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Sunless Tanner and How to Apply It (Infographic)

how to apply self tanner dermatologist recommended

Sunless tanner and how to apply it information from a dermatologist? Yep, I'm a huge fan. I'm also fussy and an artist. My 35+ years of doing over 200,000+ skin exams on Californians makes it clear that getting bronze skin from the sun equals wrinkles and premature skin aging along with skin cancer.

dermatologist recommended sunless tanner tips

If you want tan skin, fake it! - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey

Use sunless tanners and eat beta carotene rich foods. Trust me, you'll appreciate this in as little as a few years as you see your friends and family's skin suffer while yours looks great. It's never too late to start faking the bronze glow!!

How to Apply Sunless Tanner - Dermatologist Recommended Tips and Insights

Do you know the best way to self tanner to face and body and achieve a soft, even, sun-kissed glow that looks natural? 

Looking good while using a self-tanner isn't always easy. In fact, there are a few tricks. I've put them in my Sunless Tanner Infographic. 

Problems with sunless-tanners:

  • They get stuck in thicker areas of your skin (like your freckles and over your knees) creating darker areas.
  • Self-tanners can dry out your skin giving you scaly alligator looking flakes.
  • The active ingredient can have a funny mayonnaise-like smell so many products try to cover that with heavy perfume that can give you an allergic rash.

Still, I love self-tanners and will take them any day over sun-damaged skin. But there are some tricks to getting the look you want with self-tanners.

How to apply sunless tanner to face

Layer a really good self-tanner into your Complete Skin Care Routine to get professional results!

How to use self-tanner on the face for best results:

how to cleanse skin before applying sunless tanner
best way to apply self tanner to face
CLEANSE: Exfoliate when you cleanse before you begin self-tanning application. This will reduce flaking and give you a smooth result. My favorite way to exfoliate facial skin is with my Triple Action Exfoliating Cleanser. It combines AHA (glycolic acid), BHA (salicylic acid) and eco-friendly beads to slough off dead skin and clean deeply into pores for the perfect sunless tan on your face.  


best moisturizer for face for sunless tannerCORRECT and HYDRATE skin use glycolic acid AHA products to keep skin exfoliated and hydrated to prevent the alligator look.

A multitasking option is to apply your self-tanner under a Glycolic Acid Face Cream

If you have extremely sensitive facial skin that can't tolerate glycolic acid, then use a really good facial moisturizer over your sunless tanner such as my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream. 

how to apply sunless tanner to facehow to apply sunless tanner to face


best sunscreen to use with sunless tanner on face

PROTECT your skin from UV rays because sunless tanners don't give you any sun protection. Nope, the tan color is decorative and does not block UV light. This is really important when you are using self-tanners because the golden glow does not provide ANY protection from UV damage and may even increase your risk of damage for 24 hours! Wear a good, mineral zinc-oxide sunscreen every day when you use tanners.

best facial sunscreen over self tanner

I recommend using a facial tinted sunscreen to add a little more bronze warmth to your skin tone. I personally use my Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50+ Mineral Matte Tinted Sunscreen every day. The iron oxide tinting also blocks visible light that can worsen some pigment problems - and I don't want any!

Best way to apply self-tanner on the body for natural results

best way to apply self tanner to body

My Ultra-Fast Triple Action Body Smoothing Kit gives you everything you need for a natural, smooth, moist flake-free sunless tan!

Prep body skin for self-tanner is with my Ultra-Fast Triple Action Body Smoothing Kit. In this kit you get the Triple Action Cleanser (yes it can also be used on your face), the Salux Shower Cloth and the Glycolic Acid Body Lotion.

Here is how it works:

best way to prepare body skin for sunless tannerCLEANSE body skin using an exfoliating treatment with the Salux Cloth with the Triple Action Body Wash to polish-away thick and rough skin that will over-stain with the self-tanner. 


best way to prevent dry skin with sunless tannerbest body moisturizer to prevent scaling skin with sunless tanner

Best hypoallergenic, fragrance free natural lotion for sensitive skin

CORRECT and HYDRATE body skin to prevent the alligator look of dry scaling skin from sunless tanner! Do this all in one step with Glycolic Acid Body Lotion applied over your self-tanner.

When you don't want to use glycolic acid in your moisturizer, use a general hydrating moisturizer like Dr. Bailey's Natural Lotion for face and body.

PROTECT all body skin from UV damage with a good, all-purpose mineral zinc sunscreen when you use self-tanner because skin may be more prone to damage for 24 hours. Click here to see the sunscreens that I love, use and recommend to my patients.

Dermatologists Tips to Apply Sunless Tanner and Get Perfect Results.

Sunless Tanner and How to Apply It
Author: Dr. Cynthia Bailey M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist practicing dermatology since 1987. She has done well over 200,000 skin exams during her career and authors the longest running physician written skin health blog in the world.