How to apply sunless tanning lotion to your face


If you want your face to look tanned and beautiful now, without causing it to spot and wrinkle later, you're going to have to use a self-tanning, sunless lotion. Luckily, there are new ones that don't scream "FAKE TAN". Dermatologist Doris J Day shows how to apply a self-tanner to your face.

How to apply sunless tanning lotion to your face Lots of Sunless Tanning Products to Choose From
There are many products to choose from for your body and your face. The products for your body are a little bit richer than the ones for your face, while facial products have been specifically formulated to ensure that they don’t block your pores or irritate your face.

Lots of Color Tones to Choose From
As for what color tone to choose, the sunless tanning products come in different levels for all different skin tones—light, medium and dark. If you aren’t sure what product to use, start with the lightest product. You can always add more of the self tanning lotion to your skin. In fact, you can apply the product in layers every day or even every few hours to build up to the skin color you want. And don’t worry—your face is not going to turn orange from using these tanners. You will have a very natural healthy glow if you use these products correctly.

Here’s how you get started:

Exfoliate the Face First

The most important thing you must do before applying a self tanner is to exfoliate your face. It is critical that you do this before applying the sunless tanning lotion. The exfoliation process gets rid of the upper layer of dead skin. Dead skin is a problem when using sunless tanning lotion because it can absorb more of the product and leave your face looking streaky or uneven.

Your Face—You Only Need a Little

You should put about a dime-sized portion of the lotion in your hand and then with your other finger dab it around your face so you get an even distribution of the product. Blend the self tanning lotion in so you have full and even coverage all over your face. Cover the orbit of your eye, right where the curve of your eye is, but not to your eyelid. Once you’ve done that, massage the product down toward your jaw line—blend it down gently. Next you should massage the self tanner into your forehead. You should continue to blend it in on your forehead and then gently and feather it to your ears and then finally massage the product down to your jaw line. And you are done. You really only need about a dime-sized amount to cover your whole face.

That’s it! Enjoy your beautiful tinted skin. No one will know it wasn’t from the sun. But remember these sunless tanners do not protect your skin from the sun. It’s always important that you use sunscreen to protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun.

LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for Okay, well you know that sunbathing is just the worst thing that you can do to your skin, but you hate the pale face look. And those self-tanners can be hard to use, and can leave you with streaks and dark spots if you don’t know what you’re doing. Well, we’re here to show you how to use self-tanners correctly under the supervision of dermatologist and author Doris Day. Hi, Doris.


LISA:Well, it is a little confusing. Some products are for the face, some for the body. Let’s start with that. Why is something face-based and something body-based?

DORIS: Typically, ones for the body are a little bit more rich, and for some people that can cause breakouts or irritations. So ones for the face are typically tested specifically to not be irritating, or what we call occlusive, to not block the pores. Otherwise, if you don’t have sensitive skin, you can use the same product for both.

LISA:How do you choose a product and not know whether its, you’ll never know what color you’ll turn.

DORIS: Well the wonderful thing is, we have so many great choices of products. And now they come in light, medium, and dark. So if you have fair skin, start with the light. Or if you’re not sure, start with the lighter one, and then you can always graduate up. And the beauty is that you can keep applying it in layers every day or even every few hours to sort of build up to the color you want. So now we have a little bit more tint, more bronzers, better smells, less streaking, and really beautiful, very natural colors. It is really important to exfoliate before you apply it so you get rid of any dead, sort of uneven skin cells that are sitting on the surface so that you apply it to smooth, well-hydrated skin. So that means apply it after washing or after a shower so your skin has lots of water in it, sits smoothly, and after exfoliating.

LISA: Okay Doris, can you show me how to do this on my face?

DORIS: Sure. You put about a dime-sized amount on your hand. And with your other finger you’re going to just dab it around so that you get an even distribution of the product.

LISA: Oh, it’s a gel.


LISA: So that’s nice. And because it's tinted, I can see what I’m doing. Okay.

DORIS: Okay. So now once you have that, you can just use the rest of the product, or you can wait until the end. And now you’re going to go and blend it in so that you have full and even coverage, and you have a little bit left there in case you need.

LISA: Now I can’t tell whether its –

DORIS: Once it disappears and blends in, then you know you’re covered. You want to just get a little bit on the side of your nose, there. That goes perfect.

LISA: You can tell that this is absorbing right?

DORIS: It looks perfect. I can tell completely. See as you blend it in, there’s a slight difference in tone already. Now the important thing is –

LISA: Smells good.

DORIS: You want to go to the edge of what we call the orbit, the outer eye. So right where that curve is. You want to go right into the curve, but not all the way close. Not all the way to the eyelid, just close to the orbit. And then along the jaw-line, you want to go just underneath so that you don’t have a line that is a sharp demarcation of where you have the product and where you don’t. So you want to blend it down just a little bit.

LISA: Like that?

DORIS: What we call feathering it. Exactly. And I can see the difference already. Now the forehead one, exactly, blend it down towards your temples, perfect. And don’t forget, right between your eyes.

LISA: Oh, yeah.

DORIS: Go all the way out towards your ears, and now you’ve used all of your product. All it takes is about a dime sized amount to cover the whole face. And just run your fingers at the end over your upper lip. That’s the last place you’re going to go.

LISA: Oh, yeah. I didn’t do that.

DORIS: Because you only want a little bit there. Great.

LISA: Tada! Doris, it’s been a couple of hours, I put the gel on under your direction. Do you notice a difference?

DORIS: I love the look. Your skin is very even in tone. It has a warm, healthy glow. Not one streak or one bit of orange on your face. It looks great.

LISA: Perfect. So now I’m tan, I can build up my tan, and then I have to use sunscreen, right?DORIS: These sunless tanners do not offer you protection in the color that they give the way a natural tan might. So you definitely have to use sunscreen and reapply it on a regular basis to make sure you protect your skin from those damaging rays of the sun.

LISA: Oh those rays, those rays. What are we going to do about them? Thank you so much, Doris.

DORIS: Thank you.

LISA: For, I’m Lisa Birnbach.

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Doris Day

    Dr. Doris Day Dermatologist Doris Day is a board certified dermatologist who specializes in laser, cosmetic and surgical dermatology. She's clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU Medical Center and author of the book Forget the Facelift (Penguin/Avery). more about this expert »

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