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Should You Moisturize Before Self Tanning: A Full Guide

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
Should You Moisturize Before Self Tanning A Full Guide

Getting a tan for the first time at home can be intimidating and confusing. Many questions must be in your head, including whether it’s safe to moisturize before applying the product.

The short answer is YES. You should apply moisturizer!

But let’s also go into the details of WHY you should, how the process works, and how you can achieve that perfect glow!

How Does Tanning Work?

Let’s start by understanding how FAKE tanning works.

We rely on sunless tanner products instead of the sun or a tanning bed because those methods use UV radiation to achieve your desired color.

UV radiation causes premature aging, skin cancer, and DNA damage which are all bad for your skin and overall health.

By applying self-tanner, we mimic the tanning we can get from UV rays WITHOUT the damage it causes.

These tanning products use dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as an active ingredient.

When the DHA comes in contact with dead skin cells, it creates a chemical reaction on the skin, which causes the skin to darken and creates a fake tan.

Can You Moisturize Before Tanning?

Can You Moisturize Before Tanning--


It would be best if you ALWAYS moisturize before a fake tan.

Why should you apply moisturizer before self-tanning?

The reason why you must apply a moisturizer is that dry skin doesn’t hold the color well.

The color will fade faster if you don’t moisturize before tanning (and after).

Thoroughly applying moisturizer will allow the color to penetrate deeper into your skin, helping the color last longer.

How To Properly Prepare For Your Self Tan

How To Properly Prepare For Your Self Tan-

It’s more than just applying moisturizer! Here’s how to do it perfectly:

Step 1: Preparing Early

If you have enough time, it’s best to prepare for tanning the DAY BEFORE.

However, it’s also fine to shave and exfoliate right BEFORE you start self-tanning.

And on the day you get your fake tan, give yourself enough time for the entire process. You don’t want to rush through, miss any steps, or get something wrong!

Step 2: Shaving

Shaving removes the outermost layer of your skin. And when you get a fake tan, the tan also sits on the outermost layer of your skin.

So, shaving AFTER applying a self-tanner will make your tan fade faster.

There aren’t special shaving methods before getting a fake tan. Just shave your legs and other areas as you normally would.

Step 3: Exfoliating

The tanning product clings to the dead skin cells on the outer layer of your skin.

Make sure to exfoliate everywhere where the tan will be applied, including your back!

If you get a fake tan without exfoliating, there might be a dead skin buildup on some patches of your skin.

That thicker buildup of dead skin cells will hold on to more product and get darker, resulting in an uneven and patchy tan.

And since exfoliating removes dead skin cells, it will allow the color to penetrate deeper into your skin, resulting in a longer-lasting tan!

It’s best to do a physical exfoliation!

Use a body scrub with microbeads or sugar scrub, or you can also opt to use a loofah, exfoliating glove, or any other exfoliating product to gently exfoliate in the shower.

Step 4: Rinsing Well

You also need to ensure that you rinse off your body THOROUGHLY after exfoliation to remove any residue from the exfoliating and shaving products you used.

If you don’t, the residue from these products can block the self-tanner from doing its job and may result in uneven color!

If you prepared your skin the day before, it’s also a good idea to use a mild soap in the shower before you get your fake tan to avoid chemical residue on your skin.

TIP: If you want to remove you self-tan altogether, read through this guide!

Step 5: Drying Completely

You also want to make sure that your skin is COMPLETELY DRY before applying self-tanner to make sure that your skin absorbs it instead of the water on it.

It’s best to wait 30 minutes after your shower before applying a self-tanner to ensure you’re completely dry.

Step 6: Removing All Your Jewelry

You also want to ensure you have removed all your accessories before starting your self-tanner routine.

It’s best to get them all out of the way so you don’t have a hard time avoiding them while you apply your self-tanner.

Step 7: Moisturizing

Applying moisturizer is an important step in self-tanning, but don’t do it right after you take your shower!

It’s best to do it RIGHT BEFORE applying the tanning product!

There’s no special body lotion for a tan, but we recommend Bondi Sands Moisturizer. It gives you enough moisture needed just before a tan session.

You can also grab your usual lotion. Next, apply your moisturizer to areas needing extra care and moisture.

Doing this will also prevent over-absorption of the product on certain body parts, which might make those areas too dark.

Moisturize your face and then your hands, paying special attention to your knuckles, nails, and cuticles.

Then moisturize your wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, armpits, and the bottom of your feet. You don’t want those areas to be too dark!

After taking special care of those areas, proceed to moisturize your entire face and body.

And that’s it! You’re ready to start applying your self-tanner!

Remember to use a tanning mitt. If you do not have one, here’s an easy guide on how to go about it!

How to Take Care of Your Tan

How to Take Care of Your Tan-

It’s simple: moisturize!

Again, we recommend Bondi Sands Moisturizer and Gradual Tanning Milk, specifically formulated to protect and preserve your color.

You can also use any other moisturizer, but make sure it is NOT oil-based. An oil-based moisturizer might do the opposite and fade the color faster.

Make sure you apply moisturizer daily or more than once to maintain your tan. The color will fade faster if you let your skin dry out.

You are also more likely to have an uneven color if you don’t keep your skin moisturized, as the parts that dry out quicker will also fade quicker.

To prevent this, you need to apply moisturizer more consistently on your elbows, wrists, knees, and feet, as these areas tend to dry fast.

You also want to moisturize your hands and face more frequently, where the color fades the fastest due to frequent washing.

Constantly applying moisturizer will also keep your skin healthy and give it a beautiful glow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions-

Is Applying Self-Tanner at Home Safe?


They are the safest option compared to tanning beds and natural sun tans, as they protect you from UV rays while giving you the color you want.

Will a Tanning Product Clog My Pores?

It depends.

The active ingredient of self-tanners is not comedogenic or pore clogging. But some ingredients in your formula may be fillers and clog your pores.

So it’s really about how acne-prone you are and how your skin will react to the formula you’re using.

Finding a perfect formula that won’t clog your pores may take trial and error. So be patient and don’t be afraid to explore different products!

EXTRA TIP: Find the best tanner for sensitive skin in this convenient buying guide!

Final Thoughts

And that’s everything you need to know about home application!

Follow these tips, and applying self-tanner will be a breeze! Get ready to enjoy a glorious glow while being safe from the blazing outdoors!

FINAL TIP: Spare yourself a trip outside and get tanned indoors using any of these indoor tanning lotions!