Apply self-tan

An even, natural glow using self-tan can be tricky to achieve. We tell you how to avoid issues like streaking, dark creases and orange hands. Follow our step-by-step guide to apply self-tan like a pro and achieve the perfect glowing, sun-kissed tan.



Apply self-tan


Select your product. If you don’t already have a favourite self-tan product, do a little research. We’ve shared our top tried and tested self-tan products here.

Perform a patch test. If you haven’t used the product before, a patch test is essential, not only to make sure you have no reactions, but to also ensure the colour of the bronzer suits and enhances your skin tone.

Gently exfoliate. While exfoliation is important to remove excess dead skin cells before you apply self-tan, there’s no need for extreme exfoliation. The Mayo clinic suggests simply exfoliating using a wash cloth. Do pay special attention to dryer and tougher areas like those around the knees, elbows and ankles. If you’re using an exfoliant, make sure its not oil-based as this will interfere with the application of the self-tan.

Make sure your legs are hair free. Shaving is OK but do NOT wax your legs shortly before applying self-tan. If you wax, do it at least 48 hours before applying self-tan to avoid skin irritation. If you leave shaving and waxing till after, you’ll strip away the self-tan.

Use moisturiser for even application. Before you start, apply cream or body balm to your hands, ankles, the rough parts of your toes, your knees and elbows. Do this anywhere your skin is thicker and drier because these areas tend to “trap” colour and will look darker than anywhere else. The moisturiser makes it easier to blend over these areas and prevent this from happening.



Make sure your skin is completely dry before starting to apply the self-tan, and all moisturiser has been completely absorbed.

Ideally wear rubber gloves or use a tanning mitt. Gloves and especially tanning mitts make it easier to apply an even, streak-free tan while protecting your hands from stains. Self-tans like the Fake Bake products even come with a pair of gloves. If they don’t, you can purchase a tanning mitt online from Faithful to Nature like one of these below.


Left: Vita Liberata Tan Mitt, R150. BUY

Right: TanOrganic Application Mitt, R145BUY

Start at your feet and blend, blend, blend, blend, blend. The bottom up approach is best as the feet are notoriously difficult for achieving an even application. The bottom up approach also helps prevent creases. Spend time on your feet and ankles, making sure you apply self-tan evenly to every curve and dip. Then slowly blend a small amount of self-tan in at a time using circular motion, working your way up your leg.

Use a large blending/bronzer brush for your feet and other “tricky” areas. It really is the best way to blend.

Don’t forget to tan the top of the hands if you’re applying self-tan to your arms. Use a large blending/bronzer brush and extend the self-tan from the top of the wrist to the hand. Blend down the top of the hands and fingers, bending the fingers to stretch out the knuckles, for the best result.



Apply self-tan

Clean your hands after each application to avoid stains. Generally, warm water and soap will do. However, if you’re tanning your arms, avoid removing the colour applied to the tops of your hands which washing with water could do. Instead, scrub the palms of your hands with an exfoliator. Then use biodegradable makeup wipes (like Natracare available from Faithful to Nature here) to remove the exfoliator  Finally, using the makeup wipe or a cotton swab, remove any colour that may be trapped on your nails and cuticles.

Wear loose, dark clothing while the colour develops. You need to be practical about self-tan. It’s likely that colour may transfer to light clothes, so loose fitting, dark items are recommended on the day of your application. If you wear a skin-tight pair of jeans shortly after application, it’s going to seriously damage the evenness of the tan.

Don’t shower for at least 4-6 hours after application or you’ll wash the tan off. The products usually need at least 4 – 6 hours to develop. Read the instructions on your product carefully and rinse off the “guide colour” only when the prescribed amount of time has passed.

Try not to sweat heavily either in the first 4 – 6 hours post application or you risk suffering some very unattractive sweat streaks.

Moisturise daily! To extend your glow and keep it looking dewy and gorgeous.

Reapply as instructed. If you obtain the right colour after the first application it should last a few days. You will need to reapply as instructed to maintain the colour or deepen the colour according to your preference.


(RELATED POST: Self-tan! Our top 6 tried and tested.)

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