How to / Tutorial

Project Bronze: 5 Steps to Your Perfect Sunless Tan!

Hey everyone!

So as one of the last installments of my summer series “Project Bronze”, and probably one of the most useful of the series, is how to get glowing and bronzed skin without harming your skin with the suns UV rays. I personally like the look of a natural tan on my skin, but when I do feel like self tanning I want it to look as natural and flawless as I can make it look, and these are the simple steps I use to achieve that!

Step 1: Exfoliate

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I would have to say if you take away any of the tips I give you for sunless tanning, this one has to be it! You could be using something more expensive like St. Tropez or Fake Bake, or something from the drugstore like Jergans or Neutrogena, but if you have dry patches, or a little bit of extra dead skin cells around your knees or ankles, your tan will not look good. The tanner will grab onto those patches and create dark splotches on your skin, and then when those dead skin cells finally slough off over time you’ll be left with pale patches. But by exfoliating before hand you’re giving your tan an even surface, which will give you an even tan.

When I know I’m going to be doing a bit of self tanning I always go to town with exfoliators, but I have pretty tough skin on my legs and arms, so please feel free to take away some steps or alter them so they suit your skin best.

After I’ve washed my body in the shower/bath I give my skin a quick once over with my Clarisonic body brush and the matching exfoliator. Note: it’s best to do this after your skin has been exposed to the hot water for a while because it softens the skin, making this step much easier and more effective. This is pretty gently for me, but if this is too much either just use the brush or just the exfoliator. Then I shave my legs very carefully to make sure I get all the hair I want removed. Now this is an extra step some people may consider overkill, but I find I get the best tan when I add this step in. I use a special stone, made for exfoliating my skin. However I have no idea where you can get this, but something like a pumice stone for your feet works just as well. Then, starting at my legs I drag it up my legs making sure I apply a bit of pressure. Make sure which ever steps you do include to spend some extra time wherever your skin creases: knees, ankles, wrists, hands, and elbows.

Step 2: Moisturize


Now you may be wondering why you need to moisturize when you are just going apply self tanner right away, which should be enough to moisturize your skin. But you’d be wrong. Most of the time self tanners are not very moisturizing all on their own unless you are using a gradual tanner. And just like I said above you want to give your tan a smooth base, and if you’re not properly moisturized, you’ll just be encouraging the dry patches we just worked so hard to get rid of. Use your favorite moisturizer here, it doesn’t really matter how thick your moisturizer is. Just use something suited for your skin. I’m going to be using Victoria’s Secret Vanilla body cream.

Step 3: Choose your sunless tanner

Probably the easiest seeming step. Do you want something that will give you instant color? Or something more gradual (really great if you’re not used to tanning)? What formula do you want? Cream? Gel? Aerosol? Mousse? Though quick tip for gels and mousses, these are the hardest to work for most people because of how they apply, when using a mousse work in sections around your body (shin, then calf, then front of thigh, then back of thigh etc.), and use a mitt to apply them, when using a gel again work in sections because it dries down so quickly, also if you like the color a gel gives you but not the streaking that can happen, mix it with a bit of gradual tanner or your regular moisturizer. This is my personal favorite method!

Step 4: Apply

For Gradual Self Tanners:

Use like you would any other body lotion, get some in your hands and smooth it over your body. But make sure you are using this at least once a day, other wise the color will fade faster than you can build it up. If you want faster results apply twice a day.


For Aerosols:

This is best applied in your shower just in case you slip and spray some color onto the walls. Moisturizing before this application method it very important because the aerosols do not provide any moisture to the skin. Apply from the same distance across your skin in even back and forth sweeping motions, and go very lightly over any rough areas like ankles, feet, knees, etc.


For Gels:

This is one method it might be useful to have a pair of rubber gloves on hand because gels dry very quickly and you do no want that much exposure on your palms where you skin is supposed to be lightest.  Work very quickly in small sections around your body, being very careful around any rough areas. This formula is very prone to streaking and unevenness because you do get a bit of color upon application, plus it will develop over the coming hours. To accommodate this, I would say apply this at night or a morning where you will NOT be leaving the house. Then after about 8-10 hours hop into the shower and wash your body gently with a loofa. Some of your color will wash down the drain but the color you will have will be very even.


For Mousses:

Very similar application to gels, you’ll need a mitt to really get the full benefit of this formula. Work in sections around your body because again this formula dries down very quickly. And again to combat any streaking or splotches that may occur put this on at night or in the morning where you will NOT be leaving the house. Then after 8-10 hours so the tan has had time to develop on your skin, hop in the shower and gently wash your skin with a loofa. Like the gel some of your color will wash away but you’ll be left with a very even tan.

*Unfortunately I don’t currently have a a mousse formula, but the most popular is the one from St. Tropez

Step 5: Maintain


Now that you’ve spent all this time and effort on your tan you’ll want to try and keep it looking it’s best for as long as you can. I find the best way to maintain my tan is to keep my skin hydrated, and if I’ve just tanned I like to use a gradual tanner as my moisturizer. Same brands do make tan extending creams specifically for this purpose but I find gradual tanners work just fine. Ialso find that after about 3-4 days it really is beneficial to do some very light exfoliation around any rough patches because sometimes over the wear of your tan, the tan can gather on those rough patches.

I hope this was helpful for those of you who are interested in self tanning but weren’t sure exactly where to start or what to do, or maybe those of you who are seasoned veterans of the tanning world and are just interested in what I do! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate! Until next time . . .




5 thoughts on “Project Bronze: 5 Steps to Your Perfect Sunless Tan!

  1. Great post–lots of good info! I hadn’t ever thought to apply aerosol tanners in the shower. I had just stayed away from them because I was sure I’d make a mess all over my bathroom. The best self tanner I’ve tried is a mousse from Model Co. that I found on clearance at Ulta. It goes on evenly with a mitt and doesn’t give me too much of a self tanner smell (and that’s saying something because I even get the smell with the Jergens Natural Glow).


    • Thank you dear! And I used to think the same way until I applied it in my bathroom and then I though well why not just take a couple steps over in the shower where I can just rinse off the whole area! And I may have to try that, because I’ve only ever tried a mousse a couple of times. I also hear the Jergan reformulated so theres even less smell, though I’m sure you still get a little whiff of self tanner.


  2. Amazing post! I’m a complete newbie when it comes to sunless tanning and the risks of doing a bad job is achieving the Oompa Loompa effect so I’ve always just stayed away from it. After reading this, I’ll be sure to give it a shot thanks!


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