Top Tips on Self-Spray Tanning for Your Wedding

Get a perfect wedding tan—at home! Here's everything you need to know about self-tanning for your wedding in our expert guide.

By Deanna deBara

wedding on the beach
Photo by Once Like A Spark

Why self-tan?

Having the perfect tan on your wedding day isn’t a priority for everyone. But if you want to make sure your skin glows and radiates in your wedding photos, consider self-tanning before your big day. And no, you don’t need a wedding spray tan or need to look up at-home spray tan tips. Instead, self-tanning products are a great way to get that natural glow you’re looking for. Self-tanning products can be great for a wedding because:

1. Affordable

In terms of being budget-friendly, you won’t find a sunless tanning option that’s easier on your wallet than self-tanning products.

2. Variety of Shades

Self-tanning products now come in every shade (from a subtle glow to a full-on bronzed to match your skin tone) and product type (including foams, lotions, and liquids) you can think of.

3. Test Your Tan Pre-Wedding

Since self-tanning products are affordable, you can experiment with different shades and products before your wedding. This way there will be no last minute surprises closer to your bachelorette party or when you go to sleep before your wedding day, and your tan will be picture-perfect.

INLINE AllisonHansonPhotography 1080x720 Cristy&Bobby Photo Credit // Allison Hanson Photography

How to Apply Your Self Tan

Gather your Supplies

  • A self-tanning product of your choice

  • A tanning glove or mitt

  • Lotion

  • A body exfoliant

  • Shaving supplies

  • A large mirror

Prep the skin

Once you have all your supplies in place, it’s time to prep your skin for the self-tanning product.

1. Exfoliate

Jessica Lyness Kendall, makeup artist and owner of bridal hair and makeup company, Beauty Asylum, suggests using a gentle body and face exfoliant with light to medium pressure to help remove dead skin. “Be careful not to over-exfoliate the skin by rubbing too hard. This causes areas of the skin to become irritated, tighten up, and look dry.” You also want to avoid wearing makeup, like foundation or bronzer, and deodorant, as it can affect the application.

2. Shave

If you’re shaving or waxing, you’ll also want to do that while you’re in the shower before you apply your self-tanning product. “Shaving after will create streaks and make your tan look uneven,” says Joy Fennell, makeup artist and founder of The Joy In Beauty.

3. Wait

Once you’re done showering, shaving, and exfoliating, make sure to give your skin time to completely dry before applying the tanning product. “After you are out of the shower, wait 15 to 20 minutes for your skin to cool down and your pores to tighten from the warmth of the shower,” says Lyness Kendall. Closed pores will prevent tiny dark spots from appearing on your skin if the self-tanner settles into your skin. If you need to dress, wear loose fitting clothing.

4. Lotion

After your skin has dried completely, apply lotion to your hands, elbows, knees, and feet. The skin in these areas tends to be tougher―and if too much self-tanning product gets into that tough skin, it can result in blotchy and uneven-looking skin.

Apply your Tan

Once you’ve prepared your skin, it’s time to apply your self-tanning product. First, be sure to wear your tanning glove or mitt to protect your skin. Put a small amount of the product on the glove, about the size of a quarter, and start applying it to your body. Start from the bottom of your arm and work your way up toward your shoulder.

When applying, treat the self-tanning product as if it were lotion. “Apply in long, even stroke motions to really blend the tan into the skin,” says Fennell. Once you’ve applied a thin layer of the self-tanning product to your entire arm, move to the next arm and repeat the process. According to tanning experts, the best strategy is to work in small sections. Cover the area completely before moving to the next, and always save your fave for last.

Areas to be Aware Of

Applying your self-tanning product is pretty straightforward, but some techniques and know-how can’t help you apply an even better tan. Much like your bridal makeup, you want it to look put together and natural. If this is your first time self-tanning, keep these areas in mind while you’re applying the tanning product.

  • Rough spots. Avoid spreading too much product over your knees, ankles, or elbows. However, you don’t want to avoid them completely. Lyness Kendall suggests lightly grazing these areas to give a tinge of color, but don’t overdo it.

  • Feet. When you get to your feet, focus on applying the product on the top of your foot. Avoid the sides of your feet and heels, as this will give you the most natural look.

  • Face. When it comes to your face, you’re not going to use the same product you used to tan the rest of your body. “Self-tan products for the body tend to come off a little heavier,” says Lyness Kendall. She suggests using a self-tanner specific to the face and decolletage. These products are typically lighter and easier to apply as well.

INLINE CreatrixPhotography 1080x720 Melissa&Christian Photo Credit // Creatrix Photography

After the Application

Once you’ve applied your self-tan, the product still needs to dry. It’s recommended that you wait at least 15 minutes before getting dressed so the product has time to dry and set. The amount of time between application and washing off the self-tanner depends on the product you used. Typically, it will last at least a few hours—but make sure to read the instructions. Once your self-tanner has set in, you can hop in the shower to rinse the product off. Be sure to use a moisturizer that is tan-friendly with hydrating properties to prolong the life of your tan. Then, voilà! Your perfect glow is ready to go!

More Self-Tan Tips

  • Swatch. Just like any DIY makeup product, you won’t know how a self-tanning product is going to look until you get it on your skin. You also don’t want to spend the time and energy applying a product to your entire boy if it’s not the right shade. Before committing to a product, apply a small swatch to the inside of your arm. That way, you can make sure it’s the right shade before using it on your whole body.

  • Do a trial run. Don’t wait until the day before your wedding to try out your self-tanner. Plan to do a few self-tanning trial runs at least a few months ahead of your wedding. This will give you the time to find the perfect shade and experiment with application methods.

  • Wear white. You may think you’ve found the perfect shade of self-tan, but how will it look when you’re wearing white on your wedding day? Wear white clothing while you do your trial runs to determine how dark or light it will look with your wedding dress. Plus, you can see if the product will stain or streak your clothing now, rather than ruining your wedding dress.

  • Snap a photo with your SO. Make sure to take a photo with your soon-to-be spouse after you’ve applied your practice self-tanning product. You don’t want to look too tanned standing next to them, so this is a great way to see if you need to adjust the shade of your tan for your big day.

Up next for you

bride in wedding veil

14 Wedding Veil Styles and Lengths Every Bride Should Know


From birdcage to ballet, there is an abundance of options when it comes to your wedding veil. Peek through our veil style guide to see which look and length best suits you and your wedding style.

bridal party jewelry available on zola

27 Bridal Party Jewelry Pieces for Every Wedding Style


Dress your bridal party in jewelry that speaks to your wedding theme. Here are gorgeous bridal party jewelry picks for every wedding style.

bride test wedding makeup

6 Effective Ways to Test Your Wedding Makeup

How To

Make sure your wedding makeup stands up to your celebration. Here is exactly how to test your wedding makeup and what to look for as you do.

Makeup artist and bride smiling and having quality time during Bridal Makeup session

9 Tips for Great Bridal Makeup From a Makeup Artist

Wedding Makeup

Here are a makeup artist's best tips for amazing bridal makeup. Charlottesville makeup artists, Anne Kibler of Charlottesville Makeup Artist LLC, is here to save the day.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.