Self-tanner: 7 dos + 4 don’ts for the perfect complexion

A summery tan all year round – that’s possible and even without sunbathing on a beach holiday. Self-tanners conjure up a beautiful complexion and let the skin shine. Here you can find out everything about the different product types and the most important dos and don’ts.

What self-tanner actually is

After intensive sunbathing, the skin turns a summery brown. Even if we love that tan on our skin – after a while, UV rays unfortunately damage our cells and cause our skin to age quickly. Luckily, nobody has to do without a summery look anymore – after all, that’s what self-tanners are for.

The processes that are released when sunbathing and self-tanning could hardly be more different. While UV rays encourage our cells to turn darker in self-protection, self-tanners have a specific active ingredient that reacts on our skin and colors it superficially.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cloth, gel, lotion or mush: All self-tanners are based on the same active ingredient. The sugar molecule dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which also occurs naturally in our body, reacts with the proteins in our horny layer. This chemical reaction causes the top layer of skin to become colored, but this only becomes visible after about six to eight hours . In order to conjure up a really beautiful complexion and avoid spots, however, it takes a little practice with self-tanning.

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Unfortunately, it can also happen that someone does not react to self-tanner at all. This is probably due to an insufficient concentration of proteins in the upper layers of the skin. However, this case really only occurs very rarely.

Types of self-tanners

All self-tanning products are as individual as each individual skin is. They differ primarily in their consistency and application . It is best if you try a few products and find out what works best for you personally.

tanning towels

The small tanning towels are ideal for beginners and travelers . Instead of a heavy lotion, you only have a few small packets that you can take anywhere. But be careful – you need more than just one packet to get a full body tan. There are special tanning towels for each part of the body, such as the face and body, which you should only use for these areas.

When applying lotion with tanning towels, you should hurry, as they dry very quickly. In addition, there are usually few care substances in the towels. Therefore, you should also apply a moisturizing lotion to your body.

tanning lotion

Tanning cream can dry out the skin quickly because the active ingredient DHA draws out a lot of moisture. But tanning lotion has the unbeatable advantage that it is both tanning and moisturizing . Especially when the tanning lotion has been mixed with other mild substances and nutrients, it offers optimal care. This self-tanner is ideal for anyone who wants a soft tan .

tanning spray

Spray tanning spray on the body is quick and easy. With a little practice, you can even tan more evenly with a spray than with a lotion. You can also use the spray tan to tan hard-to-reach areas, such as your shoulders and back . It’s also easy to do with the step backwards method: all you have to do is spray the self-tanner over your shoulders and then slowly walk through the mist.

Self-tanner for every skin type

Aside from the type of product, the self-tanner should also match your skin tone. Because what works for others can backfire on you – and vice versa. Nevertheless, it is worth experimenting a bit here yourself. To test whether the color really suits your type, apply a little self-tanning lotion to an inconspicuous, coverable part of your body and observe how the color relates to your natural tone.

Light skin

Skin types with light skin usually have a naturally pale, slightly rosy complexion. Fair skin is very sensitive to sunlight and turns red easily. Therefore, a self-tanning cream is the most gentle and quickest way to create a summer complexion.

Self-tanners for light skin types often contain a very low concentration of the active ingredient DHA. Therefore, these products give fair skin a nice, soft tan. It is advisable, especially for beginners , to use a lighter tanning cream. This way you can get used to the coloring and if it is still too light for you, simply apply more cream.

If you have a light skin type, then a tanning cream with additional  UV protection and nourishing nutrients is worthwhile for you . These include antioxidants and vitamins.

Medium skin type

If your skin is normal to lightly toned and you have a bronze or olive undertone, then you probably have medium skin type. You can use products that are suitable for every skin type without hesitation and have more leeway in terms of tanning intensity than light skin types. You don’t have to be quite as economical and careful with the self-tanner, but you should also apply a thin layer at first. If you don’t like the intensity, you can always apply more cream.

Dark skin type

The dark skin type naturally has a darker skin tone or is already tanned for the summer . The tanning cream will not give you a completely darker appearance, but you can emphasize your summery complexion and make your skin appear more radiant.

With your skin type, it doesn’t hurt to use a little more of the cream. Unlike the bright guy, you’re more difficult to go wrong. Sun-tanned skin is often dry and stressed , which is why you should use a nourishing self-tanner. Pay special attention to moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid, shea butter or coconut oil.

7 doses for the perfect tan

Of course it’s not easy to evenly tan yourself. But with the right tricks and a little practice, you too will soon be able to do it without any problems.

Proper preparation: peeling

Before you start self-tanning, you should first prepare your skin properly . This is very important and decides how even the whole thing will look later. If you plan to tan your legs, be sure to remove any hairs beforehand . The most effective is either waxing or epilation . However, you should do this at least 12 hours before self-tanning to give your irritated skin enough time to recover.

In order to optimally prepare your skin, you start with a full-body peeling . You gently and thoroughly remove all dead and rough skin cells. If you don’t do this, these dry areas will stain the most intensively and spots or streaks will appear. This affects the knees, elbows, feet and face the most.

