If you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t get all bronzed from your usual daily exposure to the sun, worry not – you have options! Self-tanners may be found amidst beauty products for women, but if you want to get a nice bronze glow sans the cancer risk, they are definitely a legitimate option…and your best secret yet.


The DHA (dihydroxyacetone, or “glycerone”) found in most self-tanners reacts with the dead layer of the skin, causing it to brown and “tan”, all without harmful UV rays. Some self-tanners contain sunscreen, some don’t. Either way, since you’re already getting a (fake) tan, stay out of the sun: DHA application makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and increases your risk of sunburn. The best time to self-tan, therefore, is at night – leave yourself between a half-hour to two hours before bedtime. Now that we’ve got that squared away, how to go about getting that natural-looking (fake) tan on, and with what?

1. Pick the right shade. 

The gold standard of self-tanning is how natural it looks. Unless you’re trying to pass off as a competitive tennis player, chances are you’ll be best served with a tan two or three shades darker than your current skin tone. If in doubt, get one that’s the closest to your skin tone – you can always repeat the self-tan to get it darker.


2. Exfoliate.

Especially the parts of your skin you want to self-tan. Unless you’re planning to get seen naked at some point, you really only need to self-tan the parts of your skin that will be seen. Exfoliating gets rid of dead skin that can cause bumps, creases and uneven coloring to ensure a flawless, natural look. Pay special attention to your knees, elbows, ankles, and anywhere you know you have dry skin. Best way to get this right is to use a loofah or a sponge. Just make sure you’re completely dry before going on to the next step. Smooth and Renew Body Loofah Mitt, The Body Shop, GBP6.


3. Wear gloves.

Using bare hands to self-tan means weirdly orange palms. Get yourself some tight-fitting, disposable rubber gloves and use them whenever you’re handling self-tan liquids.

4. Follow the dosage instructions. 

If you’re using a mousse, two pumps are generally more than enough for each major body area (e.g. chest, arms, stomach, thighs, legs). For gels or creams, start with a quarter sized amount and add more if you need. If the gel doesn’t absorb, you’re using too much. To be safe, use less on areas with uneven skin such as the knees and elbows.

5. If you were in the sun…

…where on your body would have more color, and where less? Our underarms generally tan less, and obviously our soles and palms don’t get any color at all. Don’t forget to tan your neck, and after applying the self-tanner from bottom to top, finish off by tanning the back of your hands.


Andy Murray’s great at tennis, not so great at tanning. Avoid this pattern, please. Source: Express.co.uk.

6. The face needs special care. 

While some products tout they can be used from head to toe, be careful to always use a formulation made specially for the face. Not only is the skin on your face thinner and more sensitive to chemicals, any mistakes made on your face is instantly visible. Therefore, we recommend a fuss-free self-tanning wipe/towelette. If you would rather use the same product you used for your body, start with a very small amount, let dry, and reapply if necessary.

7. Don’t touch anything…

Until you’re completely dry. Not because it will stain your sheets, but because you don’t want to accidentally wipe parts of the product off and end up splotchy. Depending on the tanner, this may take between fifteen to thirty minutes. Some tanners require a longer time to set in, and some even have a sliding scale for how long to keep it on that corresponds with the depth of the tan. Follow the instructions on your self-tanner to ensure the best results.


Spray tans aren’t always such a good idea, as Ross demonstrates. Source: Friends, NBC.

8. I’m lazy. Spray tan? 

While a spray-tan salon employs the same formulation on your body as you would self-tanning, one thing is different – the product is aerosolized into a spray. This means a much higher chance of breathing in chemicals. What with our city air being so polluted already, you wouldn’t need to expose your poor lungs to more stress. But if you really want a tan with zero fuss, getting someone to do it for you professionally is still better than sunbathing.

Our picks for self-tanners 

Rapid Tan Mousse, Vita Liberata, USD43.

If you have oily skin, then this light formulation would work best for you. 


Sunless Tanning Gel, Hampton Sun, USD34.

Gels work fast and give you a greater measure of control over how much is used. 


Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanning Face Towelettes, Tarte, USD21

Great for the face, this one also boasts moisturizing properties to combat DHA’s drying effect on skin. 


Golden Glow Booster, Clarins, USD30. 

Truly fuss-free, this serum requires you to merely add a few drops into your moisturizer, and see your tan get deeper day by day. For the more time-starved amongst us. 


Self-tanning may be a chore, but think of it this way. You don’t risk your health, and you get to do it in the comfort of your own home, at any time of the day. If I may quote from Diana Ross, no rain or winter’s cold can stop you, baby. Now go get that bronzing on.