and uneven color. From there, you simply swipe, wait (if required), and rinse (if it isn’t an express treatment). Should you want to chisel those cheekbones for the illusion of a contoured makeup look, you can literally apply it to your face with self-tanning serum.

“Mix the St. Tropez Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Serum with your favorite non-oil based moisturizer and apply all over the base of your face, blending down the neck and onto the décolletage. Drier skin tends to need slightly more product than oilier skin,” says Evans.

“The key is to have enough product so that the serum can glide effortlessly over the skin. Using a foundation brush or beautyblender, contour the face by creating a number three down each side profile. All you have to do is wait about 4 hours for a light and a natural contour that will last about 2-3 days.”

Keep Up Your Glow

The longevity of your DIY tan job will depend on the type of product you use. In most cases, Evans says a foam or mousse will give you 10-14 days of color before it starts fading. In the interim, daily moisture will keep it looking fresh.

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Body Lotion

St. Tropez.

“Moisturize daily with non-oil based products and then every 2-3 days, use a gradual tan like St Tropez’s Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Body Lotion to boost color and hydrate your skin in between self-tanning. Also, exercise and lifestyle choices can affect the longevity of your glow.”

Finally, don’t let a pimple or breakout keep you from using a self-tanner at home. While acne products certainly don’t help the longevity of a self-tan, applying a self-tanner over acne and pimples takes the redness out and actually helps conceal.”

“Just make sure you are lightly exfoliating the area before and a few days afterward especially if you are using a self-tan with a tinted guide color,” says Evans.

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