Saturday, January 7, 2012

How To: Get the Perfect Self Tan

Hey Guys!
This has been a highly requested post and I am sorry for not getting to it sooner. Lately, I have not been self-tanning as much as I use to. However, I did self-tan a couple days prior to going out for New Years Eve and many of you were wondering how I got such an even, dark tan after a couple of applications, what products I use...etc. 

Tanning Tools and Products
I must admit, I at one point in time would go to tanning beds to get a little colour. I mainly only did this a month or two before going on vacation. I stopped using the beds for obvious reasons: skin cancer, wrinkles, sun spots, etc. Once I discovered self-tanning, it actually gave me a better tan and it ended up being cheaper than the amount of money I would spend for minutes in the booth, plus expensive tanning lotions.

Basically, everything I have learned about self-tanning I owe to my friend, Natty, at Miss Natty's Beauty Diary. When I first started blogging, I was envious of her amazing tan skin, and when I realized she self-tanned, I had to get the products she used! If you are interested in checking out Natty's posts on self-tanning, she has several really informative posts: Self-Tanning Routine, Self-Tanning Tips and Tricks

For the past 2 years I have gone through stages of being very into maintaining a tan complexion. I personally like a small amount of tan because it evens out my skin tone and gives me a nice, healthy glow. In this post you will find out how I prepare, apply, and maintain my tan using a variety of different products. 

Lotion, Spray, or Mousse?

From left to right: St. Tropez Self Tanning Mousse, 
Sun Labs Self Tanning Micro Mist in Dark, Sun Labs Self Tanning Lotion in Very Dark

The products I use on a regular basis to maintain my tan are either by St. Tropez or Sun Labs. I find both brands quite similar, in my opinion. I have yet to find a drugstore self-tanner that I like, but if you have any recommendations, please let me know! 

You may be wondering what formula you should purchase when considering buying a self-tanner. I find there are benefits and drawbacks to each formula, so it really depends on your preferences. I like to switch it up because some formulas last longer, while others are darker, and some are easier to work with. It really depends how I feel at the moment for which bottle, or two, I grab. 

Lotion is the hardest formula to work with, out of the three, and you really have to work it into your skin. This formula takes the longest to apply. I like to use latex gloves when using a lotion to protect my hands. I'm not a big fan of lotion, mainly because it takes longer and I find it a chore applying self-tanner. However, in my experience I have found lotion to last longer on the skin and it tends to give me a deeper tan than mousse. Essentially, you put in the time, but the end result is a longer lasting, deeper tan.

Spray is the fastest method, but also the messiest. If you want a truly DEEP tan, spray is your best bet. I love how dark the Sun Labs Spray is, how evenly it applies, and it smells pretty good too. With a spray, I think it is essential to use a tanning mitt. This is also a good option if you have no one to help you apply product to your back. You can either spray your mitt, or your back directly, and rub it in with your tanning mitt. If I want to be EXTRA tan, I will actually spray this on top of my mousse I applied prior to deepen my tan.

Mousse is my preferred method of application because it's fast and fool proof. I have used St. Tropez longer than I have used Sun, and it is more easily available for myself since I can find it at Sephora, and I have yet to see Sun Labs anywhere in Canada, other than my one time find at Winners. The formula is really easy to work with, especially when you use a tanning mitt. For beginners, I would suggest using a mousse because you can't really screw up using this because as long as you don't miss a spot, your tan will be even, even if you go over areas multiple times with your mitt. Mousse also tends to be not as dark of a tan, in my experience. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on how dark you want to be. I see this as a drawback because I have to go heavy on using the product to achieve the colour I want. Sometimes I put on one layer, wait for it to dry, and then put on another layer. 

Click below to find out "How to Get the Perfect Self Tan!"

How to Get the Perfect Self Tan

Self tan an hour or two (at least) before you go to bed. 


Exfoliate your body using exfoliation gloves and a non-oil based body wash (oils can leave a barrier between the product and the skin. You want the tanner to be able to penetrate the skin in order to develop). I use to use exfoliation gloves, but now I use my Clarisonic Plus with the body brush head. This has a 3 minute self-timer where I can really scrub away at my body so I have the smoothest canvas to work with prior to the tanning process. I also exfoliate my face with a cleanser, or my Clarisonic sensitive brush head on the second speed setting. 

