Bye Bye Self-Tanning Problems: Tips & Tricks To Achieve A Perfect Tan

Whether you’re hoping to achieve that perfect glow just in time for your wedding day or want to look like you’ve been lying around on a tropical beach even in the dead of winter, there’s something to be said about the wonders of self-tanning.

But if you’ve never done it before or have encountered issues with your attempts in the past, you may be wondering how you can apply your own fake tan that’s just as good as the pros on Instagram.

Read on for some of the most common self-tanning problems and how to avoid them. Plus, we’ll go over what you can do to fix any issues that may arise in the process!

Common Self-Tanning Issues

Problem #1: Streaks & Blotches

Solution: Proper prep is the best thing you can do to prevent those pesky self-tanner streaks and blotches. Skip to our three sections about streaks and blotches later in this article to learn more about this common self-tanning issue.

Problem #2: Orange Skin

Solution: In general, orange skin is a thing of the past as self-tanning technology has caught up with the times. But if you’re anxious, avoid products with DHA as this ingredient can react with your skin to create that awful orange color.

Patch-testing an area of your skin beforehand is also recommended to ensure you have the right color tanning product for you. To avoid those telltale orange palms, wear gloves or mitts when applying product.

Problem #3: Product Transfer 

Solution: So, how does one go about life after a self-tanner application session without leaving behind tanning products all over their clothes and clean white bedsheets?

The best thing to do is to allow plenty of time after your tanning session for the product to dry.

But if you’re in a rush, or need the perfect tan for your wedding day (hello white dress), you may want to look for a specially-formatted product such as this popular tanning collection often seen on the red carpet.

Using a finishing spray or powder to help set the product can also help those embarrassing and messy tanning stains.

Problem #4: Product Smell

Solution: A common complaint of many self-tanner users is a strong or harsh scent. But not all self-tanning products have to have that horrible self-tanner smell.

To avoid this issue, look for a product that has a pleasant scent such as coconut that will remind you of a relaxing day on the beach.

The worst-smelling products are those with an ingredient known as DHA, so you’ll want to avoid those if possible if you are extra sensitive to smells.

Problem #5: Drying Time

Solution: While there are some products out there with a unique quick-dry formula, the best thing you can do is plan to lounge around for at least an hour after your tanning session to allow the product to dry evenly and adequately.

Wear loose-fitting clothes such as a robe or sweatpants and avoid any undergarments with tight straps or underwires.

Your tan will take several hours to develop, and you’ll want to avoid getting wet, sweating, and even leaving the house if possible. 

Problem #6: Dry Skin

Solution: If dry or sensitive skin is an issue for you, you’ll want to look for a product that is oil-based to avoid dry, flaky skin.

Avoid products with DHA if possible since this ingredient will further dry out your skin.

Problem #7: Too Greasy 

 Solution: If you have oily skin, you may want to avoid oil-based tanning products and go for something a little more balanced. A product with a quick-dry formula could help too.

Problem #8: Difficulty Applying Product To Face

 Solution: There are many different ways around this issue, but the latest trend making the rounds on the internet these days is called “tantouring” – which is mostly contouring your face with self-tanner instead of makeup.

This helps to achieve a more natural look that highlights your cheekbones and jawline. You can use a makeup brush to apply the tanning product just like you would with other cosmetics.

Problem #9: Hands & Feet

Solution: To avoid hands and feet that don’t match or look unnatural – use a gradual self-tanner like this one.

The skin on your hands and feet simply doesn’t absorb product the same way as other areas of the body and can lead to overly dark palms and feet.

If you don’t have a particular gradual tanning product, you can apply your natural tanning product in smaller amounts and for a shorter period (by saving it for last and wiping off any excess). Some people even like to use a makeup brush in these areas also.

How to Prevent Self Tanner Streaks

The bane of every self-tanning junkie’s existence is dealing with post-tan blotches and streaks. Of course, the best way to deal with self-tanner streaks is not to get them in the first place!

How to not get streaks with self-tanner is easier than one might think – once you learn the proper technique. 

Since self-tanner streaks can also be the result of an expired, faulty or poor quality product – you’ll want to be sure you select a self-tanner that won’t streak in the first place.

