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Today we are going to share with you exactly how to self tan in 2023.

In this comprehensive guide we will cover:

What is Self Tanning?

How to prep your skin for a streak free tan

Application techniques

How to choose the right shade for your skin type

Professional tips, tricks and lots more!

So if you are new to tanning or want a longer lasting streak free glow, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s get started.

How to Self-tan: The Ultimate Guide

What is self tanning
how does dha work
Prep for a Self Tan




How to apply self tanning mousse
post spray tan tips
Things to consider when self tanning




skin types chart



What is self tanning


Self tanner is a cosmetic product used to achieve a tanned appearance without exposure to harmful UV rays. With the help of DHA, self tanning products work by reacting with amino acids in your skin to create a natural-looking tan.
From sprays to tanning lotions to mousses and wipes, there's a self tanner for every skin type. So ditch the damaging rays and get ready for a perfectly bronzed look that'll have you feeling confident and fabulous!

Although self tanning has a rich history, the love for a radiant complexion without harmful UV exposure has been on the rise since the 60's. Anchored by a researcher named Eva Wittgenstein. 
It all started when Eva was conducting a study on DHA for kids with Glycogen Storage Disease. She noticed that when the medicine containing DHA would splatter, it would stain the patient's body, but not their clothes. Eva continued to test the effects of DHA on her own skin and realized her skin would turn brown within a few hours. Little did she know, she was about to change the game for decades to come! Now we can all achieve that gorgeous tan without the risk. How cool is that?


Self tanner is a great alternative to sunbathing. Sun exposure can cause skin damage, premature aging, and increase the risk of skin cancer. On the other hand, self tanning products are safe and do not carry the same risks associated with sun exposure.
Additionally, self tanner allows for greater control over the intensity of the tan. It can be used to achieve a desired look without the need to spend long periods of time in the sun. Not to mention, self tanning products are available in various formulas, making it easier to find the perfect product for your skin type.
Overall, self tanner is a convenient and safe option for those looking to achieve a tanned look without the harmful effects of too much sun.

DHA in Self Tanning

This little guy is the reason we can achieve a beautiful, sun-kissed glow without damaging our skin. But, what exactly is DHA in tanning?
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a colorless sugar that reacts with the amino acids in the outermost layer of the skin producing a brown pigment called melanoidin. This pigment accumulates in the skin and provides a tanned appearance. This reaction is known as the Maillard reaction.
The Maillard reaction is a non-enzymatic browning reaction that occurs between a reducing sugar and a free amino group. It's important to note that this reaction only occurs in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). It does not penetrate into deeper layers or affect the underlying tissues.


Another common ingredient used in self tanning products is Erythrulose. Erythrulose is a keto sugar that is structurally similar to DHA. However, the reaction between erythrulose and the skin is slower and less intense than that of DHA. This less intense reaction results in a more gradual tanning effect.
The use of erythrulose in sunless tanning products is intended to enhance the longevity and natural appearance of the tan. It is often used in combination with DHA to produce a more gradual result. 


Parabens are a group of preservatives that are commonly used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms. However, they have been the subject of controversy in recent years due to concerns about their potential health effects.
Studies have shown that parabens can mimic the activity of estrogen in the body. This imitation can disrupt the endocrine system and potentially increase the risk of hormone related cancers, such as breast cancer. Additionally, some studies have found parabens in human tissues and fluids. This indicates that they are absorbed into the body through topical application.
While the evidence linking parabens to health problems is still inconclusive, many consumers and experts prefer to avoid them due to the potential health risks. As a result, many sunless tanning products are now available that are paraben-free. Opting to instead use alternative preservatives such as benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, or sodium benzoate.

How to prep for self tanning

Now that you’ve learned about sunless tanning, let's talk about a the steps before tanning. 
Specifically we’re going to cover the importance of exfoliation, how to exfoliate, shaving, and what to avoid prior to your tan. 
We will also give you the insider tips and tricks for a flawless glow!


