The One Mistake You're Probably Making When Using Self-Tanner
We likely don't have to convince you that sunbathing is not the best for your skin. In fact, 80% of skin aging has been attributed to sun damage1. So it's safe to say, if you want to keep your skin healthy and supple, you should probably take sun care seriously. What does this look like? Well, daily SPF is a must, but sunscreen still does not give you a green light to lie in the sun for hours—sunbathing for sport can still damage your skin over time.
If you're after that bronzy glow but would rather not subject your skin to intense sun exposure, self-tanner may be a good alternative. If you've never self-tanned before for fear that it would turn out patchy, you're not alone. It's definitely a process that takes time to master, but we have one tip that will help you get better results—and it's oh-so-easy.
Why you should apply lotion before and after you self-tan.
Self-tanning takes some prep work if you want it to turn out even and streak-free. The pre-tan routine goes as follows: exfoliate, shave (if you want to), let your skin dry, then apply your tanning product. You may want to avoid moisturizing right before rubbing in self-tanner, as the product won't spread as evenly or penetrate the skin as deeply (meaning it won't last as long). That being said, there are some areas on the body you may want to hydrate pre-tan application. This includes any areas that are prone to dryness or have more cracks and folds. The main regions to focus on? The hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
It's crucial to apply lotion to these areas; otherwise, the tanning product may get caught up in the cracks and folds, creating darker spots in some areas and lighter patches in others. Applying lotion beforehand helps the product spread more evenly in difficult areas, like those mentioned, as well as if you're dealing with dry skin all over. Just make sure to use a lotion that focuses solely on hydration rather than one that folds in chemical exfoliants like AHAs or BHAs. Read: If you layer on an exfoliating lotion before you apply a self-tanner, there's a chance it won't go on evenly.
Of course, our holy grail is the mindbodygreen postbiotic body lotion. With ultra-hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, and shea butter, the rich formula works to hydrate your skin and make it feel silky smooth, filling out any microcracks.
After you apply your tan, remember to follow the directions on the product. After your tan has set and you've showered (if your product is a rinse-off), then you can go ahead and moisturize your whole body. This will actually help extend the life of your tan, as moisturized skin will hold on to the color for longer. And remember: Using any sort of physical or chemical exfoliant (retinol body lotion included) while you have self-tanner on your skin will accelerate fading, so stay away from those until you're ready to say goodbye to your tan—well, until the next faux glow, that is.
Self-tanning is a great way to achieve that bronzy look, sans sun damage. Whether you've been using self-tan for years or are new to the process, this tip will help your tan turn out better and stay on longer. As a reminder, apply a hydrating body lotion to the hands, feet, knees, and elbows before applying tanner to avoid uneven patches. Then, after your tan has set and you rinse off, follow up with that same lotion—this time on the whole body. If you're on the hunt for a high-quality, hydrating body lotion, we have a list of 11 of our favorites here.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.