Self Tanning Tips for Beginners

I have been a professional spray tan artist since 2012. During my journey of spraying thousands of women I have picked up some of the best tips and tricks in the industry. One of my favorite things to do is share with others what these tips and tricks are, as so many women are doing self tanning incorrectly and could have a better tan if they just knew these steps. Self tanning can be intimidating, but if you follow all of my tips below you'll have a flawless fake tan every time. Before we get into the steps you'll need to know about the tanning product ingredients.

Self Tanner Ingredients

The first thing you should be doing when buying any product that goes on your body is to look at the ingredients that are listed on the back of the bottle. The ingredients that are in the products you are using are important because what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. This means that any bad ingredients in your products can potentially damage your skin and can put toxins in your bloodstream. The FDA does not regulate skin care products, it is up to you to do your own research. This is why it was so important to me that every product I develop has the best ingredients and that Sunless Rae is a brand you can trust to do the research for you. 

The Sunless Rae self tan mousse formula has water, organic certified DHA, propylene glycol, glycerin, phenoxyethanol, coumarin, polysorbate 20, hydroxyethylcellulose, cocamidopropyl betaine, aloe vera, and citric acid which provides anti-aging effects. My formula actually has less ingredients than any other mousse on the market, which is a good thing, you do not want more ingredients in a skin care product when you don’t need it. It also is manufactured in Europe and this matters because Europe has a higher quality standard of ingredients than we do here in the US. Europe actually has thousands of ingredients banned that are deemed safe in the US.

How To Choose The Right Self Tanner For You

In choosing a self tanner, it is important to think about your natural skin tone. When you see a self tanner online that says “Ultra Dark”, but you are on the pale side, you risk turning orange. Why is this? Well, the levels of tan, light, medium, dark and ultra dark, become darker with more DHA. DHA is the main ingredient in any sunless tanning formula that makes you tan, it is standard for light to have 6% DHA, medium 8% DHA, dark 10% DHA and ultra dark to have 12% DHA. Some skin tones can’t handle a 12% DHA, it is too drastic for your skin type and will result in an orange tan. A high DHA level also leaves more room for error during application, if you don’t do it properly you can have a botched sunless tan. 

This is why the Sunless Rae self-tan mousse comes in medium; it is meant to be a safe DHA level for every skin tone and for it to have a flawless application for any level of expertise. What I love about my mousse is if you want to be tanner you can just apply another coat the following day to get a darker faux tan.

Even if you choose not to use the Sunless Rae self tanner, choose shade medium when purchasing a self tanner. It will be the best mousse shade to guarantee the most natural looking sunless tan.

How To Apply Self Tanning Mousse

One of the biggest things you need to know is that how you prep and what products you use on your skin beforehand can dramatically affect how your sunless tan comes out. 