Check for clumps before using, look for an expiration date, and throw out any old product. 

The most important part of a proper self-tanning session is preparation. Don’t think that you can skimp out on this crucial step and still get a beautiful result! You want your skin to look bronzed and glowing, not dry or orange or splotchy.

Before applying any new product, you’ll want to remove any previous self-tanner with a simple bar soap if applicable.

You will also need to shave and exfoliate before getting started. (Some experts recommend doing this the day before, so your pores have time to close, but waiting at least an hour before your application should be fine).

Be sure only to use an oil-free scrub because the oil will form a barrier on the skin and create all sorts of tanning problems. Using an exfoliating glove is best, especially in those hard to reach areas.

If you have any problem areas (like elbows, knees, fingers, and toes), you can also apply lotion at least 30 minutes beforehand to help prep your skin. The lotion will help keep those areas from soaking up too much color, or from turning dry skin into splotchy patches. 

When it comes time to put on your tanning product, use a self-tanning glove or mitt, try to stand in front of a mirror for a better view, and try to apply in natural sunlight if possible.

Be sure to put the product on generously, because trying to spread out the self-tanner too thinly can actually result in streaks.

Your tan should glide on effortlessly. Start from the bottom and work your way up, since many weird marks and creases are due to bending over to apply the product on the legs and feet.

Use a makeup brush to apply the product more evenly in problem areas. Try a gradual tanner product for your hands and feet, touchups, or simply to extend the life of your tan. 

Afterward, avoid streaks and creases with a quick application of baby powder or finishing spray. Also, try lounging around in a robe or loose-fitting clothes for the first hour or two after applying your self-tanner if possible.

After about 6-8 hours, you can take a shower, but don’t rub the skin for at least 24 hours afterward, including with a towel.

Keep in mind that a good quality self-tanner can make all the difference. If you’ve been trying drugstore brands without any luck, it might be time to take a step up and splurge on a higher quality product.

User error, especially in beginners, can make a huge difference in how your self-tanning application turns out. The right product can help mitigate this issue.

How to Fix Self-Tanner Streaks

If you’re wondering how to get rid of self-tanner streaks, you’re in good company. You’ll want to correct these mistakes as soon as you see them. The longer the product has to soak in, the harder it will be to correct the problem.

As soon as you first spot the issue, you can use a tan remover like this one. Then reapply another layer of the self-tanning product. Alternatively, minor streaks and blotches can sometimes be fixed by a simple exfoliation session. 

How to Fix Blotchy Self-Tanner

Lemon juice, especially when used in conjunction with baking soda to form a potent mixture, can do wonders for those uneven patches of skin.

If the problem is beyond the fix of an exfoliation remedy, there are products you can use to blend any discolored blotchy areas. Rather than having to strip all the product off and start all over again, you can also fill in the spots you missed with a temporary instant-tan product like this one.

For any blotches on your face, the problem can often be solved by using a tinted moisturizer or foundation to blend and cover any uneven patches or discoloration.

Additional Precautions For Self-Tanning

Product Type

There are several different kinds of self-tanner, and the type you pick will determine how flawless (or awful) your self-tanning experiment turns out!

There are lotions, sprays, mousses, oils, and drops. Most women will have a preference for one type over the others. Sometimes you will need to try a few before you learn which type works best for you.

Product Ingredients

It’s important to look for a product that is as natural as possible without harsh chemical ingredients – especially if it’s a product you will be putting on your skin every week.

Some self-tanning products are notorious for feeling sticky. Products without DHA are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons, including improved smell, less risk of orange skin, and a lower likelihood of streaks and blotches. The best perk of DHA-free products? A natural color that lasts longer.


Be mindful of the way your self-tanner fades. Exfoliating every few days can help your skin to fade gradually and evenly, and using an oil-free moisturizer can help as well.

Final Thoughts

Self-tanner can be a faster, easier, and cheaper way to get the beautiful glowing skin tone you want in the comfort of your own home.

Although the process can seem intimidating for those new to self-tanning, there are many steps you can take to ensure a better outcome. With these expert tips above, you’ll be well on your way to achieving the perfect self-tan of your dreams!