Tips for a Natural Self-Tan at Home

Happy Friday, friends, and cheers to the weekend! It’s funny how days seem to run together, yet the excitement of the weekend remains. It’s the chance to step away from the at-home school table and make-shift offices, and enjoy each other without the pressures and responsibilities this new normal brings.

And even though weekends look a lot different too, they’re still a fun break from the week. This weekend I’m excited for the new season of Ozark, delivery from our favorite local Mexican restaurant, and family game time. What about you? What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Today I’m excited to share a post y’all have been requesting for awhile… my tips for using self tanner! I’ve been using sunless tanning products for years, and have perfected the art of application to ensure an even, natural-looking ‘tan.’

Step One // Prep the Skin

The night before, do a full-body exfoliation, paying close attention to drier areas like elbows and knees. I like this mitt for removing dead and dry skin, and creating a smooth surface with more even texture. (It’s also good for smoothing out keratosis pilaris bumps.) You’ll also want to shave, since shaving after will remove some of the tan.

Follow this up with a lot of moisturizer, especially on heels, elbows, ankles and hands (I’ve been using this one). These steps prepare your skin for an even absorption of the self-tanner the next day. You could apply self-tanner the same day, but wait until all the moisturizer is well-absorbed.

Step Two // Application

Of all the formulas I’ve tried (and that’s a lot!), self-tanning mousses are the most forgiving with even, streak-free color. The St. Tropez is my favorite for quick absorption and the most-natural, deep tan… but Jergens is a close second and a great more-affordable option.

The key to the most natural application is using this mitt, and applying in small sections at a time. I do three pumps of product directly on the mitt, and rub in small circular motions on the lower part of my leg… then three more for the upper leg. Then, rub the leftover product on the top of your foot and around the knee. Repeat on the other leg.

Same process for the arms, but using two pumps for the top half, and two pumps on the bottom half… and remaining product for tops of hands and elbows.

Then I make my way across my chest and stomach, down my sides, and as much as I can reach on my back. Obviously I can’t reach my entire back, so I either ask for help, or just leave it. Unless I’m planning to wear a swimsuit, I’m okay with a white spot on my back.

The last step is using the leftover product on the mitt and buffing the areas that might show a line like the wrists, ankles and neck. The self-tanner is tinted and wet, so you’ll be able to see and feel where you apply it.

Here’s the video I shared on Instagram showing the process! You can also watch it HERE.


View this post on Instagram


Get an easy, natural self-tan with these tips!

A post shared by Cassie • Hi Sugarplum! (@cassiesugarplum) on

The mousses dry quickly, and I’m able to get dressed after a few minutes. I’ve never had any issues with it rubbing off on my clothes, but do steer clear of whites when I’m wearing it. The products develop quickly, but I usually wear it all day, and shower it off before going to bed.

Of course it has a smell… all self-tanners do… but it’s worth it for the natural, sunless tan!

Leopard Swimsuit (4) | Beachy Pants (XS) | Necklace | Bangles | Knot Ring | Sunglasses ($11!)| Hoop Earrings

Sunless Tanner Q&A

What about your sheets?! Does it stain them?

It might if I went to bed soon after, but that’s why I apply in the morning… so I can shower it off before bed! You could sleep in it, but you run the risk of getting it on your sheets… and honestly, I just don’t like the idea of sleeping in the smell!

How long do you wait to shower after application?

The St. Tropez is a rapid developer, so you could shower after just a few hours. I like to get maximum tan (without having to apply it again), so I leave it on all day and shower before bed.

How long does the bottle last?

Obviously it depends on how often you tan, but I’ve had the same bottle for almost a year. Unless you’re using it every few days, I think it would definitely last you several months.

Do you put self-tanner on your face?

I’m pretty fussy about what I apply to my face, so I mix a couple of Tan-Luxe drops (like these or these) in to my morning moisturizer for a subtle glow and to better match my body.

Can you apply after a shower, or do you need to wait?

You could apply same day, just make sure your skin is dry and fully absorbs all the moisturizer.

How long does the tan last?

That all depends on how you treat your skin! I avoid shaving as long as possible and keep my skin well-moisturized, and my tan will last around a week! Shaving and exfoliating removes the tan faster. And lots of moisturizer helps your skin hang on to the color.

How often do you tan?

In the spring and summer months, I tan every 7-10 days. In cooler months, I just do it when I’m going to be taking photos, or when I need a mood boost. I just always feel like I look better with a little color!

Do you follow these steps every time?

Yes! Dry, dead skin will grab the tan more, creating darker patches. So it’s important to exfoliate and moisturize well between tans. It’s okay if some of the previous tan remains on the skin, as long as you’re smooth.