Exfoliation Glove

Shave your legs. I put this step AFTER exfoliating because you can get a closer shave. You wouldn't want to exfoliate after shaving your legs because the hair will appear to grow faster because you removed the dead skin cells after already shaving. 

Moisturize? Some people swear by moisturizing prior to self-tanner application, however, I don't. I find when I moisturize prior to application, my tan isn't as dark as I would like. I DO apply moisturizer the morning after to help maintain my tan.

I like tanning a couple hours before I plan to go to bed. I do this because I want to give the tanner adequate time to develop. The longer you have it on your skin, the better your tan will be when you wash it off. You may wonder, "Does self tanner stain your bed sheets if you are sleeping in it?". The answer is yes and no. You can get around this by not tanning so close to bed time, and wearing pajama pants and a long sleeve shirt so that the majority of your skin isn't exposed to your bedding. I find my pillow cases stain because my face is on them, but I wash my sheets/pillow cases enough that it isn't a problem for me and the self-tanner washes out. 


Small handles brushes and St. Tropez Tanning Mitt
A Tanning mitt is essential if you plan on using a mousse or spray. Brushes are also a nice option if you don't want to use your hands on your face! If yoga re using a lotion, I suggest wearing latex gloves. 

When I tan I like to start at the bottom and work my way up. I apply tanner to both my legs, my stomach, lower back, chest, neck, arms and then I have charles help me with my upper back because I can't reach it properly myself. For my face, I use a brush or I just use my hands and rub a little of the excess on my ears to blend everything in. You have to do your face rather quickly so that you can wash your hands right away. For a more natural look, I apply Jergens Self Tanner to my hands and feet. I don't like using the mousse on these areas because it looks unnatural if I do. I also use Sun Labs lotion mixed with a little bit of Sun Labs Moisturizer Maintainer on my hands and feet on the occasions when I don't use Jergens. I can't stand the smell of the Jergens Gradually Self Tanning Moisturizer so most often I will just mix self tanning lotion with my current moisturizer. Make sure you do your arms last because you don't want to mess up your tan in the process of applying product to the rest of your body. Your arms are always moving, so leaving them for last is always the best thing to do. My main focus for tanner is my upper body and face. Sometimes when I'm being lazy I skip tanning my lower body all together because no one is going to see it.  This hasn't happened too often, but when I'm in a pinch and want a tan, but am too lazy, I've been known to do it. LOL


Wash off colour guide Self explanatory. Take a shower like you normally do. The colour guide will wash off and if you step out of the shower and you don't feel your tan is dark enough, tan again that night or even day! Sometimes I leave the house with the colour guide on and it doesn't look that bad.

Moisturize Key to maintaining your self tan is moisturizing. This will also help it from coming off patchy.


You may need to apply product to your face more often as it washes off faster

Apply self tanner at night a couple hours before bed. This gives the tanner enough time to settle into the skin and develop. 10 hours is what I like to aim for

Don't self tan RIGHT after taking a shower because you need to give your pores enough time to close and your bathroom to air out from the hot shower. Reason behind this, if your pores are open, the product will seep into them and once your tan dries they will be more visible

If you have sensitive skin, use a self-tanner specifically designed for the face. I use my St. Tropez Mousse, and only my mousse on my face and I've never experience break outs

Blend tanner into the hairline

After applying mousse, spray some Sun Labs on the chest, arms...etc for a deeper tan

Exfoliate skin, then shave

Mix some moisturizer in with your tanner on feet and hands for a more natural, even look. This also works for the whole body if you find lotion to be too dark, you can mix some moisturizer in for a custom tan

I hope this helps those of you who were interested in how I maintain a tan

Happy Tanning!


  1. Cheryl where do you purchase your self tanners? Im from Toronto btw.

    1. You can get sun labs from
      They shipped to Alberta in two days, which was pretty fast.
      Shipping was also cheap.. it was about $5.00

      I checked out Folica and they wanted to charge well over $50 for shipping to Canada.

