How to Self-Tan Your Face — Expert Tips

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to self-tan, the next step is applying a tanner so that it looks natural, non-streaky, and doesn’t break out your skin. Follow these steps to gloriously artificial glowing skin:

Choose your fighter.

It all starts with the right self-tanner. Before you add any old tanner to cart, consider your skin type. “If you have oily skin or are prone to breakouts, go for a self-tanner made specifically for the face, because it will be clinically tested not to block the pores [as long as it says non-comedogenic on the packaging], says Sophie Evans, tanning ambassador for St. Tropez Tan. If your skin isn’t sensitive or prone to breakouts, you can use a self-tan formulated for the body — but Evans recommends diluting it with your favorite facial moisturizer before application.

“Faces have a tendency to go darker than the body,” she says. “Therefore, facial products are always formulated to be lighter.” But if you can’t get your hands on a facial tanner, a diluted body tanner is an option, just be sure to use a lotion or cream-textured moisturizer and not an oil-based moisturizer, because oil will act like a barrier on the skin and stop the self-tanner from getting through.

Our experts recommend St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist, Tan-Luxe The Face Drops, and Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops.

Set the alarm clock.

It may seem counterintuitive, but according to Tan-Luxe global tanning expert Alexandra DiMarchi, the best time to tan your face is at night. “This way, the product can sit and develop evenly overnight,” she explains. Consider it a part of your evening skin-care routine.

Prepare yourself.

“Always start off by cleansing your face and removing any makeup or excess product residue prior to application,” says DiMarchi. Use an exfoliating cleanser or scrub — either physical or chemical is fine. Just be sure to choose one that doesn’t contain oil, which can keep the self-tanner from absorbing properly. (We love Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefuit Foaming Scrub.) Lightly moisturize around your nostrils and other dry spots with an oil-free lotion like Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance or First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Oil-Free Mattifying Gel, which will help prevent streaks.

Apply a base layer of tanner.

Follow the instructions on the packaging to apply your tan, whether it’s a mist, drops, or other formula. For a mist, Evans recommends holding the bottle about four inches away from the face and spritzing down the center and sides of the face. For a cream product, apply it the same way you would a moisturizer, using your hands to slather an even layer around the face. It’ll be a faster process than you think. Make sure your coverage includes the entire face, including “oft-forgotten areas such as the front and back of the neck, hairline, and ears,” says DiMarchi.

Customize the look.

Now comes the fun part: Contouring. Think of this optional step the same way you would your blush and bronzer — not entirely necessary, but they help create a “full-face” vibe. A self-tanner contour can save you valuable time in front of the makeup mirror, and according to Evans, it creates “more dimension” in the face.

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