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How to get the perfect at-home sunless tan

May 26, 2015

Over the years, I’ve tried several at-home sunless tanning products in attempts to find a more cost effective version to salon spray tans, and much healthier alternative to a real tan. Now that the weather is actually warm, my glow-in-the-dark pale skin needs to get fixed ASAP.

Unfortunately actually pulling off a fake tan that isn’t streaky, uneven, and doesn’t give off a flaming-hot-cheetos-esque glow is potentially more rare than scoring a seat on the Brown line at 8:30am. Knowing you’re likely in the same dilemma, I’ve paired up with Ulta and Body Benefits, to bring you my guide to the perfect at-home sunless tan!

In other words, great news: you won’t be the pastiest girl at the pool next weekend.

What you’ll need:

Pre-tan:

I always think it’s easiest to apply my tan right when I get out of the shower (for obvious reasons!) but you can really do it any time you like. The Tarte formula dries fairly quickly, but I usually like to wait about 10 minutes for it to dry before putting clothes on, so I’ll usually plan ahead to shower, apply the tan, and then do my nails or read a magazine while I wait for it to dry.

Start by exfoliating your entire body with the Body Benefits exfoliating gloves, paying extra attention to places like your elbows, knees, and feet. I love the gloves because they’re super effective but don’t feel rough on skin. Follow with a back scrubber, which is great for those hard to reach places (you don’t want streaky tan on your back!) Also make sure to shave so your tan goes on smoothly,  and minimize the shaving you’ll need to do post-tan. (The more you use your razor, the sooner the tan will come off.) Exfoliating before your tan is key, or else your tan will start to flake, and fade unevenly–so make sure not to skip this step! 




I’ve read that you should exfoliate the day before you apply your color to give your skin time to settle, but honestly, I’ve done it both ways, and I can’t notice a difference. I like getting it all over with at once.

When you step out of the shower, rub your favorite moisturizer on your knees, elbows, and feet (specifically heels, bottoms of feet, and in between my toes–all extra dry places where tan is likely to absorb more quickly, and therefore be more orange than the rest of your body.) This is similar to the barrier cream that you apply when getting sprayed in the salon, and prevent the tan from soaking into those dry areas, causing dark patches.

Also, make sure your hair is pulled back off of your face, and avoid applying deodorant beforehand (it’ll prevent your tan from soaking in around your under arms, so you’ll end up with a harsh outline–not good!)

Shop all my favorite pre-tan prep products: 

The Tan:

Previously, I had never had good luck with sunless tanning lotions (I’m neither patient nor graceful, so achieving an outcome that wasn’t splotch-city was nearly impossible.) So I used the Neutrogena micro-mist spray, which I also liked because it was streak-free, but I never could get the right color. If you’re looking for other recommendations, I also opened up the question on Twitter, where I found that you guys love using Neutrogena’s build-a-tan lotion and Victoria’s Secret’s sunless formula!

But it was Tarte’s amazing product I discovered from a friend I ran into a couple weeks ago, who looked like she was fresh off of a Grecian cruise. Obviously, she spilled her secret that it was a fake tan, and I’m so glad she did! This is by far the most natural looking product out there. It comes with a glove applicator, so it doesn’t stain your hands, and ensures a streak free application. Plus, it doesn’t smell bad! It has a hint of sunless tanning smell, but nothing compared to the other stuff.

Start by squeezing the product into the glove–about the size of a quarter for each part of your body (i.e. your arms, lower legs, upper leg, you get the picture.) I also applied it on my face and neck with no problems. Although, the product did come with a face towelette, I didn’t use it because the reviews I read said the towelette was streaky, but that the regular product with the glove worked perfectly. (And it did!)

While you wait for your tan to dry, catch up on your favorite podcast (I love Jess Lively!) or paint your nails. When you’re done, make sure to dress in loose, dark clothing, and make sure you wait at least 8 hours before showering!

Ready to try it for yourself?

Enter below to win your own Body Benefits spa kit, plus a $250 Ulta gift card! 

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Post sponsored by Lunchbox on behalf of Body Benefits by Body Image. Opinions are 100% my own.

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