      So anyone looking to buy sun labs that is within Canada I recommend checking out

    2. THANK YOU for this comment!!! I had sun labs in my shopping cart on folica and Im so glad I saw this... :)!

  2. @Incjv4eva - I purchased the Sun Labs from their website, but wouldn't do it again because there is ridiculous duty on it. St. Tropez I buy off of I got the tanning mitt there as well (you can only get it online)

  3. Wow brilliant post, I'm a fan of mousse too. I find it so much quicker and handier to use xx

  4. Hi!! I got my tanning mitt at Shoppers Drug Mart and recently saw the St. Tropez at Sephora stores in Canada. Great post Cheryl! Would love some feedback on my blog

  5. I'm looking for the Sun Labs selftanner too, I'm from Quebec. Why is it so hard to find, the only place I could buy it is directly from the website but I heard the consumer service is bad. And there is ebay too, but I'm afraid to buy an expired lotion or counterfeit products.

    Right now I use St Tropez, I bought it from Essential Day Spa and it's cheaper than from Sephora.

    I heard Banana Boat Summer Color is a great drugstore selftanner but I couldn't find it anywhere!

  6. Check to see if Amazon ships to Canada because I buy my Sun Labs off there and its waaaaaay cheaper than Sephora or Sun Lab's website. Check out all the companies that sell it on Amazon. :)


  7. You did a great job on this post! Have you ever heard of or used the self tanning mousse called st. Moriz? This is what I use. I have heard that it is compared to st. Tropez tanning mousse but it is waaaay cheaper. Unfortunately, it's only sold in the UK. :( I'm thinking about trying either the sun labs or st. Tropez since they are easy to find here in the U.S. :)

  8. How about the dupe for St. Tropez? It is the St. Moritz

  9. Banana Boat Deep Color is available at Walmart. Thats the only place I found it. It works really good too.

  10. I second the Banana Boat comment....I've tried St. Tropez, St. Moritz and Sun Labs and the Banana Boat is my favorite and the cheapest!! You can also find it just about everywhere!

  11. i do read natalies blog too shes brilliant! and I love to use mousse because its just so easy.... i dont do it on a regular basis simply because I'm too lazy, if only I was motivated like Natalie in the summmer to self tan all the time... and also my boyfriend hates the smell when I sleep next to him =( lol

  12. Hey doll! My favorite hands down that I've tried so far (there has been several) is Banana Boat Summer Color- I've been wanting to do a review but I haven't had time to blog in general do to health/work. This self-tanner dries within seconds, smells like citrus and gives wonderful color. This is the ONLY self-tanner I've tried that doesn't smell awful (ever after full time of leaving it on) and the only one that initially applies evenly with the color guide. I am able to wear this from the morning on and I actually love the instant color it gives. The formula is a gel/lotion mixture- never seen one like it. I use gloves to apply and mix lotion/product for hands. I've used this on my feet without lotion, just lightly, with no issues. The price is also amazing! $5-7 , I haven't paid anymore than that for a bottle. Another huge plus is it fades extremely well- I've never had to scrub my skin raw like some others to get the old color layer off when it starts to. I haven't experienced streaks either and i've been using it for months. I've seen it at Wamart before , if not sells it for same/less - I just bought 10 bottles! Wit my discount it came out to like $50-60 which is close to price of some for just one bottle! Hmm..what else!? Ha, well I hope this helps and I truly recommend this self-tanner. I hope its never discontinued ! Best wishes* ♥

    1. I've never heard of this before, but after you told me I googled it. I'm definitely going to have to purchase a bottle once my tanners run out. That will save me so much money. I hope I like it!

  13. thanks so much this was a great post :) love all of your tips!

  14. FYI they sell the mitten in store as well :)

    I had 10% off VIP discount so I settled for the Gradual lotion, as I'll be too lazy to apply the mouse heh

    thanks for an awesome post Cheryl! Highly informative :)

    1. Thanks for the heads up about the mitt!

  15. Great post! Sun Labs is available in Canada from they're a great place to buy 'hard to find in Canada' beauty products :)
    Thanks again for this awesome post!!!

  16. What do you think about using lotion with an applicator mitt like the one from St. Tropez?

  17. what product did u use to your face? xx

  18. what lip color did you use in this post? its gorgeous


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