How To Fake a Tan with Self-Tanner

Marco Style shows you how to fake a perfect tan
If you see me at the beach, I’m likely coated in SPF from head to toe.

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I’m just going to say it. Everyone looks better with a tan. As my mom has always said, “Tan fat looks better than pale fat any day.” That said, another of my mother’s constant reminders is to always apply sunblock because tan or no tan, no one looks their best with premature wrinkles or, even worse, skin cancer. So, in order to adhere to both mom-isms, I’ve had to seek out self tanner. I’ve tried creams, mousses, tinted gels, un-tinted gels, sprays, the works. And I’ve finally found a favorite.

Hello, Tan Towels

Meet the Tan Towel. This simple wipe has revolutionized my faux tan routine. They are individually wrapped, making it easy to use the right quantity or tuck them into a travel bag. Plus, the actual wipe makes it easier to apply the lotion evenly without allowing too much to gather in any one spot, making for uneven tan tones.

If you have the right technique, achieving a flawless sunless tan is pretty much fool-proof. Here’s what you need to do:

Step One for a Perfect Fake Tan: Exfoliate

Prior to tanning, exfoliate! I have a few favorite products for this. For soap and scrubber all in one, I love local Cricket Cove Soap Co.’s Rosemary Peppermint Spa Scrub Loofah Soap. The soap contains just the right grit from crushed walnuts and pumice. And, it comes wrapped around natural loofah from the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It buffs skin gently, while ingredients like shea butter and coconut milk still nourish the skin. Plus, the fresh minty smell is perfect for waking you up in the morning.


Cricket Cove Rosemary Peppermint Spa Scrub is the perfect prep for self-tanning


If you prefer using your regular soap or shower gel, try the Dermatologica Ultimate Buffing Cloth ($16) and pay extra attention to feet, ankles, elbows, and knees. For face, I generally use my Clarisonic (of course I have the pink one).

Once you finish showering, dry off, but don’t worry about skin being perfectly dry.

Next, Use a Self-Tanner for Face

Once you’ve rinsed and towel dried, hit your face with your chosen face-specific self tanner to ensure your pores don’t get clogged. Rub over your face, around your ears, into your hairline, all around your neck, and into the top part of your chest. My favorite face self tanner is Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face because each wipe provides another layer of exfoliation along with a lovely shade of bronze.


If you want a really tan face in a hurry, I also recommend St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet MaskI was a little nervous about the even nature of a tanning face mask, but it was easy to use and created a perfect bronze glow. 



Use a Tan Towel for Body

When it comes to body, I like the actual Tan Towel brand (the Tan Towel face wipes are a close second for face as well). You can get the wipes in whole or half body—if you’re doing your whole body, go for a whole, but two halves works fine if that’s what you’ve got. The halves also mean if you just want to do your legs you don’t have to waste more than you need. You can also choose from Regular or Plus in terms of color. I find both colors work fine on my skin tone and actually buy whichever are a better price, but if you have extremely fair skin, you might want to lean toward Regular Tan Towels, at least to start.


How To Get a Perfect Tan Towel Application

Take your tan towel, rub it all over your legs, arms, upper back, and chest in circular motions all the way up to the bottom of your chin. If you are heading to the pool, you won’t want to miss your stomach and lower back area. Even though you already hit your neck with face tanner, make sure to gently wipe it with body tanner as well so the two products blend together. Go light on your feet—I often just hit the tops of my feet and skip my toes every other time. Also pretty much skip your hands as both parts of your body tend to soak up pigment more than than the rest. Once you’ve hit everywhere once, go over your entire body again. Your towel will start to dry, but it doesn’t matter. A double coat will prevent you from missing spots and ending up with the dreaded zebra-stripe leg look. Once you’re done with the rest of your body, wipe the tops of your hands with what’s left on the towel.

Do Not Forget to Wash Your Hands

Use soap. If you have dry cuticles, use a nail brush to ensure you don’t end up with orange nail beds. Carefully dry your hands. If water runs down your arms, rub them together to ensure you don’t get any drippy tan lines. I often just rub the tops of my forearms and wrists together after washing to try to ensure a smooth line from where I washed and didn’t wash.

If you have time to wait a few minutes before getting dressed, some extra drying never hurt anyone. That said I’ve also thrown on jeans and been completely fine.

Fake Tan In A Hurry

Once you get these steps down it doesn’t take very long, but in the beginning it can be a bit of a time investment. If you’re in a rush or just need to look tan immediately, there are other options.

Tan Towel Express Tan Self-Tanning Mist is a bronze-tinted spray that is meant to be applied in circular motions on top of your regular Tan Towels to provide an instant bronze bombshell look. This works well. But in a super hurry I have applied this product alone when I’ve just wanted to look tan for an occasion without being worried about lasting effects. I suggest applying it in the shower after you bathe because the tint can get everywhere.


Another quick pick for this is Sephora Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist. This product is easy to apply because it is tinted. You just spray it on and rub it in circular motions. It’s easy to ensure consistent coverage because you can immediately see any spots that you’ve missed. Definitely apply the Sephora spray self tanner it in the shower as it can get kind of messy. The tint gives you an immediate tan look that only improves as the self tanner develops. This isn’t my number one pick because I’ve found that the $18 bottle doesn’t last that long and it’s easy to run out mid-tan. I prefer the Tan Towels where you know exactly how many tans you have left at all times. However, this product is perfect to keep on hand for any last-minute tan emergencies.

How to Maintain Between Self-Tanner Applications

When I first start using my Tan Towels, I apply them every other day or every few days until I achieve my desired level of tan, but after that I like to try to move to once a week or even once every other week. How to maintain in between? I’ve found one of the keys to keeping a spray tan in general is moisturizing. Even if you don’t invest in a special tanning product, just use lotion every day. Dry skin seems to be the quickest way for faux tans to begin to flake and look uneven. That said, my recent pick between self-tanning sessions is St. Tropez Gradual Tan Moisturiser. There is also a tinted version. I also use the TanTowel on the Glow Daily Face Moisturizer with Retinol every few days. While some gradual tanning lotions smell like self tanner, I have found that these don’t, making them winners in my book. If you try these lotions, don’t forget to wash your hands after you use them just like with regular self tanner.

What are your favorite fake tan tricks? Share them in the comments.

How to look tan without frying in the sun. Self-tanner tips for summer. | Marco Style

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