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How to Get the Best Self Tan at Home

Let’s talk about how to get the BEST self tan at home, the steps to give you a flawless, professional look, and my favorite product that makes the whole process easy.

But first, a story.

As a kid, I was relentlessly teased about how ghostly pale I am, and I HATED it.

One day, fed up, I took the few dollars I made babysitting and walked over to Rite-Aid to buy their least expensive self-tanner. 

The moment I got home, I slathered that stuff all over me, thinking, the more, the better, checking the mirror every few minutes to see if I was transformed into one of the 90’s supermodels I idolized. 

It never worked.

I never looked like Cindy Crawford or Niki Taylor.

But I also never stopped trying because I am an optimist.

Year after year, I went through the same ritual. With the same results.

It was how my family marked the start of Spring – Oh look, Meg’s trying to tan again.”

Eventually, I upgraded from Rite-Aid brand to “better” drug store options and added some Sun-In in my hair, for good measure.

The results, of course, were disastrous, but my determination was unwavering.

When I got a high school job, I splurged on anything I could get my hands on in the department stores. 

So this has been going on for almost 30 years and I’m not hyperbolic when I say I have tried every self-tanner under the sun. 

THANK GOODNESS, products have evolved along with my expectations. I’m not trying to look like a bronzed goddess. Instead, I’ve grown to appreciate my fair and freckled skin. 

It’s just that when the sun is shining, I look radioactive, and a good tanner helps to tone it down, even out my skin, hide my veins and cellulite, and help me feel a little more confident in shorts, skirts, and swimsuits.

How to Get the Best Self Tan at Home

How to Get the Best Self Tan at HomeEasy Steps to a Perfect Self Tan


The key to success is all in how you prep your skin. Do not skip this part 🙂 

The night before you apply your self-tanner, shower, shave and exfoliate, paying extra attention to your elbow, knees, heels and hands and feet.

Areas with dry or rough skin will absorb the tanner in a way that will leave them looking dirty. 

After you get out of the shower, dry off and slather your favorite moisturizer all over. 


Be sure you remove any nail polish and push back your cuticles. I also apply some cuticle oil so they do not dry out. Much like rough, dry skin, if your cuticles are dry or overgrown, and come in contact with your tanner, they will quickly turn yellow. 

Do not skip prepping your skin, it makes all the difference in how your tan comes out. 

The Best At Home Tanning Product 

How to Get the Best Self Tan At Home Self Tanner, $40 In Medium | In Dark


These days, there are a ton of effective products on the market. It depends on the results you are looking for and how much time you have. 

But for the last two years, my favorite is Loving Tan’s 2-hour express. I use the medium, which is great for fair skin. They also have dark – ideal if you tan easily.

You’ll achieve a subtle, low-maintenance tan at home

It doesn’t smell, streak, or stain fabrics – so it’s a winner. 

And because it goes on dark, you can see exactly where you are putting it to make sure it goes on evenly.

Important! Use their applicator mitt; it saves your hands from getting stained AND helps you cover more surface quickly and easily.

How to Apply 

Remember, you’ve prepped the night before. 

In the morning, remove your clothes and put your mitt on your left hand.

With the mitt on your left hand, work from your left leg up your body and apply on your right arm, chest, and neck.

Then switch hands and with the mitt on your right hand, start at the top of your right foot, and apply moving up your body, finishing on your left arm, chest, and neck.

You want to work with two-three pumps at a time.

As you work up your leg and arms, avoid your knee and elbow until there is very little product left on the mitt, then apply to those areas. This will ensure an even application. 

You can use this on your face, but be careful. Start with one pump, and go from there, paying close attention to your hairline and ears. Some people like to use a large clean makeup brush to blend it in to your skin. 

Personally, I skip my face and instead use this face oil by Tan-Luxe. I find it works better with my skincare. 

Add a drop or two to your night cream right before bed, and you’ll wake up with a natural, very subtle, sun-kissed glow.

I use this regularly, even when I don’t go through the self-tanning process. 

When you finish the process, throw on a loose-fitting dress – and skip a bra for a few hours. I keep an old tank dress from when I was pregnant on hand just for this.

With the Loving Tan formula, you let it sit for 2 hours (it drys almost right away) and then hop in the shower to rinse it off. The Tan continues to build over the next few hours.

