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How to Apply Self Tanner Without A Mitt: 6 Easy Ways

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
How to Apply Self Tanner Without A Mitt 6 Easy Ways

We love the confidence boost of a perfect tan!

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of chilling by the pool to get that natural sun-kissed glow.

So we learned to apply fake tan with a self-tanner.

A sunless tanner is a great alternative! It is cheaper than a spray tan and healthier than a real one.

Besides, you don’t even need a tan mitt to apply the tanner. They can come in handy and perhaps give better results, but there are alternative ways to achieve that dream summertime look if cash is tight!

In this article, we’ll be discussing 6 ways how to apply self tanner without a mitt.

What’s the Easiest Way to Apply Self Tanner?

No question, self-tanning mitts are convenient.

It prevents tan streaks and patchiness on skin that one would avoid in the tanning process. There are ones that can even help apply fake tan on hard-to-reach spots like your back.

It’s no surprise that most people prefer to use their hands. Yet, doing so could lead to orange hands.

No fret! There’s a solution to that, plus some other household items lying around that do a fair job.

#1 Use Your Hands

#1 Use Your Hands-

The most obvious quick solution would be to apply tanner without a tanning glove with bare hands.

It works well and is easier to apply and spread across the body.

But before getting excited to apply fake tan, take your time with your normal routine. PREP is KEY when applying a fake tanner!

Pump self-tanner on your palms and apply it evenly to your entire body. But apply self-tan LIGHTLY on elbows, knees, and ankles. These dryer areas darken much more than others.

Once you’re all tanned up, go ahead and wash your hands! Use a scrub or exfoliator if the tanner gets rough to rub off.

#2 Rubber Gloves

#2 Rubber Gloves-

The issue with a self-tanning mitt or other fabric alternatives is that they absorb a lot of the sunless tanning product.

These mitts can also lead to an uneven application when used long enough to wear out.

Since these gloves are made of rubber, they don’t absorb any of the fake tans. Rubber gloves allow you to enjoy the full value of your tanning product!

Rubber gloves have separate finger holes for a smoother and more detailed application the same way bare hands would.

One more advantage of rubber gloves is that you don’t have to rub as hard even if the tanner contains a guide color or bronzer.

They’re super easy to wash and can be saved for use at another time!

Rubber gloves are the most SUSTAINABLE option if you don’t want to risk orange hands.

#3 Sponge

#3 Sponge-

We totally get why many people get intimidated to apply self-tanners on facial skin, even with self-tanning mitts. It’s crucial to get it right because the face gets noticed first!

But worry not; a makeup sponge is up for the challenge!

Dispense some of that fake tanning product on the edge of the sponge and apply with care to the skin.

Focus on key facial features like the jawline, cheekbones, and sides of the forehead and lightly spread across the other parts of your face.

Since a makeup sponge is small and easy to maneuver, take time to dot around the skin to even out the color.

#4 Socks or Any Old Cloth

#4 Socks or Any Old Cloth-

This may sound weird, but it’s actually a crowd favorite! Get a tan without a mitt but with a sock!

Turn the sock inside out, apply some self-tanner on your skin, and use the sock to spread it across your body.

The tan will look a bit smoother and more even than if you use a rubber glove since the fabric will always hold some product as you spread it out.

One problem with socks is that it absorbs some tanners that get through your hands. The trick is to use hand cream to keep the skin from absorbing the tanner.

Consider thick slipper socks too! They’re cheap and can protect your hands better than regular socks.

As much as possible, once the socks have been used to apply a tan without a mitt, please don’t wear them on your feet again; unless you don’t mind getting extremely tanned feet.

Even after a good wash, you can still find some product residue.

#5 Cling Film

#5 Cling Film

Here’s another weird one, but plastic wrap actually works just as well as a rubber glove!

Take some cling wrap, wrap it around your hand, and vóila! You’ve got yourself a make-shift tanning mitt.

The smooth surface of the cling wrap allows self-tanners to spread conveniently and evenly.

This should be easy peasy since you can easily find plastic wrap in your kitchen!

Using cling film is one of the underrated ways to apply self-tanner without a mitt. We encourage giving it a shot!

The technique is to wrap the hand COMPLETELY!

Do not leave any exposed spots, so you don’t get patches of orange on your skin. Make sure the plastic wrap is wrapped not too tight. That will cut off your blood circulation!

#6 Tanning Wipes

#6 Tanning Wipes-

If a self-tanning mitt is too much of an investment and if the other alternatives don’t interest you, self-tanning wipes might be the answer to your woes!

Self-tanning wipes are towelettes coated with high-quality self-tanners. They apply well and don’t get direct contact with your hand.

But a word of advice; still wash your hands immediately afterward to avoid discoloration!

It does not take a ton of time to get that bronze glow. But in the long run, these convenient self-tanning wipes may not be as cost-effective.

How to Prepare Tanning Without A Mitt

_How to Prepare Tanning Without A Mitt-

No matter what self-tanning method is used, preparation is as crucial as the self-tanning itself to achieve a natural and streak-free tan.

Here are two important steps you need to do.


