How to Self-Tan 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

You want to look your best on your big day—and for some brides, that means nailing the perfect shade of bronze. Back in the day, that bronze probably came from spending time in the sun. But since we now know that tanning is a huge skincare no-no, brides who look to get that bronze glow without putting their skin at risk turn to artificial tanning options, including doing it themselves with self-tanning products.

Why self-tan?

Before we jump into how to get the perfect self-tan, let’s talk about why you might want to self-tan for your wedding in the first place.

Self-tanning products can be great for a wedding because:

  • They’re affordable. In terms of being budget-friendly, you won’t find a tanning option that’s easier on your wallet than self-tanning products.
  • They come in a wide variety of shades and product types. Self-tanning products come in every shade (from a subtle glow to full-on bronzed) and product type (including foams, lotions, and liquids) you can imagine. So whatever kind of tan (and tanning experience) you’re looking for, there’s a product out there that can make it happen.
  • You can try them out before the wedding. Because self-tanning products are so affordable, you can experiment with different shades, products, and application methods well before your wedding and perfect the process before you walk down the aisle.
INLINE AllisonHansonPhotography 1080x720 Cristy&Bobby Photo Credit // Allison Hanson Photography

Your Pre-wedding Self Tan Guide: How To Apply Your Self Tan

Alright, now that you know all the reasons why you might want to try self-tanning, let’s get into the good stuff. Here’s everything you need to know to get your pre-wedding self-tan right.

Gather your supplies.

Before you start the self-tanning process, you need to get the right supplies. To get the perfect pre-wedding self-tan, you’ll need:

  • A self-tanning product of choice
  • A tanning mitt
  • Lotion (“This will help prevent the additional color from hanging around the knees, elbows, and feet,” says Jessica Lyness Kendall, makeup artist and owner of bridal hair and makeup company Beauty Asylum.)
  • A body exfoliant
  • Shaving supplies
  • A large mirror (so you can see the back of your body while applying the self-tanning product)

Prep the skin.

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

  • Exfoliate. “Prep by using a gentle body and face exfoliant with light-medium pressure. Be careful not to over-exfoliate the skin by rubbing too hard. This can cause areas of the skin to become irritated, tighten up, and look dry,” says Lyness Kendall. “The idea is to get a clean face with a little added exfoliation to smooth the surface. Think ‘wax on’ and ‘wax off’.”
  • Shave. If you shave, you’ll also want to do that while you’re in the shower and before you apply your self-tan. “Shaving after will create streaks and make your tan look uneven,” says Joy Fennell, makeup artist and founder of The Joy In Beauty.
  • 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 15-20 minutes for your skin to cool down and pores to tighten from the warmth of the shower,” says Lyness Kendall. “By allowing your pores to close this will prevent tiny dark spots that can appear if self-tanner has settled into your skin.”
  • Lotion. Grab that lotion and apply it liberally 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 look blotchy and uneven.

Apply your tan.

It’s time to tan. Put on your tanning glove, put a small amount of product on the glove (Lyness Kendall recommends starting with a quarter-sized amount) and, starting from the bottom of your arm, start applying the product, working your way up towards 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 self-tanning product to your entire arm, move to the other arm and repeat the process. According to the tanning experts, the best strategy is to work in small sections, completely covering the area before moving onto the next. (Save your face for last.)

Areas To Be Aware Of

  • Rough spots. Avoid spreading too much product on your knees, ankles, or elbows, but don’t ignore them completely. “I make sure to lightly graze my knees with product to give a tinge of color,” says Lyness Kendall.
  • Feet. When you get to your feet, “Focus the product on the top of the foot, avoiding the sides and heel,” says Lyness Kendall. “This will make for the most natural look!”
  • Face. When it comes to your face, you’re not going to want to use the same product you used to tan your body. “Self-tan products for the body tend to come off a little heavier,” says Lyness Kendall. “Definitely use a self-tanner that is specific to the face and decolletage.” These products are typically lighter and easier to apply, so just follow the instructions and you should be good to go.
INLINE CreatrixPhotography 1080x720 Melissa&Christian Photo Credit // Creatrix Photography

After The Application

Once you’ve successfully applied your self-tan, the product still needs to dry. In a perfect world, you should wait about 15 minutes before getting dressed. If you don’t have that much naked time, though, a loose robe or maxi dress will work fine.

Then all that’s left to do? Relax and let the product work its magic. The amount of time between application and washing off the self-tanner will depend on the product, but typically it’s at least a few hours (make sure to read the instructions).

Once you’ve let your tan set in, hop in the shower, rinse off the product, and voila! You’ve got the perfect bronze glow.

More Pre-Wedding Self Tan Tips

We covered the basics, but here are a few extra tips you’ll need to take your pre-wedding self-tan to the next level:

  • Swatch. It’s impossible to tell how a self-tanning product is going to look until you get it on your skin. But you also don’t want to spend the time and energy applying a self-tanner to your entire body if it’s not the right shade. Before you commit 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 you apply it to your whole body. If it isn’t, you can move on and try another shade.
  • Do a trial run (or, even better, multiple trial runs). The day before your wedding is not the time to try out a new self-tanning product. In the months leading up to the big day, plan to do at least a few self-tanning trial runs. That way, you can get comfortable applying the product and can perfect the process.
  • Wear white. If you’re wearing white for your wedding, make sure to try on white clothing with your tan. You might think you found the perfect shade of self-tan, but it may look darker when contrasted against bright white. Plus, wearing white will give you a sense of if/how much your tan transfers onto clothing, which can save your wedding dress from getting streaked.
  • Snap a photo with your SO. You don’t want to look outrageously tan next to your partner, especially in wedding photos. Make sure to snap a photo with your soon-to-be spouse to make sure the contrast between your self-tan and their au natural skin doesn’t look too extreme.

OK, you're ready to glow!

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