It is important to exfoliate your body and face prior to applying self tanner, this creates a fresh canvas for the tanner to absorb into. This is a crucial step for any sunless tanning routine.
The benefits of exfoliation include:
  • Removes dead skin cells: Dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface of the skin, making it look dull and congested. By removing these dead skin cells, exfoliating reveals brighter, smoother, and more even-toned skin.
  • Unclogs pores: Exfoliating helps unclog pores, which can reduce the risk of breakouts and blackheads. This is particularly important for people with oily or acne-prone skin.
  • Stimulates cell turnover: This is the process by which new skin cells are produced and old cells are sloughed off. This helps keep the skin looking youthful and healthy. It also creates a fresh layer of skin for the tanner to absorb into.
  • Improves skin texture: Regular exfoliation can help improve skin texture, making it smoother and softer to the touch.
  • Enhances the effectiveness of other skincare products: Exfoliating also allows other skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin. Deeper penetration can provide maximum benefits.

    Properly exfoliating your skin involves a few steps to ensure maximum benefits.
    Here are the steps in detail:

  • Cleanse your skin: Start by removing any makeup or impurities from your skin using a gentle cleanser. This will prepare your skin for exfoliation and allow the exfoliant to work more effectively.
  • Wet your skin: Wet your skin with warm water to help soften the dead skin cells, making them easier to remove.
  • Choose the right exfoliant: There are many different types of exfoliants available, including body scrubs, brushes, enzymes, and acids. Choose the one that's best suited for your skin type and the results you're looking for. For example, if you have sensitive skin, use a more gentle scrub or enzyme exfoliant. If you have oily or congested skin, a physical scrub may be better.
  • Apply the exfoliant: Apply a small amount of the exfoliant to your body and face, using gentle circular motions. Focus on areas where dead skin cells tend to accumulate. Avoid sensitive areas such as the eyes, lips, and nose. 
  • PRO TIP: Use a washcloth or loofah in conjunction with an exfoliator.
  • Rinse thoroughly: Rinse your face thoroughly with warm water to remove all traces of the exfoliant. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel.
  • It's important to be gentle when exfoliating and not overdo it, as excessive exfoliating can damage the skin. It's also a good idea to limit exfoliation to 1-2 times per week, depending on your skin type. Over exfoliating can lead to dryness, redness, and irritation, so it's important to listen to your skin and adjust accordingly.


    It is generally recommended to shave before getting a tan or applying self tanner.  Here's why:
  • Smoother skin: Shaving before a tan helps ensure a smooth, more even application of the self tanner or sunless tanning product. This can help prevent streaking and patchiness, and result in a more natural-looking tan.
  • Better absorption: Shaving before a tan can also help the skin absorb the self tanner easier. 
  • Reduce irritation: Shaving before a tan reduces skin irritation. This helps the product not cling to stubble or hair.

    We recommend shaving at a minimum of 8 hours before applying your self tanner. This gives your pores time to close up, and helps prevent any spotting of the tan.

    Use an oil free moisturizing body wash. Many shaving creams and soaps contain alcohol that can be counterproductive to tan absorption. 


  • Moisturizing: Avoid moisturizing immediately before using a self tanner. This can act as a barrier to the self tanner and make it harder to absorb evenly into the skin.
  • Applying other products: Avoid applying other skincare products, such as lotions, creams, or oils, immediately before using a self-tanner. 


    Hydrate: Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining healthy, radiant skin. Here are some of the benefits of proper hydration for the skin:
  • Moisture balance: Proper hydration helps to maintain the skin's moisture balance, which can make the skin look plump, smooth, and youthful.
  • Improved skin elasticity: Hydrated skin is better able to maintain its elasticity and bounce. This can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Reduced inflammation: Hydrated skin is less prone to inflammation, redness, and irritation. A reduction in inflammation helps improve the overall health and appearance of the skin.
  • Improved skin function: Hydration helps to support the skin's natural processes like skin cell turnover and the production of natural oils. This can help to keep the skin looking healthy and radiant.
  • Faster healing: Hydrated skin can heal faster and better from cuts, bruises, and other types of skin damage. 


