Self-Tanning 101: The Healthy Way to Glow!


One of the many reasons to love summer is the fact that it means you can pack away those skinny jeans and bust out the shorts! One snag: your skin tone may still be stuck in hibernation mode. But no worries, you can instantly amp your glow from head to toe with the right self-tanner. We know there are a lot of choices out there these days, that picking—and using—the right product is tricky. That’s why we asked Sophie Evans, a Skin Finishing Expert at St.Tropez—for some DIY bronzing advice.

Choosing a Product

If you: are a self-tanning newbie
Try: gradual formulas, like St. Tropez Gradual Tan Moisturizer
$30 | shop it

We know why self-tanning can be intimidating—one false move could take you into Oompa Loompa territory fast. “If you’re hesitant or a first-timer, gradual tanners can be the way to go.” says Evans. Gradual lotions, like St. Tropez Gradual Tan Moisturizer, apply just like a standard moisturizer and develop into a light tan look, only about one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone, over the course of a few hours. These are best used once a day, in place of your regular body moisturizer, to keep the color natural looking and consistent.

If you: have been tanning awhile or need touch-ups
Try: foams or sprays, like St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse
$18–$45 | shop it

While the race for the best bronzer will all come down to preference, it’s best to build color incrementally. If you’ve tanned before, or have oily skin, opt for foams or sprays like St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse. Sprays and mousses are great because they dry quickly and won’t leave your skin feeling sticky, so you can apply and get out the door in minutes. Evans also recommends sprays for the face, back, and for quick touch-ups. “The Bronzing Mousse is also particularly good for sculpting and adding definition to curves and muscle lines of the body,” she says.

If you: want super-long-lasting color
Try: oil-based products, like St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil
$50 | shop it

When it comes to longevity, Evans says you can’t go wrong with an oil-based product. St. Tropez’s new Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil, for example, delivers the longest-lasting glow, and thanks to the addition of Brazil nut oil, it’s also extra hydrating. But even when you use a long-lasting product like an oil, Evans says you might want to bring a gradual self-tanner on longer vacations for touch-ups. And her best tip for long-term upkeep? “It’s important to lightly exfoliate your face and body every few days to ensure your tan fades evenly throughout repeated applications,” she says.

Streak-free application in 5 easy steps

So now you’ve found the perfect product, it’s time to get the perfect look. Here Evans shares five essential steps to achieve an optimal glow.

1: Wax or shave 24 hours before application and exfoliate eight hours beforehand.
2: Use your product with an applicator mitt to avoid staining your hands.
3: Before you start, create a moisturizer barrier by applying a thick lotion or body cream to the joints, feet, and hands. Because these areas tend to be really dry, they’re known to soak up excess color from self-tanning products, which can lead to too-tan spots that look orange or dirty. This step prevents that.
4: Leave your tanning product on for at least eight hours before showering or washing.
5: Moisturize every day to maintain your glow and keep your skin looking healthy.

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