Have you been using self-tanner for a while, and wondered how to make your fake tan darker? Are you happy with the beautiful glow you get from your sunless tanner, but not with the shade? In this article I’m going to talk about the ways you can make your self-tanner a bit darker, without leaving your skin blotchy, streaky, or orange.
First of all, to answer this super briefly, here are the primary ways you can make your fake tan darker:
- Use a quality self-tanner with higher DHA content.
- Layer your self-tanner by reapplying after it has had time to fully develop.
- Improve your pre-tan and post-tan routine to maximize your self-tanning experience.
Alright, now let’s go into a bit more detail about these strategies, as well as talk about a few tips and tricks.
How To Get A Darker Self-Tan
Self-tanner is getting more and more popular every day, as people start to recognize the dangers of UV rays, but still want a beautiful glowing tan for the summer and beyond. Before we talk about how to get a darker sunless tan, it’s really important to just take a quick second and talk about how most self-tanners work.
Just about all self-tanners (like my absolute favorite) darken the skin through a safe chemical called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA chemically reacts with the amino acids in the outer layer of your skin, called the epidermis. This chemical reaction causes the skin to darken, simulating a tan you would receive from the sun.
Since your skin naturally sheds the dead skin cells that hold this color, you have to reapply it fairly often. However, this also gives you quite a bit more control over the quality, and tone, of the tan you receive.
Alright, now that we understand a bit more about how self-tanner darkens the skin, let’s talk about a few of the best ways you can get a darker fake tan!
1. Use A Darker Self-Tanner With Higher DHA
You might not know this (because many people don’t) but many companies that make self-tanner have products meant to produce a darker tan.
Typically this is accomplished through a slightly higher amount of DHA. So as an example, the original version may have around 10% DHA, and the darker version may have 12-14% DHA. These products often also contain other ingredients meant to produce a darker tan.
As a disclaimer, I would usually suggest starting with the original, unless you know you need a darker tone.
An example of this would be St. Tropez. My favorite self-tanner currently, and the one I’m using right now, is this one. This is their primary self-tanner, and the one they suggest most people start with. I use it because I just love their products, but that’s for another article. St. Tropez though, also makes this same product in a darker version, which will contain higher DHA, as well as other ingredients to produce a darker tan.
So probably the first thing I would do if I were trying to get a darker fake tan would be to try a product meant to produce a darker tan.
2. Layer Your Self-Tanner
So to start with, make sure you read the instructions on your preferred self-tanning product or consult their website before doing this.
Layering self-tanner has been a popular way to get a darker fake tan for a while and is almost always a safe and effective option if you do it the right way.
I remember reading an article on the Little Black Dress blog where Jules Heptonstall (a fake tan Guru) was saying that during London fashing week one year, she was applying up to 5 layers of self-tanner at once to get a dark, rich, deep color on the models. She basically said that she would start from the feet and work her way upward, and by the time she finished the first coat, the bottom was dry enough to begin the second.
Now, for the average person, this might not be a good approach, as most home self-tanner take 4-8 hours to fully develop their color (which is why I suggest leaving your fake tan on overnight). So instead, a good way to get a darker safe tan through layers is to apply it every day for a few days until you’ve found a color that you like.
Go through your normal nightly self-tan routine (we’ll talk about this a bit down below), apply your favorite self-tanner just as you would, and the very next night, go through the whole process again. The following morning, take a look at the darker color and decide if that’s how dark you want it. If so, stop there, if not, reapply the next morning. Just repeat until you’ve found the color you want!
If you want to see an extreme example of this, check out this video of someone applying 100 layers of self-tanner using a self-tanning mitt.
Tip: Layering self-tanner works best with gradual self-tanning products.
3. Improve Your Self-Tanning Routine For A Darker Fake Tan
One of the best ways to get a darker self-tan is to make sure you have your self-tanning routine down. I have other articles on this, so I won’t go into too much depth, but here is the quick version of some of the things you should be doing before and after you apply self-tanner.
4. Clean and Exfoliate
So we talked about how DHA darkens the outermost layer of your skin. This makes exfoliation an extremely important part of your self-tanning routine. Before you apply your self-tanner, hop in the shower and use some sort of body scrub to get off any excess dead skin cells. This will allow the self-tanner to develop color more evenly and completely.
Make sure that you pay close attention to the rough areas of your skin, like your knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles, as these tend to absorb more self-tanner and darken quicker.
Tip: If you’re going to shave, make sure you also do it at this point. If you in the days right after applying self-tanner, you’re likely to shave off some of the skin holding the color, producing streaks and causing the tan to fade quicker.
Another really important step, in fact, I wrote a whole article on it. Moisturizing your skin evens out the hydration of your skin, allowing your tan to apply evenly over your whole body. Just like with the exfoliation, make sure you moisturize those dry areas.
This is also a step where you can do yourself a huge favor and use a tan-enhancing moisturizer like this one you can get on Amazon. These types of moisturizers are specifically formulated to help extend your fake tan, as well as help it fade more evenly. Be sure to use this before your self-tanner, as well as the days following.
6. Apply Your Self-Tanner
This step depends quite a bit on what kind of self-tanner you’re using. However, make sure that you do an even job, and don’t rub it in too much into your dry areas like knees, wrists, ankles, etc. If you haven’t tried it before, I’d also really encourage you to try using a self-tanning mitt, because they can make this entire experience way better. I wrote up an article on the best self-tanning mitts if you’re not sure which one to pick.
7. Let It Fully Dry
It’s really important to let the self-tanner to fully dry. This allows the coloring to complete evenly, and you won’t end up with any streaks or blotches. If you’re looking for some ways to speed up this process, you can see my article on making fake tan dry faster.
After it’s dried completely (probably 10-15 minutes) put on some loose, preferably dark, clothing or pajamas so that you won’t rub the tan weirdly, and no color will come off onto your clothes. Many people choose to use self-tanner right before going to bed to make this process easier.
If you wake up the next morning and you’re not satisfied with the color, wait until that evening and apply another coat of your self-tanner. You’ll wake up the next morning with a darker self-tan, and you can re-evaluate the color.
Only you can decide how dark of a tan is right for you. I would suggest you start by choosing a darker self-tanning product. If that doesn’t work for you, try some of the other steps in this article.