  1. The exact way to prepare for a self tan is to remove unwanted hair, shower with a natural/organic soap and exfoliate at least a few hours before applying a self tan product. In doing these things beforehand you are preventing clogged pores, the correct skin PH level and a wax taking off your new sunless tan.
  2. Exfoliating is crucial as it will remove all the dead skin leaving your skin with a clean canvas ready for an even self tan application. To exfoliate only use our Sunless Rae Exfoliating Mitt with an organic/natural soap. If you use a body scrub or any product that has oils in it you risk the oils leaving an invisible layer of film on your skin that can result in a streaky sunless tan. This is one of my favorite tips and the first thing I ask a client if they aren’t getting good results from a fake tan, eliminating products like this from your skin regime will help with your sunless tans.
  3. I also recommend changing your body wash to an organic/natural body wash, such as Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Body Wash. Using an organic/natural body wash will preserve the natural PH level of your skin (using products with bad ingredients changes the level of your skin PH), which will result in the best sunless tan. 
  4. When choosing a self tan mousse, do not go for dark. Most of us think, I want to be dark so I will buy a dark mousse but that isn’t how it works. Self tanning products make you tan with an ingredient called DHA, the level of DHA in a self tanning product is what makes it light, medium or dark. Also a higher level of DHA, means a higher risk of a bad faux tan and you turning out orange. When selecting your color I always recommend starting with medium and see how that works on your skin. If you want to be darker, you can always apply another coat of medium the following day for a darker tan. 
  5. When applying self tan mousse, first apply lotion to the dry areas of your body such as, tops of hands, inside of hands, wrists, elbows, knees, tops of feet, sides of feet and your ankles. This trick will help the self tanner go on even and not get darker in the areas that your skin is a little drier. I have seen some influencers on Tiktok recommending using gloves to apply self tanner, please do not do this, I only recommend our Sunless Rae Applicator Mitt.
  6. Once the self tanner has set in for the allotted time, our Sunless Rae self tan mousse is 8 hours (if you use an 8 hour solution I recommend using it at night and showering in the morning), rinse in the shower with warm water and do not use any soap or lotion for 24 hours. Keep in mind there are two types of self tanners on the market, a rapid and standard. A rapid self tan mousse will make you tan in 2 - 4 hours depending on how tan you want to be, a standard self tan mousse takes 8 hours. Make sure to always read the instructions on the mousse and follow them, you do not want to keep a rapid self tanner on for longer than it says as you can turn orange. Any sunless tan takes a full 24 hours to fully develop, if you use any soap or lotion before that you risk your fake tan not being as dark or lasting as long. Do not get this confused, still shower at the time it says on the bottle, but do not use soap or lotion until the 24 hour mark from your self tan application. 
  7. After you have waited 24 hours for your sunless tan to fully develop, use the same body wash I recommended above and use an organic/natural lotion daily such as, Hempz Body Lotion. Using these two products will keep your sunless tan lasting longer than using other products by preserving the PH level of your skin and keeping it moisturized. 

For more steps on how to apply self tanner.

Lastly here are some other tips I have for you:

  • Do not get in a jacuzzi with a fake tan because it will come right off (pool, ocean, lake is okay). The reason this is because the hot water and chlorine together strips the tan right off.
  • Do not go in the sauna or take a long bath while having self tanner on, the excessive sweat from the sauna isn’t good for the fake tan as well as a bath.
  • Use your partner to apply self tanner to your back or purchase a Back Applicator, the back can be a hard to reach place but with help or a self tan back applicator it will be easy
  • Put baby powder on the areas you sweat a lot BEFORE working out to stop it from rubbing off faster in certain areas, the baby powder will absorb the sweat which will stop the self tanner from coming off faster in those areas
  • Do not use a loofah until you are ready for your sunless tan to come off, a loofah will exfoliate the fake tan off
  • Pat dry with a towel when getting out of the shower to stop the rubbing from taking off your fake tan
  • Do not use an exfoliating product on your face until you are ready for the self tanner to come off
  • You can apply self tanner on top of a spray tan to make it last longer, use it on the third day of having your spray tan
  • Do not use self tanner for the first time before a huge event, practicing once before will give you confidence before your big event
  • If you get your nails done while you have self tanner on tell the technician to not use an exfoliating body scrub and pat dry with a towel, if you can get your nails done before self tanning

Self tanning doesn’t have to be a scary thing, with the right knowledge and practice you can have a flawless faux tan in the comfort of your own home every week. All of the tips and tricks I have shared will help you with your self tan application, how to make it last as long as possible and how to get the best brown color. 




  • I need to send these tips to my sister. She’s super white!

  • I have found these tips to be amazing. I didn’t know about exfoliating my skin beforehand. Now I have an amazing tan to go with my smooth skin!


  • As a beginner these tanning tips were a lifesaver. I now understand why so many people get bad tans or can’t maintain their tan for long. Using organic lotions and body wash is a must! It’s a little bit of extra work, but the beautiful natural looking tan is worth it. Thank you for the beginner self tanning tips.


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