It is best not to use an oily peeling – the greasy film prevents the tanning cream from being properly absorbed.

Apply cream evenly

Applying self-tanner properly and evenly is not that easy and requires a little practice. Since almost every tanning cream absorbs and dries very quickly, you also have to hurry when applying the cream .

Basically, you should always wear a special applicator glove , otherwise your hand would turn extremely dark very quickly. When applying, start with the legs and gently massage in the cream in circular motions . Straight movements lead to unsightly edges that differ from each other like stripes. You should be particularly careful when applying cream to your face, neck and décolleté.

There is a little trick to avoid visible transitions – especially at the hairline and eyebrows. First apply a thin layer of tanning cream to the face, leave it on for a short time and then follow up with a normal moisturizing cream. This distributes the self-tanner better and moisturizes the face at the same time.

At the very end it’s hands and feet. You can use special brushes to color these parts of the body very carefully . With your hands, you only smear the cream on the backs of your hands – the surfaces are left out.

Apply self-tanner to face

It is not for nothing that there are different products for the individual areas of the body. You should only use products specially designed for the face . They usually have a lower fat content , which is particularly beneficial for people with combination or problem skin . In addition, there are no oils in facial tanning creams that can irritate the eyes. Nevertheless, you should apply cream to your face sparingly and, if necessary, apply more cream again.

But not only the face, you should also apply self-tanning lotion to other areas very carefully. In principle, this applies to all areas that have formed a thick callus. In these areas, as well as on the knees and in the crook of the arm, the tint is most intense . So apply less cream here.

Tan your back and shoulders

Unfortunately, there are parts of the body that we cannot or only with great difficulty apply lotion ourselves. Straight backs and shoulders are not easy to shape when self-tanning. Ideally, you have someone who can rub lotion on your back. If this is not the case, you can also use a tanning spray . To do this, spray the spray over your shoulders and then walk backwards through the tanning mist until it has settled on your skin.

Apply cream after tanning

Even if you have creamed your whole body with self-tanner – you are not quite done yet. In order to care for your skin on the one hand and to blur noticeable transitions on the other , you should also apply body lotion to your body .

If you’ve been careful and only applied a thin layer of tanning cream, you may well want to reapply. Of course you can do that too, but you should never peel your skin again and wait until the first layer of cream has dried.

Remove self tanner

After the tan has dried, you realize with a panic that your body is covered with brownish spots and smudges. This is of course the worst case scenario, but it can still happen. Don’t panic – you can remove most of the cream. With a long bath , the horny layer swells and the tanning cream can be easily scrubbed off with a peeling. If that doesn’t work, then there are special tanning removers that can loosen dead skin cells and remove most of the self-tanning lotion.

Sometimes fingers and nails in particular turn slightly orange. You can get rid of this unsightly coloring by dipping your hands in a lemon juice bath.

This is how your tan lasts longer

If everything worked and you’re happy with the result, then you probably want to keep the tan for as long as possible. It is now very important for your skin that you care for it every day . Applying a moisturizing body lotion in the morning or evening keeps your skin supple. You should also stop exfoliating your body for the time being, otherwise you will also scrub off the brown-colored upper skin cells. A hot bath or shower will also help the tan disappear quickly.

You should only gently remove the dye if it no longer looks nice after about a week . It’s easy to do, either by using the special remover or by exfoliating your body. But if you want to keep and refresh your tan, you can of course do that. However, you should not use self-tanner more than once a week .

4 don’ts when tanning

Maybe you know horror stories from others or have had a failed self-tanning attempt yourself. Small glitches can happen to beginners in particular, which is not a big deal, but they could perhaps have been avoided.

Experiment unnecessarily

You want to tan your body yourself for the first time because an important event is coming up. That’s not a good idea – at least not right before the event. Instead, take your time two to three days in advance and try out the tanning cream at your leisure. After about a day you will see the final result and can then assess whether the coloring actually matches your natural type. If this is not the case, you now have enough time to remove the tan again.

Choosing the wrong color

When choosing a color, always make sure that the tint matches your natural skin color. If you have light skin, you should not necessarily use the darkest self-tanner. This not only looks unnatural in terms of intensity, but can also be accompanied by unsightly nuances . For example, your skin suddenly appears slightly orange as a result , instead of a summery tan.

It is always better to apply the cream as sparingly as possible and apply again in an emergency. For a subtle tan on your face, you can mix your suntan lotion with a regular moisturizer.

take little time

Self-tanning takes a little practice and time, especially for beginners. Digging into it for a bit in the morning and then just trying it will most likely not end well. Therefore, always plan some time so that you can correct mistakes even in an emergency . It is best to use your self-tanner in the evening before going to bed, let it absorb well and then take a shower the next morning.

Wear light-colored clothing

Even though many manufacturers state that their product dries on the skin after just 20 minutes, you should be careful with it. Unsightly stains can still appear on light-colored clothing in particular, which cannot be removed from the washing machine on wool, synthetics or silk . If you want to leave the cream on overnight, it is better not to sleep in white sheets , but to lay out at least a few towels under you.


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