    Excessive alcohol consumption can have negative effects on the skin including:
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases fluid loss and can lead to dehydration. Dehydrated skin can appear dry, dull, and wrinkled, and can be more prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol can increase inflammation in the body, which can lead to redness, puffiness, and breakouts.
  • Broken capillaries: Alcohol consumption can dilate blood vessels leading to broken capillaries. This is known to cause red, spidery veins to appear on the face.
  • Poor sleep: Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, which can have a negative effect on the skin. Sleep is not only important for overall health but also skin repair and rejuvenation.
  • Weakened immune system: Alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, making skin more susceptible to infections, inflammation, and other skin issues.
  • <h2> How to apply self tanner </h2>
    In this chapter we talk about how to apply to the body, the face, and the hands. 
    We will also cover different shades and self tanning products.  


  • Pump tanning mousse on applicator mitt. We recommend no more than 2 pumps of mousse per area 
  • Apply in a circular motions: (small to medium circles) 
  • Start at the ankles: this helps reduced the risk of upper body skin folding
  • Apply in sections: one body part at a time 
  • Instead of tanning the entire arm, split it into forearm & upper arm 
  • Instead of tanning the entire leg, split into below the knee and above the knee 
  • Blend well* : Pay extra attention to blending the self tanner at the joints and areas where skin rubs together. Areas such as the elbows, knees, and ankles are notorious for self tan build up.
  • Use sparingly: Apply a small amount of self tanner at a time, and avoid applying too much in one area. You can always build up the color gradually over time.
  • * Optional tan tip - You can use lotion to act as a barrier on these rough skin areas prior to applying


    When it comes to tanning the face, watch out for products that include acne prone ingredients like alcohol, fragrances, and silicones. These can clog pores and cause breakouts.
    Instead, look for self tanners that are formulated for acne-prone skin. These usually contain ingredients that are non-comedogenic and non-irritating like jojoba oil.
    Jojoba oil is a plant-based oil that is commonly used in skin care and cosmetic products for its many benefits. Some of the benefits of jojoba oil include:
  • Hydrates skin: Jojoba oil is a natural moisturizer that can help hydrate the skin and prevent dryness.
  • Balances oil production: Jojoba oil is similar in composition to the skin's natural oils. This makes it effective at regulating oil production and makes it especially beneficial for people with oily skin.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it useful for reducing redness and inflammation in acne-prone skin.
  • Non-comedogenic: Jojoba oil is non-comedogenic, which means that it won't clog pores and cause breakouts.
  • Antioxidant: Jojoba oil is rich in antioxidants. These can help to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and environmental stressors.
  • Improves skin texture: Jojoba oil can help to improve the texture of the skin by smoothing out rough, dry patches.
  • Supports wound healing: Jojoba oil has antimicrobial properties that can help to promote wound healing and prevent infection.
  • To apply the Makai Sunless Face Mist: hold 6 inches away from your face and close your eyes. Spritz the mist starting from the forehead down, 5-6 spritz is more than enough to cover the entire face. Use your tanning mitt to pat away excess mist and ensure even application.

    There are other face tanning products that come in drop form. With these you add 2-12 drops (depending on desired tan) into your moisturizer before bed. 


    There are a few ways you can easily apply self tanner to your hands and feet.
    One option is to bend your knuckles in a claw-like position (so the folds of your knuckles are open). Using the excess mousse from the applicator mitt lightly rub the tops of your hands and in between your fingers.
    This will apply a small amount of product on your hands. After it dries, rube a penny sized amount of lotion into your hands like you normally would. This helps blend in any lines between your knuckles and fingers.
    Another great way to tan your hands is to pump a small amount of mousse on a makeup brush. Then use the brush to apply on the top of your hands in a circular motion. Using the claw position apply a small amount of lotion once the tan is dry to help blend.
    When tanning your feet, use the same technique as applying to your hands. Again, using excess mousse that is left over on your applicator mitt. In a sweeping motion, sweep down from your ankle onto the top of your foot.
    Make sure to bend your toes and apply on top of your toes, as well as in between your toes. Let it dry before applying socks. 
    One more way to tan your hands and feet is to use the Makai Sunless Bronzing Mist. This product gives an instant airbrush tan finish. Simply hold the nozzle 6” from your hands or feet and spray over the top of both.
    Then using your applicator mitt, lightly pat the tops of your hands and feet to ensure a streak free finish. 

