Sunless Tanner 101

Health, Home & Family
on June 26, 2012

Sun exposure has been linked to serious health risks. The National Institutes of Health warns that sunlight is a type of radiation and it is damaging to skin cells, but that does not stop many people from craving a sun-kissed glow. So, how do you get the tan look without the sun? Enter sunless tanner. It can be tricky to apply, so follow these quick tips, and learn how to select and apply it successfully.

How to choose a sunless tanner. The market is saturated with sunless tanning products with varying claims and effectiveness. Which is best for you? Find the right sunless tanner by keeping the following things in mind:

  • What is your skin type? Oily skin will benefit from a product that takes the skins level of oils into consideration. Find a formula that states it is good for oily skin and is oil free. Dry skin will work best with a moisturizing formula.
  • What is your skin tone? If you are very fair, a light bronze sunless tanner is the best choice for a natural looking tan. Darker skin? Feel free to select.
  • Check product reviews. Consumer review websites and online shopping outlets frequently offer customer reviews and comparisons of products.

How to apply sunless tanner. The Mayo Clinic considers sunless tanners a safe alternative to sunbathing with one caveat. Spray tans can enter the mouth, eyes and nose. The tanning solution contains chemicals that have not been tested for safety when ingested. If using a spray sunless tanner, close your eyes, mouth and plug your nose before any spray-type application. Consider these tips for best results when applying sunless tanners:

  • Exfoliate. When using sunless tanner, dry patches of skin will darken more than other areas of your skin. A thorough exfoliation ahead of time will prepare the canvas for the most beautiful glowing tan — from the bottle.
  • Use sparingly. Particularly at first, apply a thin layer of sunless tanner on your skin. Build up to the level of skin color you like a little at a time. Be careful around thick or dry skin areas like the elbows, knees and ankles. Moisturize these spots before using self tanner, and go light with the sunless tanner for best results.
  • Avoid dark spots. Use self tanner gloves when smoothing on the sunless tanning lotion. These special gloves are great for protecting the palms of your hands. Apply lotion to the tops of your hands with a cotton ball last. Alternatively, apply a thin layer of sunless tanner on skin with bare hands. Wash hands thoroughly, and then apply tanner to the tops of hands with a cotton ball.
  • Let it dry. Once you’ve completed the perfect sunless tanning application, your skin may feel a bit sticky or wet. This is normal. Let your skin dry completely before dressing.

Note: Sunless tanner does not protect you from the sun. Use sunscreen regularly, especially when outside.

This article was originally published as Sunless Tanner 101 on