What about sun protection?

These sunless tanners don’t contain SPF, so you absolutely still need sunscreen when you go out!

What color do you use?

I always choose the darkest shades… I’d rather shower it off sooner if it starts to get too dark, than have to apply it again the next day.

Do you add tanner to your armpits? 

I add tanner to any area that naturally gets sun.

Do you wash your hands after?

The mitt protects the palms of your hands, so there’s no need to wash after. Just make sure you rub product over the tops of your hands and fingers. Washing actually creates streams of water on your wrists and arms, and leaves streaks! That’s one of the genius parts about using the mitt!

Do you protect the floor?

The mousse stays on the mitt and your body, so there’s no dripping or sprays! You can apply it anywhere! (Anywhere you’re comfortable being naked, anyway!)

Is it okay to shave your legs later?

You can shave, but you’ll be taking a thin layer of tan with you every time. I usually try to wait as long between shaves as possible (on my legs).

Do you wet the mitt with water first?

No, I use it dry and just let it air-dry between uses.

Does it wear off in pools or hot tubs?

The tanner actually ‘stains’ the skin, so it doesn’t wash off… it has to wear off through exfoliating, shaving, or natural shedding. The only issues I ever have with pools is the chlorine drying out my skin, creating darker spots in some areas. But it’s not anything that noticeable nor does it bother me. No one is looking that closely at you!

Does it smell?

There’s no avoiding a smell completely with self-tanners… but the St. Tropez is much milder than the Jergens.

Is it sticky?

Both formulas dry fairly quickly, but you can use a hair dryer to speed drying on stickier areas. Again, the St. Tropez dries quicker and is less sticky than the Jergens.

What if I want it darker?

I’d first wait a full day after showering (the product still continues to darken a little), then just apply another layer. No need to exfoliate again because your skin is still smooth and you don’t want to remove any of the first day’s tan.

Exfoliating Mitt | Applicator Mitt | Sunless Mousse Tanner


Okay, hopefully that answers all your questions and the video was helpful for getting your own safe and sunless tan at home! Now bring on the shorts and sundresses! Happy weekend, lovebugs!


Shop My Self-Tanning Essentials



American Eagle // 50% off select items
Anthropologie // 40% off select items, plus $5 express shipping on orders $50+
Backcountry // Up to 60% off gear and apparel
Banana Republic // 50% off absolutely everything
Barrington Gifts // 20% off your purchase with code TOGETHER
Colleen Rothschild // 25% off best sellers with code BESTSKIN25
Gap // 50% off absolutely everything
Gibson  // 25% off your purchase with code COZY25
J.Crew // 40% off your purchase with code SPRING
J.Crew Factory // 50% off everything, plus free shipping with code YAYSHOPPING
LOFT // 30%-50% off almost everything with code TREAT
Macy’s // 40%-70% site-wide clearance
Nordstrom // Up to 40% off Spring Sale
Nordstrom Rack // Up to 25% off home items
Old Navy // 50% off absolutely everything
Pottery Barn // 25% off your purchase plus free shipping with code HOME
Serena & Lily // 20% off select items with code ATHOME

Leave a Comment


  1. This may be a ridiculous question, but do you wash the mitt between uses… soap and water… anything?

    Posted 4.3.20 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Hi Alison! I just let the mitt air dry hanging up in between uses! xo, Cassie

      Posted 4.3.20 Reply
  2. Patricia wrote:

    The video is extremely helpful. Loved your explanation about it’s easier naked “but this isn’t that kind of show”… I’ve ordered the mitt and mousse and am looking forward to trying it as soon as it warms up enough in Seattle for a (fake) tan to be believable.

    Posted 4.3.20 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Hi Patricia! Always trying to be the comic relief over here 🙂 So glad you ordered the product, can’t wait to hear how it turns out! xo, Cassie

      Posted 4.3.20 Reply
  3. Gina D from Texas wrote:

    I’ve never had luck with any self tanners. They either turn orangish – maybe it’s my skin color undertones? – or splotchy- especially on my lower legs – my pores are bigger so that doesn’t help. Then of course lines around the ankles etc. Sigh… 🤷‍♀️

    But … great post and video! 😊

    Posted 4.3.20 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      I’d give one of these a go, Gina! You might be surprised!

      Posted 4.4.20 Reply
  4. Mindy wrote:

    Thank you so much for your advise on the self tanner and the mitt. I have been using the Jergens and I absolutely love it. You’re right about using the mitt-total game changer! I’ve tried many self tanners over the years and this combo is giving me the most natural look and color. I love following you and appreciate your great advice and quality products.

    Posted 5.17.20 Reply