My Sunless Tanning Routine

If you happen to be stealing Casper’s look like I am right now, you’re likely debating booking a spontaneous trip to the nearest island ASAP. And if you have plans for spring break, the urge to hop in a tanning bed stat!

But as great as your skin will look tan, it probably won’t look so great years from now if you’re exposing it to harmful rays. Lucky for you, I’d like to consider myself a sunless tanning expert so you can still have that golden glow.

I started self-tanning in high school around my sophomore year. I hated being pale and saw it as the perfect solution to that especially during the winter months. I’ve used an array of drugstore options including Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer and Banana Boat’s Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion. While I no longer use either of these products and opt to self-tan for special occasions rather than on a daily basis, my years of experience (and trial and error) have made sunless tanning a breeze.

The Results

Of course you want to see what kind of tan you’re getting before you keep reading, so here you go! The featured image of this post is an after picture, but I thought the best way to accurately show the color differences of my “before” and “after” of sunless tanning would be to show the different foundation shades I use for each!

My holy grail foundation, Rimmel’s Lasting Finish 25HR Foundation, in shades 100 Ivory (left) and 203 True Beige (right).

What I Use

Loving Tan is my holy grail sunless tanner. I use their Deluxe Bronzing Mousse in Ultra Dark ($39.95). Though this self-tanner may seem as though it’s on the pricey side compared to other drugstore options ($34.95 for their Deluxe Bronzing Mousse in lighter shades) this product is so worth the splurge.


As raved about by YouTuber and beauty guru Jaclyn Hill (and so many other YouTubers), this sunless tanner has green undertones that will keep you looking brown and bronzed instead of orange.

The tan also lasts longer than other drugstore options. When using Jergens I used to have to apply the lotion daily in order to maintain the tan that I wanted. With Loving Tan, I can get my color to last for a week as long as I’m moisturizing (though generally I’ll apply it every few days since I do go to the gym daily and sweat).

The mousse formula makes this virtually fool-proof to apply. It’s less messy and it has a color guard so you can clearly see where you’ve put the product and where you haven’t. I feel no need to try any other sunless tanner because this one is perfect in every way!

What I Do

Along with their tanning mousse, I use their Deluxe Self Tanning Applicator Mitt ($14.95) and their Easy to Reach Back Applicator for Self Tanning ($24.95). If you hunt around, there are a lot of YouTubers who have coupon codes so you don’t have to pay extra for these. Either way, while they aren’t absolutely necessary, they’ll make your life a hell of a lot easier.

Step 1: Shower

You want to start off freshly shaved and exfoliated. Make sure you exfoliate and shave to perfection because this will make all the difference!

Step 2: Moisturize

Really, don’t skip this. I know it can be annoying to apply lotion all over your body and then self-tanner, but you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have blotchy elbows and knees. I generally sunless than at night, so my routine is to shower, shave and exfoliate after the gym in the morning and then moisturize so that my skin can absorb the lotion throughout the day. In areas that my skin is a little extra dry such as my elbows, I’ll use Vaseline as my moisturizer.

Step 3: Tan

The key to self-tanning is to make sure you’re tanning section by section of your body.

Legs, Knees and Feet: I always start with my legs. I use one pump for each thigh and one pump for each calf (four pumps total for legs). When doing each calf, I use the majority of the product on calf itself, then use the excess product on my knee and drag it onto my ankles and feet. Since your ankles and knees are normally more dry than the rest of your body, their going to absorb the tanner more making it appear darker. By only using leftover product on these sections, you’ll avoid having your legs look uneven and botchy in those areas!

Arms and Shoulders: I apply one pump to each arm, also using it on my shoulders. I use the remaining product to lightly apply the tanner to my wrists and hands (avoiding my palms of course).

Stomach, Chest and Lower Back: I simply apply one pump to my stomach, one to my lower back and one to my chest. I drag the remaining product from my chest up my neck.

Upper Back: This is where the Easy to Reach Back Applicator for Self Tanning is a life savior. Unless you’re getting really creative with your stretching or have a friend to help you, it can definitely be a challenge to tan your upper back. But with this applicator, all you need is a mirror to look in and you’re good to go! I use one pump.

Face: I don’t sunless tan my face! In my opinion, it’s a waste of time because washing your face, exfoliating and removing your makeup daily is going to keep the tan from lasting. I’ve also noticed that sunless tanners tend to dry out my face and can cause me to break out. If you do want to tan your face, I suggest only using a small amount of product and mixing it with a face moisturizer. But I personally would rather just apply a foundation to match!

Step 4: Shower

The next morning, you want to shower to wash off any tanner than may not have sunk into your skin. Moisturize after doing so and you’re good to go!


  • After tanning, use a wipe to go over your palms and the inside of your fingers. This will ensure you didn’t accidentally get any self-tanner in these areas!
  • Moisturizing is key! The more you’re moisturizing, the longer your tan will last. If you’re dedicated enough to do so both morning and night you’ll get the best results, but I personally moisturize once a day after showering.
  • You can build up the color of this tan! I promise it won’t look orange or fake. If you’re looking for an extra bronzed glow you can apply this product two or three nights in a row to build up the color (I usually opt for two to get my goal color).
  • Wear black or dark colored clothes to bed. I haven’t noticed this sunless tanner transferring color (I have cream bed sheets) but as a precaution with all self-tanners (and whenever I get an airbrush tan) I’d rather be safe than sorry!

While sunless tanning can certainly be a time commitment, it’s worth it for the sake of your skin (and an instant glow). Happy tanning!

xoxo Nic


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