  • Ideal for those with fair skin tones or those new to self tanning 
  • Gives light glow for those wanting natural results
  • Can also be used as a gradual self tanner
  • Ideal for medium to dark skin tones
  • Good for those who have experience with sunless tanning
  • Darker results for a deeper looking tan 
  • Ideal for olive skin undertones
  • Also good for those who have experience with sunless tanning, and want a deep dark Mediterranean inspired tan
  • Darkest results for those looking for a noticeably dark tan



  • Airbrush 360 spray that provides an instant airbrush tan finish
  • Bronzed Brown Color that develops into medium to dark results
  • Designed for hands, feet, and body

  • Designed specifically for tanning your face
  • Clear solution enriched with jojoba oil to hydrate skin and protect from harsh environmental stressors
  • Gives very light to natural glow for a base tan without the need of makeup


  • Durability: A good mitt should be made from a sturdy material that won't tear or wear down after repeated use.
  • Softness: The mitt should be soft and gentle on your skin to prevent any discomfort or irritation.
  • Absorbency: A good mitt should be able to absorb enough tanner to apply it evenly and prevent any product waste.
  • Easy to clean: The mitt should be easy to clean and maintain. We recommend cleaning it after every 2-3 tanning applications to prevent build up.
  • Ease of use: A good mitt should be comfortable to hold and easy to use. This allows you to apply self-tanner evenly and smoothly.
  • Compatibility: The mitt should be compatible with the type of self-tanner you are using. Some mitts may not work well with certain products. 
  • Makai Sunless Tanning Mitts

     Applicator Mitt:

  • Velvet Soft Material to ensure streak free results
  • Can be used with left or right hand
  • Machine Washable for an easy to clean mitt
  •  Back Applicator Mitt:

  • A Soft Velvet material to ensure streak free results
  • Two handled long mitt design specially for the hard to reach upper back
  • Apply mousse to one side of the mitt. Then use the handles to apply self tan to your upper back using a sawing like motion.
  • Machine washable for an easy to clean mitt & streak free application
  • An easy way to get a full body tan, all by yourself!
  • <h2> how to achieve a longer tan </h2>

    Now that you have successfully applied your flawless self tan, it’s time for a post tan regiment.

    In this chapter we will give you all the details on:
  • how long to let your tan dry
  • the best clothing to wear
  • and some professional post tanning tips to avoid transfer

    Let your tan dry for a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes before putting clothes on. Not only does this give time for the tan to dry, but helps avoid tan transfer onto clothing.
    Wear loose dark fitting clothing after your tan is fully dry. If you have any tan transfer onto your clothes it is easier to get out of dark clothing. Sunless tanners should wash out of most materials.
    If you are tanning before bed it is best to wear dark loose fitting clothing to sleep in. This can help stop any transfer of the tan onto your bedsheets. We recommend wearing full bottoms, and a long sleeve top.
    To achieve full color development, let your tan stay on your skin for 8 hours (or as instructed). It is then time to rinse. Shower in luke-warm water.
    Do not use soaps or scrubs when rinsing your tan. Pat to dry skin following your rinse.
    Hydrate your skin daily after your post tan shower. This keeps your skin moisturized and your tan longer lasting.
    Continue wearing sunscreen daily, and especially when out in the sun as self tanner does not protect from harmful UV rays. 

    Things to consider when self tanning

    So now that you are nice and tanned, let's look at other considerations for the health and life of your skin. 