Exfoliate by using a sugar scrub or an exfoliating mitt to remove as many dead skin cells and toxins as possible.

This smoothens the skin so your tan doesn’t appear blotchy and uneven.

Self-tanners contain DHA, an active ingredient also known as dihydroxyacetone. DHA causes a chemical reaction that creates a pigment onto your skin, making it darker and look like a tan.

Without exfoliation, tanned skin won’t look as smooth and glowing!


After the tanning process, wait 8 hours and apply moisturizer liberally if you want that beautiful summertime glow to last.

If the skin dries out, the tan could flake and look unnatural.

Pay extra attention to parts of your body that have dry skin- heels, wrists, fingertips, knees, elbows, and ankles.

We suggest applying a good paraben-free and oil-free lotion or products with lots of organic ingredients such as coconut oil, hyaluronic acid, and amino acids.

Give your skin the pampering it deserves!

Tips for Applying a Fake Tan Without a Tanning Mitt

Tips for Applying a Fake Tan Without a Tanning Mitt

Exfoliating and moisturizing are the top-tier must-dos when applying a fake tan.

But for a better tan experience, here are some expert tips for applying self-tanner:

Take a Patch Test

If this is your first self-tanning session, or first time using a certain topical product, it is always wise to do a patch test.

Apply a small amount of product to a small area of your skin. Wait a few hours to check for any allergic reactions. If it’s all good, go coat yourself away!

If not, try other products until you find your niche.

Shower with Cold Water

Before getting all tanned up, get into that shower and drench your body with cold water.

This allows your pores to close, so applying a self-tanner without a mitt will be a seamless process!

Closed pores also prevent the self-tanner from blocking your pores and causing any bad skin concerns.

Wax or Shave A Day Ahead

Waxing or shaving can cause the skin to inflame and have micro-cuts.

So make sure to do a hair removal session at least 24 hours before applying self-tanner. Give time for skin to calm down before applying any fake tan for best results.

Don’t wax or shave after applying a fake tan, either!

DHA interacts with the outermost layer of your skin. So if you wax, it removes the tan, and all that effort goes to waste!

Use Masking Tape on Your Feet

If there are parts of your body you do not want to get tanned, such as the soles of your feet, use masking tape to cover them up.

Masking tape is the best option to keep the tanner or residue away since they are thick. They are also easy to remove without causing discomfort.

Apply Lotion on Trouble Spots

Suggestively, one should keep the body dry before applying any tanner.

But this comes with the exemption of trouble spots such as elbows, knees, wrists, hands, ankles, and feet. If the face is dry, you can lightly apply some lotion too.

These trouble spots absorb the fake tan too fast, leaving streaks and discoloration.

Apply in a Cool and Dry Place

Make sure to keep skin dry before you apply self-tanner without a mitt.

On the day you plan to self-tan, try not to use any moisturizer, perfume, or deodorant. These products could have a bad reaction to the fake tan.

Stay in a cool place as humidity and sweat can cause the self-tanner to break quickly.

Trust us; this could be a whole mess!

Take Time With Your Face

We recommend using a makeup sponge to apply the self-tanner to your face.

Although other alternatives to apply tan without a tanning mitt are okay, a sponge gives it more precision.

Some people mix up moisturizer and self-tanner lotion when applying on the face to avoid pores from clogging.

It is also crucial to invest in good quality products to avoid skin problems.

DON’T RUSH when applying on the face! It is the part that shows the most and what people notice.

So you want to make sure you turn heads for the right reasons!

Don’t Wash Right Away

Give the self-tanner enough time to interact with the dead cells on your skin. Wait to bathe for a period of about 4 to 6 hours.

Getting that perfect bronze, smooth, and even tan takes patience. Let the fake tan do the magic!

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

We want to make sure you are confident at getting it right! So we are sharing with you the answers to some other concerns on how to apply fake tan without a tanning mitt:

How to Apply Self Tanner Without Streaks

Apart from the normal routine of washing, exfoliating, and moisturizing, you can avoid streaks by keeping your skin dry before applying any product.

This prevents the tan from running or leaving long lines.

Use a moderate amount of tanner cream. Too little can cause streaks, and too much can cause blotching.

You’ve got to find that sweet spot!

Will the Tanning Solution Stain?

Yes, it will if you are not careful.

Using hands to apply self-tanner will risk uneven-looking streaks of orange on them. This doesn’t mean we discourage using hands as they make for a very detailed application.

We suggest using a barrier cream if the orange stain is too risky. Or wash your hands right away and use an exfoliator so the tanner doesn’t get to rest long on your skin.

There’s a proper way to remove self-tanners evenly if you want to get rid of the stain!

Final Thoughts

Sunless tanning is a great way to enjoy and appreciate a good tan without the risk of too much UV exposure. We’re glad you considered it today!

Whatever method you choose, we only wish you a good experience getting that perfect swimsuit-ready tan.

Applying fake tan does take some practice. So if it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t be too hard on yourself!

Remember to exfoliate and moisturize, pick a good product, and apply the self-tanner evenly. No doubt, you’re going to end up with a gorgeous tan!