My Guide to Self-Tanning

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about my self-tanning routine, so I thought I would share a full blog post on the topic! I was recently thinking about how thankful I am for self-tanner… lol. My teenage self would literally lay out in the sun for HOURS trying to get the darkest tan possible, while my 31-year-old self tries to avoid the sun as much as possible. It’s so nice that we can get a nice, beautiful tan just from a bottle!

I’ve been using self-tanner for several years now and I have to say that I have it down to a good routine. Here are the steps I take for the perfect tan!

Step One: Prep

Prepping your skin is essential before applying self-tanner. It can really make a huge difference! The first step in skin prep is exfoliating. I use this Skin and Senses “Clarity” Sugar Scrub to exfoliate my skin in the shower. It’s not only great for getting rid of those dead skin cells, but it leaves my skin feeling SO SOFT thanks to its ingredients like grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil and Vitamin E. (It also smells really good and is non-toxic, too!) Next, I shave my legs and apply lotion only to the dry areas of my skin (like knees and ankles) to help the self-tanner go on more smoothly in those areas.

Step Two: Body Application

For body application, I use a tanning mitt to apply Loving Tan 2-Hour Express to each body part. I use three pumps for my calf, three pumps (each) for my upper legs, three pumps for my stomach, three pumps for my chest area and then three pumps for each arm. It’s seriously the best self-tanning product ever! I love that you only have to wait two hours before rinsing and the color turns out perfect every time – not orange at all. To rinse, I use hop in the shower and rinse off for a few minutes, making sure not to use any soap. It doesn’t have a strong smell and I find that it usually lasts for a week!

Step Three: Face Application

For my face, I use a different product – Isle of Paradise self-tanning drops. I mix a few drops of the Isle of Palms with my normal face moisturizer and apply to my face like normal (and then make sure to wash my hands!). After six hours, the tan is fully developed! I prefer to use this product in the morning. I’ve tried it at night and I sometimes wake up with a wonky tan due to pillow creases. Another tip is to just use a few drops at a time but use it multiple days in a row. I find that this works best for a gradual, even tan that lasts for a long time.

If you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments!

Leave a Comment


  1. Stephanie

    Hi! I was curious how you tackle tanning your back!?

    • I do it myself! It’s a little difficult haha but I’m able to do it! I use three pumps for my back and then take turns with each of my hands reaching around and rubbing it in. Definitely looking in a mirror helps. Since the Loving Tan has bronzer in it, you can easily see where you’re applying it and which areas need more tanner!

  2. Emery

    Do you tan your hands and feet? If so, how to do apply it. Did you use these products and tan while you were pregnant? I am just wondering if it’s safe.

    • Kristin

      I’d love to know how to apply to hands and feet too. The back of my hands in particular always turn out looking terrible.

    • I used both products while I was pregnant, but I’m not sure how “safe” they are! The Isle of Paradise drops are labeled “clean” at Sephora so I think those are pretty good. For hands and feet, I use the leftover product from my leg/arms. For example, I use three pumps for my calf, and then once my calf is all rubbed in there is a little leftover product on the mitt, and I use this for my foot.

  3. Christine

    Where can I find the top and shorts in this post?

  4. Meghann

    What do you do about sunscreen after you apply self tan?

    • I usually try to avoid it and stay in the shade for a couple of hours until I can rinse off. If I absolutely need to apply sunscreen, I just use the kind that sprays, not the lotion that you rub in!

  5. Ana

    Hey! Thank you for sharing!! When you wait the two hours after applying the Loving Tan 2 hour Express, do you find that it stains surfaces you touch (like sitting on a couch), or that it stains your clothes? I only have the drops right now, but would love something that appears a bit quicker like the Loving Tan!

    • Nope it does not stain at all!!! I have applied it at night before bed and my white sheets stay white. The only exception is if you get wet or sweat, then it will stain, but if you stay dry it does not transfer to anything.

  6. Debb

    Hi-how do you get your back to look even

  7. Meg

    Two questions: can you apply makeup to your face after application or how long do you need to wait to put on makeup?

    How do you apply to your back?

    • I let my face dry first and then I apply makeup right away! Probably 5 or 10 minutes after applying the drops.

  8. Emily

    Are these products “Clean?”

    • The Isle of Paradise drops are labeled “clean” at Sephora and I really like that you can mix them with your own moisturizer (so I use one that I know is clean!). I’m not sure about the Loving Tan though!

  9. Great tips! I haven’t tried a self tanner myself but will definitely keep this in mind as it is so much safer than sitting out and “bake” in the sun!

    Maureen |

  10. Anne

    Thanks for this! Your tan always looks spot on! How often do you do this once a week?

  11. Jules

    Thank you so much for the self tanning guide. It is very helpful and to the point. After you rinse off the self tanner, do you use a body lotion? If so, what body lotion do you use, and do you apply it on the days afterwards to stay moisturized?

    • I don’t apply body lotion right away, I’ll usually wait until right after I’ve fully showered and used soap (not just a rinse). The body lotion I use is the Necessaire Unscented!

  12. Ashley

    What do you use in between applications to extend the color? Yours always looks so perfect, while after about a month of applying tanner weekly, mine starts to clump or become splotchy in certain areas, even with exfoliating very well before. I can never get a smooth color after about a month or so of consistent use.

  13. Missy

    How long after showering do you wait to apply tanner?
    Does your mom use these same products? If so does she have any tricks for older ladies?