Sunless Meets Natural Tanning for Men

Sunless Meets Natural Tanning for Men

Bridging the gap between winter and bronzed summer skin can be as awkward as your seventh-grade yearbook photo. But with contemporary sunless tanning formulas, you can achieve a gradual, realistic-looking tan, whether you choose to tan naturally or avoid the sun altogether. 

Either path works if you understand self-tanning, the product, the application techniques, and know what to avoid in order to get that natural, never-orange, never-streaky result.

Man on beach tanning

1. A healthier way to tan

Thankfully, skincare for men is having a moment in the sun (no pun intended). There is more education,  more choice in products, and more exposure for healthy skin habits than ever. 

Nowadays, it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t know that sun exposure can lead to skin damage. In order to avoid the sun, some people opt for a self-tanner to achieve that fun-in-the-sun aesthetic.

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While using self-tanning products is a great way to avoid too much sun exposure, you still need to apply a broad spectrum, oil-free sunscreen. Self-tanners do not usually contain SPF and therefore won’t protect you when you are outdoors.

Pro Tip:

Oil-based body care products and exfoliation are two ways to remove a sunless tan. When selecting your SPF, avoid any with oil ingredients.

2. The fake bake misconception

Fake tans are orange, messy, and look worse than if you did nothing at all.

That’s the general consensus about self-tanning if you asked a few random people on the street. However, sunless tanning formulas have come a long way. They look very natural, if you know what you’re looking for and how to apply it.

Be sure to pay attention to the formula, shade, prep and application techniques you use. They all matter in getting a streak-free, not-orange result.

What not to do:

  • Using a shade that’s a lot darker than your natural tone
  • Not prepping the skin by exfoliating
  • Putting more on before it develops completely
  • Using any oil-based products (that causes product-lift)

You can skip all the guesswork with professional skin care treatments or customized product recommendations at your local skincare shop. Head to Booksy to book a virtual consultation or in-person appointment today.

self-tan for men

3. Choosing the right formula

You know it when you see it: the dreaded orange fake tan.

Unfortunately, if you don’t choose the right formula, shade, or apply it correctly, this could be your future. Here is how to make sure you achieve a sunkissed bronze without catastrophe. For even more detail, check out this GQ article.

For your skin tone

Select a sunless tanning product that is only a few shades darker than your natural skin tone. The product develops (or darkens) over a period of one to twelve hours, so you need to wait that long to see the results. After the formula develops then you can opt for more or not. 

Another consideration if you have a lighter skin tone is to select a gradual tanning formula. This is buildable and allows you to better control the results.

For hairy vs. hairless areas

Hair can interfere with a smooth end result. Usually, the instructions on the bottle recommend applying the product to completely hairless, smooth, and dry skin. So how do you apply self-tan to hairy areas?

It comes down to the formula. Mousses, whips, and foam sunless tanning products are the best formula for hairy and hairless areas. Apply it with a self-tanning mitten to ensure even coverage.

Natual tanning while self-tanning

Can you tan through self-tanner? 

Yes. This is where sunless tanning comes in handy to bridge the gap between winter and summer skin tones. Using a gradual tanning product gives you that instant sunkissed look while you continue to tan naturally outdoors. 

You can exfoliate use oil-based washes to remove a sunless tan when you’re ready to see what your natural tan looks like. 

4. The self-tanning shopping list

  • Body scrub with oil
  • Dry brush for exfoliating
  • Non-oil based moisturizer
  • Foam or whipped formula sunless tan
  • Sunless tanning mitten
  • Foundation brush or cosmetic sponges

How to use the products:

Exfoliating Mitten or Dry Brush: About 24 hours before applying self-tanner, exfoliate very well with a gentle body scrub. Then approximately 12 hours before, you’ll want to exfoliate again. This time without any added oils since they interfere with the self-tanning product. A dry brush is a great option here.

Moisturizer: Apply a small amount of moisturizer to the knees, elbows, and knuckles to work as a barrier to the sunless tanning product. These are areas that tend to over-develop but the lotion counteracts that.

Cosmetic Sponge: The knees, elbows, and knuckles are the areas that generally give away that you’re wearing fake tan, so pay special attention to these areas. Apply the product to flexed joints so the skin is stretched tight. Simply dab with a stippling technique for even coverage. Check out this blog for a demonstration.

self-tanning for men

5. Making self-tanning last longer

Exfoliating makes your sunless tan fade faster, so you’re going to want to steer clear of that as much as possible. Also, keep away from any products containing salicylic acid and hot water.

Opt for cooler showers and drink lots of water. Check out 101 on Skin Hydration for more on this.

While some self-tanners are buildable and you can deepen your complexion by applying more, this isn’t the only option. If all you want to do is maintain your tan (and not deepen it), you can simply add a little of your whipped tanning solution to your daily body moisturizer. This is just a little tint that extends the life of your sunless tan.


Sunless tanner is great for those who want a healthier alternative to natural tanning. It’s also great for adding a little color before your real tan settles in. But it’s important to recognize that a natural-looking result takes a little finesse.

Using a body scrub the day before ensures that your skin is adequately exfoliated before you apply the product. Then allow up to 12 hours for the formula to develop completely. Finally, apply non-oil sunscreen and moisturizer daily. 

Of course, you can do this yourself at home and hope for the best, but you will always get the best results (and avoid a disaster) if you consult your local skincare professional. Chat with them about the right products for you and correct sunless tanning application asap. ?

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