    Climate can have a significant impact on the health and appearance of the skin. Protecting skin from environmental factors is important.
    Here are some of the effects that climate can have on the skin in detail:
              7 ways climate can effect skin
  • Humidity: In high humidity climates the skin can become more hydrated, making it easier for skin care products to penetrate. However, high humidity can also make the skin more susceptible to irritation and breakouts. Sweat and oil can accumulate on the skin and cause clogged pores.
  • Temperature: Extremely hot or cold temperatures can cause the skin to become dry, flaky, and more susceptible to irritation. This can make it more difficult for products to penetrate the skin and be absorbed effectively.
  • Wind: Windy conditions can strip the skin of its natural oils, causing it to become dry and dehydrated. This can reduce the skin's ability to absorb products and may increase the risk of irritation, sun damage, and skin aging.
  • A dry climate can have several negative effects on the skin including:
  • Dehydration: A dry climate can cause the skin to lose moisture, leading to dehydration and a dry, tight, flaky appearance.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles: Dehydrated skin is more susceptible to fine lines and wrinkles. The lack of moisture in the skin can cause it to lose its plumpness and elasticity.
  • Irritation and redness: Dry climate can cause the skin to become more susceptible to irritation and redness. The lack of moisture can cause the skin's natural barrier function to become compromised.
  • Breakouts: Dehydrated skin can also be more prone to breakouts. Low moisture in skin can cause oil production to increase, leading to clogged pores and acne.
  • To minimize the effects of a dry climate on the skin, it is important to maintain a regular skin care routine. Routines that include hydration, protection from environmental factors, and the use of products that are appropriate for your skin type.
    Drinking plenty of water and using moisturizing products can help to keep the skin hydrated and protected.


    To remove self-tanner hop into a warm shower. Using a mild exfoliating body scrub or soap and a wash cloth, gently massage the skin in a circular motion. Pay extra attention to areas that can have color buildup, such as elbows, knees, and ankles.

    Rinse thoroughly and try to avoid any harsh scrubbing, as it can cause skin irritation. Pat the skin dry with a clean towel and moisturize post-tan removal will help maintain a natural and even appearance.


    There are several occasions where someone may choose to get a fake tan, including:
  • Special events: People may choose to self tan for a special event such as a wedding, prom, or a big party.
  • Vacation: A fake tan can help to create a vacation glow, even if someone is not going on a beach holiday.
  • Regardless of what occasion your tan is for, be sure to try your products before you go.


  • Boosting confidence: Some people may get a fake tan to boost their confidence and feel better about their appearance.
  • Covering up blemishes: A sunless tan can help to cover up blemishes, scars, and other skin imperfections.
  • Seasonal change: Using self tanner can help to extend a summer tan. It can also create a tan during colder seasons when the skin is naturally lighter.
  • Slimming Effect: Having a tan can create a “slimming effect”. This helps define and accentuate muscle tone. 

    <h2> Self tanning for different skin types </h2>




  • Normal skin: Normal skin is well-balanced and not too oily or dry. It has a smooth texture and is not easily irritated.
  • Oily skin: Oily skin is characterized by an overproduction of oil, which can lead to shiny skin, clogged pores, and breakouts.
  • Dry skin: Dry skin is characterized by a lack of oil and moisture.
  • Combination skin: Combination skin is a mix of both oily and dry skin. Some areas of the face may be oily while others may be dry (such as the cheeks).
  • Sensitive skin: Sensitive skin is easily irritated and can be prone to redness, itching, and burning.

    It's important to note that skin can also change based on various factors, such as age, hormones, and environmental conditions. Understanding your skin type will help you choose products that are appropriate for the health and balance of your skin. A dermatologist or skin care professional can help you to determine your skin type. They will also help develop a personalized skin care routine that is right for you.






  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove any makeup, dirt, or oils.
  • Wait for an hour or two, without applying any products to your face.
  • Look at your skin and observe its oiliness or dryness. Is it shiny, or is it tight and flaky?
  • Press a clean tissue to different areas of your face, such as your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin.
  • Look at the tissue to see if it has picked up any oil. If there is a lot of oil in the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), then you likely have oily skin. If the tissue is relatively oil-free, you likely have dry or normal skin.
  • If your skin is shiny in some areas and dry in others, you may have combination skin.

    It's also a good idea to consider any other skin concerns you may have. Sensitivity, breakouts, or redness, can all contribute to a misunderstanding of your skin type.



    We really hope you enjoyed our complete guide to self tanning! 

    Now we would like to hear from you: 

    What occasion are you self tanning for?

    Are you going to start self tanning if you haven’t before? 

    Or maybe you want to try a new sunless product?

    Either way, let us know by leaving a comment below and sharing.  

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