Self-Tanner: Glow Without the Sun Damage | LovelySkin

2019 POW - Exfoliators & Peels


Self-Tanner: Getting a Healthy Glow Without the Sun Damage

Self-Tanner: Getting a Healthy Glow Without the Sun Damage

It’s time to shake off the winter blues. With the days getting warmer and the sun shining longer, spring is making its debut. Instead of heading outside to soak up the sun’s rays, skip the sun damage and give your skin a gorgeous glow with self-tanning products.

Getting a Healthy Glow

You don’t have to sacrifice your health to achieve a gorgeous glow! Self-tanners allow you to become a bronze beauty without the sun damage. The active ingredient in most self-tanners is a color additive called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. Derived from sugar, this ingredient reacts with the amino acids in the top layers of your skin to create a bronze shade. The best part is that it’s totally customizable! The color change can take anywhere from one to six hours and each reapplication will help build color depth. This is why many products have a gradual bronzing effect over a few days or a week. Don’t like how your color turned out? No problem! Without reapplication, the coloring typically wears off after a few days.

Long gone are the days when sunless tanners left you looking orange. With so many different options to choose from, you can pick the one that works best for your lifestyle.


Lotions are both simple to use and easily blendable. To avoid streaking, you’ll want to apply the product in a circular motion, instead of up and down or back and forth. Most self-tanning lotions are gradual, which means they get darker over a few hours or even a few days. These formulas are great if you want to achieve buildable color over a period of time.

You might like: ELEMIS Total Glow Bronzing Body Lotion or Kerstin Florian Sunless Tan


If you hate getting self-tanner on your hands, sprays are the answer to your prayers! These formulas allow for a smooth, even application without touching your skin. If you’re not a seasoned spray tan pro, you might want to enlist the help of a friend who can help you cover the areas you can’t reach, like your back. Self-tanning sprays are perfect if you want an instant glow.

You might like: bliss A Tan For All Seasons


Towelettes are the best of both worlds. They combine the easy application of a lotion with the quick results of a spray. Like lotion, you’ll want to apply in circular motions, but be careful not to press too hard. Keep in mind that one towelette is usually meant to be used on your entire body, so don’t open two or three at a time.

You might like: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad for Body with Active Vitamin D

Remember, each formula will be a little different, so be sure to follow the directions on the packaging for best results.

Perfecting the Technique

Before applying self-tanner, you’ll want to:

  • Shave
  • Exfoliate any dry, flaky areas that might pick up too much color
  • Apply a light lotion to any really dry areas, like your elbows and knees (the lotion will prevent your skin from absorbing too much self-tanner)

Then, after application:

  • Fix any mistakes by exfoliating the area or wiping it with an alcohol-based toner (this will help even out the color a bit)
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water, particularly under your nails and between your fingers
  • Make sure your self-tanner is completely dry before getting dressed
  • Try not to sweat or get wet for a few hours

The Science Behind Sun Damage

Did you know sun bathing can do some serious damage? The truth is there’s no such thing as a safe tan, even if you’re slathering on the sunscreen. Any change in the color of your skin is a sign of sun damage. Your body produces melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, to protect the deeper layers of skin from damage. The skin darkens, or produces even more melanin, after UV exposure in an attempt to repair any damage and prevent further injury. These repairs can cause genetic defects that lead to skin cancer. By attempting to get a sun tan, you are damaging your skin and increasing your risk of skin cancer.

Tanning Bed Myths Debunked

Sun exposure is sun exposure, whether you’re outdoors or indoors. The tanning industry has perpetuated a widespread myth that tanning beds are “safer” than tanning under the sun because it’s a controlled dose of UV exposure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The UV exposure from tanning beds is indeed controlled, but the radiation levels are significantly stronger than the sun. Standard tanning bed lamps give off 10 to 15 times more radiation than the sun, and newer tanning beds use bulbs that are even stronger. Tanning bed use is more dangerous than sun bathing because it can be done at any time rain or shine, and frequent visits don’t give skin a chance to recover. In fact, indoor tanning increases a person's melanoma risk by a whopping 74 percent.

You Still Need Sunscreen

Remember, self-tanners do not replace the need for sunscreen. Even if the product you’re applying offers some sun protection, it only shields your skin for a couple hours. The bronze color created by sunless tanning products will not protect your skin from UV damage, so applying a broad spectrum sunscreen like EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen is still essential.

Show us your healthy glow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #LovelySkin!

Shop This Blog


Bring back a healthy glow with this ELEMIS body cream. This luxurious, gradual tan body lotion ins...

Quick Shop +
Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Body Lotion, an Elemis body cream Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Body Lotion, an Elemis body cream

A tanning lotion that creates a natural glow without the damaging UV rays.

Quick Shop +
Product Discontinued
Kerstin Florian Sunless Tan Kerstin Florian Sunless Tan
  • Soothes skin with aloe vera
  • Provides a radiant, streak-free tan
  • Offers fresh citrus scents
Quick Shop +
Product Discontinued
Bliss A Tan For All Seasons Bliss A Tan For All Seasons
  • Create a streak-free tan
  • Exfoliate skin for a healthier appearance
  • Reduce the appearance of imperfections
Quick Shop +
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Glow Pad for Body with Active Vitamin D, a Dr. Dennis Gross self tanner Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Glow Pad for Body with Active Vitamin D, a Dr. Dennis Gross self tanner
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Body - Intense Glow
  • Gently exfoliates with lactic acid
  • Reduces the appearance of sun damage
  • Tinted
Quick Shop +
Staff Favorite
EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Very Light Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen - Tinted EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Very Light Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen - Tinted
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen - Tinted

About the Author

Kristen is a copy editor for LovelySkin who loves catching up on the latest in skin care and beauty trends. Her favorite things include cats, concerts and Harry Potter.

Other Posts by Kristen


Leave a comment

Need Help?
Email Us
Customer Care Hours
Mon - Thur 9 - 6 p.m. CT
Friday 9 - 5 p.m. CT
Sat 9 - 3 p.m. CT
Sun / Holidays Closed