10 Steps to Your Best *fake* Tan

the Kate Collection at Miranda Frye

I admit that I don’t self-tan regularly enough to have a weekly routine or anything, but I do have a pretty fool-proof system that I follow when I want to add a bit of color to my skin. I’m walking you through the steps below, and including a few tips to ensure your most even-looking tan!

First things first, it’s all about the prep!

Step One. Exfoliate in the shower! Any body scrub will do, but I personally love the Kopari body scrubs. I used a scoop for both of my legs, and another scoop for both of my arms. All you do is rub the scrub against your skin to loosen up any dry, rough skin leaving your skin soft and smooth!

Step Two. Shave! I always shave after I exfoliate because my skin is so smooth for the razor.

Step Three. Apply lotion to your knees, elbows, and ankle bones. These are the only areas that tend to “collect” the tanner, so it’s helpful to prep those areas with a bit of moisture. I just use my Kate McLeod body stone on those parts of my body.

Step Four. Get your glove on and apply the tanner. *Never* apply self-tan without a glove (the only time it’s okay to skip a glove is if you’re using a gradual tanning lotion…but you still want to wash your hands afterward!). I apply two pumps of Loving Tan 2-hour express in “medium” to my gloved hand and start rubbing it in small circles. Make sure you rub it in well, checking for streaks and lines. I start at the biggest parts of my leg and work the product up and down, so the only product that is applied to the top of my foot, for example, is what is left over on the glove.

Step Five. Apply tanner all over your body. This tool is essential for applying tanner to your back without a partner there to assist!

Step Six. When it comes to applying self-tanner to your hands and feet, use a dedicated makeup brush to blend the product onto those areas without leaving streaks or marks. I have an old foundation brush from Sonia Kashuk that I use to blend self-tanner out onto my fingers and onto the tops of my feet.

Step Seven. Let it dry down and make sure to wear loose clothing. I typically apply self-tanner in the morning and wear a loose lounge set for at least a few hours. I have to wear long sleeves because if I don’t, the self-tan around my inner elbows will end up pulling off when I bend my arms. I realize the name of the tanner I use is called “2-hour express” but I often leave it on for 12-24 hours.

Step Eight. Shower after 12-24 hours. The next day you can shower as usual, although I wouldn’t recommend rubbing your body with a loofah. Go easy with body wash on the areas that you tanned, and only dab your body when you are drying off afterward (instead of rubbing).

Step Nine. Keep your skin hydrated with regular lotion or use a gradual tanning product to deepen the color. When self-tanned skin is dry, it looks pretty rough, so make sure you keep your skin moisturized after you’ve self-tanned.

Step Ten. Don’t wear white clothes on the first day of your self-tan. I’m usually fine wearing white after 24 hours of showering off the self-tan!

If this is more complicated than what you are going for, but you want to add at least a hint of color to your skin, try a gradual self-tanning product.

I find that I like my tan best about 48 hours after I’ve applied it. I follow all these steps but try to plan my application day to be about 2 days before I want the tan to look it’s best!

It lasts for about a week on me, depending on a few different factors, and applying daily moisturizer helps it last long and wear evenly!


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Nicole Long says · 03.16.23

This is a great article!!! Thank you so much for posting it and putting all this together. What a great resource! ❤️

Elizabeth says · 03.16.23

Thanks for the tips! Do you apply this to your face as well?

Kate says · 03.17.23

No, I never apply self tanner to my face, I just use bronzer when I do my makeup!

Tabby says · 03.24.23

I love this article! It is so helpful! Thank you!

Emily says · 03.29.23

Do you have to shower after 12-24 hours? Is there anything wrong with it being more like 36 hours?

Kate says · 03.30.23

Nope! It may be a bit darker than usual but nothing bad should happen!

Ellen Rookey says · 06.17.23

So, I’ve read some of the instructions and reviews on Amazon and many ppl apply it at night, wait a couple hours, go to bed and then shower it off in the morning. Most say they have no problem with it transferring to sheets but I am skeptical. On the other hand, the way my day is, I can’t put it on in the am, wear loose clothing and shower in the evening. Have you ever applied it at night and showered the next am? How did it work that way?

Kate says · 06.18.23

I haven’t because I didn’t want to stain my sheets!

Taylor says · 11.09.23

What is your experience with the tan-luxe gradual tanner? Process, time it takes to look good, etc.?