How to Fake a Tan: Sunless Tanning Tips

woman putting lotion on legs

A great suntan is associated with health and beauty. While a bronze look is desirable, especially in the summer or on holiday, we all know the dangers of the sun's UV rays. Is a temporary tan worth the permanent sun damage, wrinkles, and skin cancer risk? Absolutely not!

You can save time and avoid these risks entirely with sunless tanning lotion. Today's self-tanners give you a safe, deep golden tan, not the orange look of years ago. Many new self-tanning lotions are tinted; not only do they give you an initial tan, you're more likely to apply the lotion evenly and avoid streaking.


  • First, take a shower or bath and exfoliate your skin. Pay special attention to your elbows, knees, and any other rough spots. These areas will soak up the self tanning lotion and turn darker so you need to get rid of any dead skin.
  • Pat yourself dry and pin your hair up. Apply regular body or hand lotion to the dry spots you exfoliated. Allow yourself several minutes to completely dry.
  • You may choose to wear thin gloves to put on the self-tanning lotion and avoid getting it on your hands, but applying it with your bare hands will probably result in a more even application. It's your choice.
  • Start applying the lotion from the bottom, up, bracing your foot on a chair or stool. Rub in lightly, you can always go back later and apply a second time.
  • Don't forget the areas that would tan naturally in the sun, the back of your legs, knees, arms, and neck. When applying to your face, remember to smooth it on your eyelids and into your hairline. Avoid your eyes and hair. For those with sensitive skin, there are self-tanning lotions that are formulated specifically for your face and will result in a more natural look.
  • If you will be wearing your hair up, don't forget to apply the self-tanner on the back of your neck  to look more natural.
  • When you're finished, wash your hands thoroughly with soap if you chose not to wear gloves or your palms will turn an unnatural color. Use a hand towel to dry them completely.
  • Before the lotion dries, it may tan what you're wearing too, so let yourself dry and put on some loose clothing. If you're going to be sitting on a cloth chair or couch, sit on a towel to avoid staining.

Quick Tips

  • For a deep, extra-dark tan before a special occasion, apply self tanning lotion before bed, and again in the morning. Before you go out, check yourself in the mirror for any streaks and correct them with a damp paper towel. For the ultimate fake tan, apply bronzing powder to your face and shoulders for a finishing touch and hit the town!
  • Allow at least 10 minutes to apply self-tanning lotion and don't be in a hurry. You're more likely to avoid streaking and get a natural looking tan.

What do I do if I have spots that turn too dark?