The Modern Girl’s Guide To Self Tanning

self tanners

image by Brad Olson for Luca Magazine

You and I both know that tanning beds and lying out in the sun working on a tan are dangerous. Not only are they are the high speed way to fast track the aging process, they also boost your chances of getting skin cancer.

We want to avoid sun damage, especially the terminal kind, but nothing looks more gorgeous during summer than a golden glowing tan

So what’s a girl to do? The obvious answer is to do a fake-bake, but that can be fraught with its own set of perils. Patchy cover, color that’s too orange, that awful smell!

One of my besties, Sarah san Marco, is a professional airbrush tanner, so in the interest of perfecting the ultimate fake-bake I asked her to give me the low down. This post contains affiliate links

How do you prevent getting orange instead of tan?

The most common mistakes are using too much product or trying to achieve a level of tan that is too dark for your skin tone. Another reason is using a product with the wrong undertone for your skin


self tanners

image by Brad Olson for Luca Magazine

What about the smell? Self tanners are notorious for being stinky – can you get rid of the smell?

DHA, a main ingredient in many sunless tanning products, needed to create the bronze hue, combined with the sugars in your skin are responsible for that icky smell. Solutions containing a higher content of chemicals, or non-organic materials tend to have a longer and more potent odor. You can minimize the odor by using organic-based products that are naturally scented with essential oils (instead of artificial fragrances).

It may still be a little smelly when it’s applied, but it rinses off when the developing phase is over., Inc.

 What do you do if your self tan is streaky/patchy/blotchy?

The only way to ensure your tan will develop properly and evenly is to make sure your skin is in optimal condition prior to tanning. Keep your skin extra hydrated in the days leading up to your tan. The day of your tan exfoliate your skin, paying extra attention to elbows and knees, heels and ankles, and do not wear any lotions/creams, makeup, deodorant or any other product that can prevent the solution from properly penetrating through the skin. Use a barrier cream on knees, elbows, ankles and heels to stop too much product from grabbing there.

Receive a FREE Shiseido YESSPF deluxe sample with any $25 purchase. Use code: YESSPF

What is the difference between a spray tanning booth and an airbrush tan?

A professional tanning artist will ensure the products being used are designed specifically for your unique skin tone, and will control how much product is being applied and where. They also know how to camouflage and accentuate certain areas by using custom contouring techniques that cannot be accomplished in a spray tanning booth. A good artist can camouflage tan lines, scars and even cellulite!

Read about facial self tanners here

How long should a self tan/airbrush tan last? How can we prolong it?

As long as you have followed your pre and post tanning instructions properly, an airbrush tan should last 5-10 days. Taking long, hot showers and baths, and swimming and certain body products can cause a tan to fade more quickly. Pat dry after showers rather than rubbing with a towel, and always apply a body lotion after bathing.


Sarah San Marco has a mobile airbrush tanning business, keeping models, celebrities, brides and regular gals golden, in the privacy of their own home.

The images in this post feature airbrush tanning by Sarah San Marco

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Limited US


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