But because I can’t leave well enough alone, I let it sit as long as possible and wash it off the following day.

Then apply as needed, maybe once a week, to maintain.

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How to Get the Best Self Tan at Home

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Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Lee J.

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

How do you like the Lancome products?


Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

Thanks! I ordered the tanning recs. Pretty much in same boat as you but after years of chasing a tan ( when I basically did not tan) I was diagnosed with melanoma on my leg. Caught very early but the scar from my surgery is enormous compared to the dot of a mole that was cancerous. So body checks are critical. Thanks also for all the great info you provide. I am probably one of your older followers but find your ideas so helpful!

Megan Kristel

Thursday 24th of March 2022

Great reminder! And I'm glad you are ok! Sunless tan forever :)


Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

My high school age daughter uses self-tanning lotion twice a week. She has been made fun of for being pale-skinned since elementary school. She follows all the guidelines recommended above with one small difference. She doesn't use a mit anymore because she thought it soaked up too much product, so now she uses medical gloves available at Walmart. She doesn't like spray tans because she thinks it never comes out as even as a do-it-yourself tan. She even uses an extension arm to reach her back. Lol If she isn't a serious tanner I don't know who is. Lol

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

This made me smile. And I love the idea of the medical gloves. I too am not the biggest fan of a spray tan, I still get them on occasion but the better I get at doing it myself the less I need them. :)

Tracy Gray

Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

I too have tried so many self tanners. I would exfoliate and follow all of the directions. Some would turn orange, some just made me look like I slathered on self tanner and I ruined so many dressers and tops because when the weather was warmer the self tanner would bleed into my clothes. I love the look but was tied of looking like I used self tanner instead of a warm glow. I did start using Jergens self body lotion tanner and it worked well for me. But I am definitely going to try your recommendation. I am ready for warmer weather. Thank you

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

If you like Jergens you might like the Tan Lux Body Butter. It's the same idea, you use it as a moisturizer and it builds. I think it's fantastic!

Tracy Gray

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

I too am pale and have tried every self tanner there is. Thanks so much for these tips. My daughter is getting married in September of this year and the ceremony is outside and I would love to have nice color to go with my dress, my only concern is other self tanners I ha d used , even a day or two after application bled into my clothes especially when the temperatures or humidity were high. I have actually ruined outfits because it doesn’t come out. :(. Does the self tanner you use not bleed into clothes even when the temperatures rise? I was also thinking about a spray tan, do you think that might be better? Thank you so much foe the blog!! I look forward to reading it every day! Thank you

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Hey Tracy! I haven't noticed that this comes off on clothes at all. However, for something like a wedding, I would follow the same skin prep tips and treat yourself to a spray tan. You'll get the best, most even coverage, and the professional formula will hold up well. My brother was married on the beach a few year back and I did a spray tan two days prior. Nothing came off on my bridesmaid dress ;)


Saturday 9th of May 2020

How often do you need to repeat the application to maintain the tanned look?

Megan Kristel

Sunday 10th of May 2020

I do it once a week :)


Friday 8th of May 2020

Thanks for this info. The radioactive white comment really resonated with me. When I went to Italy a few years ago, an ancient mahogany woman watched me climbing out of the rock pool in the Mediterranean, and said: "Molto blanco". So self tanner it is.

Julie Waller

Friday 8th of May 2020

Hi Megan! I'm new to your blog and I love it!! I think I've read just about the whole thing this week. Thanks for this very helpful info. I have a quick question -- do you get someone to help you put the tanner on your back? or is it good enough with however much you can manage on your own? Just trying to plan ahead! Thanks

Megan Kristel

Friday 8th of May 2020

Hey Julie! If I want to get all of my back, I'll have my husband or daughter do it but I can manage to reach pretty far if I'm just doing arms and legs and the back of my neck for summer tops, etc.


Friday 8th of May 2020

I'm curious, does 1 bottle last very long? Thanks!

Megan Kristel

Friday 8th of May 2020

I'm on my third application for this bottle and there is plenty left in it - also I'm tall so I would naturally use more ;)

Karen from Como

Friday 8th of May 2020

I love that you are giving us a glimpse into summer and mood boost at the same time. I am just like you. I want some color but am naturally fair so self tanners here I come.