I've never been able to afford (the time or the money) to go get professional spray-tans, and of course I'm terrified of tanning beds (melanoma!!), so over the years I've perfected my method of self-tanning at home that I will share with you now. Here's what you'll need:
1. Self Tanner. Duh. Personally, I think that L'Oreal Sublime Bronze is the most natural-looking drug store brand on the market, at least for my fair skin tone. For this method, you will need two types: a lotion (or gel) and a spray:
2. A quick-absorbing lotion.
3. A large, old towel that you don't mind messing up.
4. An old, soft hand towel that you don't mind messing up:
|This is what a towel looks like.|
5. A robe that you don't mind the inside getting dirty.
Ready? Let's get tan!
Take a shower. Make sure that you scrub your elbows, knees, feet, and ankles especially well with your washcloth or body pouf. You just want to make sure you're well-exfoliated. This goes for your face, too.
Dry off thoroughly. If you have extremely dry skin, I would recommend using a fast-absorbing lotion all over your body now, especially on your knees, elbows, and feet. Don't use a really thick lotion, though, because then you'll have to wait a long time before you can apply the self-tanner, and nobody wants to sit around in a robe (or naked) for that long!
If your hair is still wet, put a towel on your head or pin it up so that it's not touching your back. Nothing ruins a tan like dripping hair.
Lay the old towel out on the floor under where you plan on using your tanner. You don't want to mess up the floor or rugs. Spray tanner can be very slippery, and can also cause the bottoms of your feet to turn orange, so this step is important.
Let's Tan! Take your tanning lotion or gel and start with your legs. Apply it in large circles, careful to cover every square inch. Make sure to rub it in as much as possible. If you're using the gel, it will leave you feeling a little greasy, but I like it because it seems easier to spread evenly than the lotion, and it's not sticky.
When you get close to your ankles, use sparingly. You're going to just use what's left over from the tops of your legs, and spread it down to your ankles, all the way to the floor, and a little on the top of your feet. They shouldn't feel greasy at all, because you'll use so very little.
Apply the gel or lotion to your torso, all the way up to your neck. If you can't reach the middle of your back, that's ok, just rub it in as much as possible where you have put it, and try not to miss any spots. Work as quickly as possible.
Apply the gel or lotion to your arms. This is tricky. I've found that the best way to do this is to rub it in all around, circling my arm with my opposite hand. You may want to do under your arms as well, to avoid a line. Use sparingly there, though--you don't want super-tan armpits. That would look weird.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. It's really important to do this well--use a nail brush if you have to, to get all the tanner out from under your nails. Also, keep your hands pointed towards the floor during this process. You only want to wash up to your wrists. DO NOT let any water splash anywhere else, or let it drip down your arms, or you're likely to get streaks*. Dry your hands while keeping them pointed down.
*Note: If you do happen to get any water on a part of your body you've already tanned, just dry it off and then rub it together with your forearm, spreading the tanner from your arm over the spot.
Blot. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT STEP FOR A NATURAL-LOOKING TAN. Don't skip it. Take your old hand towel and blot it on your feet, ankles, behind and on top of your knees, on your elbows, under your arms, and on your neck. Do NOT rub with the towel, just blot.
Now, take your can of spray tanner, hold it an arm's length away, and lightly spray your face. I know that the bottle says not to do this, but just make sure and hold your breath and close your eyes. It's the only way to make your face match your body. As soon as you do this, take your blotter towel and blot on top of your closed eyes, around your hair line, on your eyebrows, around your nose, and on top of your lips. In fact, just blot everything except for your forehead and cheeks. That's easier.
|Sadly, this is me photoshopped. I wasn't cut out for the natural look.|
Spray your upper back. Unless you are a contortionist, you probably missed a spot or two on your back, so spray it all over, and liberally.
Spray your feet and ankles. Stay pretty far away, because you just want to cover them with a fine mist. Spray your hands in the same manner; I find that the easiest way to spray my hands is to reach out into the shower and spray in there. That way, you're less likely to get the residue where you don't want it.
|These are my *actual* feet.|
Rub your wrists together, then do the same with the backs of your hands. Then take your blotting towel and blot your hands and feet.
Throw on your old robe for a bit. It will absorb excess tanner in places it doesn't belong (like your elbows and underarms), and you can allow it to dry a little bit. If you don't have a robe, or if you're in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer all over so you don't stick to your clothes and mess up your tan. Definitely, though, you should AVOID WEARING WHITE or putting on any tight-fitting clothes (like skinny jeans) until much later. I just recently ruined a white camisole by putting it on right after I applied my self-tanner. It sucked.
So, that's it! It will take a few hours for your tan to show up, and you'll keep getting tanner until that evening or the next morning. Here is the finished product, after only a few hours:
|Yes, this is tan for me.|
(Sorry there weren't more pictures in this tutorial. It's really hard to tan yourself and take G-rated pictures at the same time.)