The Perfect DIY Spray Tan

I'll admit it – a spray tan does more for my self esteem than it probably should. But, I'm not the only woman I know that gets a real beauty rush from a fresh bronze job. My girlfriends and I agree that nothing makes us feel more fresh, toned, and ready for social media posts than a good spray tan! Heading into late winter, my white gams are begging for some color the sun just can’t muster. Of course, I prefer to have a pro spray me down to perfection, but for the price of one spray tan at a salon, I can get at least 10 good DIY tans at home, and I’m gonna tell you how it’s done.

The key to a good tan at home is knowing the type of products to use and how to use them. This is especially important when winter white skin leaves little room for error, but don’t worry... the process is easier and faster than you probably think!

In order to achieve a natural-looking glow, you need to be able to apply a very thin layer of self tanning product AND be able to see exactly where the product is going at the time of the application (vs. 4-6 hours later). With this in mind, I’ve found that self tanners that come in spray form with built-in bronzers are best for winter spray tans because they can be applied so lightly. A working LA-based model girlfriend, Virginia, taught me a little secret trick to get the best results! 

Follow these 5 steps for a perfect tan every time:

1. Exfoliate

This step is extremely important to avoid patchy spots. Use an oil-free exfoliating scrub or exfoliating glove in the shower before your planned tan. I get my exfoliating gloves from the drugstore for around 5 bucks. They can be washed in the washing machine and used over and over! Here’s an example of what I use:

2. Moisturize With an Oil-Free Moisturizer

If you have time, do this step several hours before applying tanning product. This step is also important to avoid patches of dry skin, and note that hydrated skin will hold your tan longer than dry skin.

Oil free is a must for both of these steps if you plan on applying the tan directly following the shower. Oil-based scrubs and lotions will act as a barrier to the tanning product and make your tan streak. You can start using moisturizers with oils after your first post-tan shower. In fact, I recommend it. Moisturized skin will not only hold your tan longer, it will help the tan to fade more evenly.

3. Use Disposable Gloves To Protect Your Palms

So your palms don’t match your bod. I use thin latex gloves, and you can find them at any beauty supply store. Here’s an example:

If you don’t have gloves, scrub those palms after tanning or you will have the dreaded orange palm look! Ah!!

4. Spray and Rub

Working with one small section of your body at a time starting with your lower legs, hold the spray about 6 inches from your skin and sweep over a small area. The trick is to do one sweep then rub in and evenly distribute the product over the section you are working on and move up, doing your arms last (you don’t want to have to bend over once your stomach is sprayed.. you risk getting a crease).

You won’t spray the tops of your feet or tops of your hands. Blend them with your body by pulling down a little of the product from your arms and legs. Don’t directly spray your ankles or the inside of your wrists! Those are both fake tan give away spots. If you have someone to spray your back for you, go for it, but if you don’t, don’t worry about it! I’ve found that rubbing some product from the front of my body onto my shoulders makes for a really natural looking tan… even in backless tops!

5. Let the Product Dry and Check Your Results

Taking a photo in the mirror may help to identify places you’ve missed or gotten a little heavy-fisted. Your tan will look THE BEST after you’ve waited at least 8 hours after application and taken a shower (do NOT shower until you’ve waited the amount of time recommended by the product). The post-tan shower is a must if you plan on wearing anything that’s lightly colored as the pigments in the built-in bronzer can transfer to clothes, but don’t stress too much if you get some tanner on your clothing… most products wash out easily.

You’re finished! In less than 15 minutes, you are a bronzed babe!

If possible, go pro if it’s your first time spraying and you’re heading to a big event, but if you can’t get to the salon, follow these steps and you’ll do just fine!

Here are a few products that I use and recommend:


Sephora Collection Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist 

St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Self Tan Bronzing Spray 



By: Megan

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