If you feel like your best self with a little bronzed color, self-tanning drops are a great way to keep up with that, regardless of the season. In fact, they’re a great product to use year-round because they leave you with a radiant glow, but without the risk that comes with UVA and UVB rays that can damage and burn the skin.
Self-tanning drops are a great alternative to other self-tanners, like tanning mousse and spray tanner because they mix in with your moisturizer and you don’t have to wash them off hours later. But, before you reach for your tanning drops, preparing your skin for an even application is of prime importance if you want the most natural-looking result. We’re here to help with just that, so keep reading to learn how to prep your skin for self-tanner and how to use self-tanning drops on the face and body.
How Do Self-Tanning Drops Work?
Self-tanning drops are a concentrated blend of self-tanner that you can mix into moisturizer and apply to your face or body to achieve a bronzed glow on your skin. They work on the face and on the body and are completely customizable — your final color all depends on how many drops you use. Unlike self-tanning mousse, tanning drops don’t need to be washed off after they develop.
As we mentioned, self-tanning drops are a concentrated form of self-tanner and they contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a simple carbohydrate that causes the browning reaction on the skin, which we know as a tan, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, (NCBI). This is a temporary reaction and it’s not harmful to your skin. Most self-tanners last for five to seven days before fading, so to keep up with the look, you will have to reapply your self-tanning drops.
How to Use Self-Tanning Drops on Your Face
Prepping your complexion for self-tanning drops is extra important because there’s less room for error (a blotchy, orange face is way harder to hide than blotchy, orange knees). Follow these steps to achieve and maintain an even, sun-kissed-looking glow.
Step 1. Exfoliate
If you’re using self-tanning drops for your face, exfoliation is paramount because it’s the only way you’re going to get an even layer of color. Use an exfoliating scrub formulated for your face, like the Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion. On clean, damp skin, massage it in circular motions for up to two minutes. The skin will feel smooth, refined and fine lines will appear visibly reduced after use. With any type of exfoliation, remember to wear SPF daily to protect your skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Try the Super Fluid UV Defense Daily Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+, a lightweight, non-comedogenic sunscreen that’s suitable for all skin types for daily use.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: If you plan on shaving your face, waxing your eyebrows or any other type of facial hair removal, do it before you apply your self-tanner so your face doesn’t appear uneven.
Step 2. Moisturize
Applying moisturizer before you self-tan your face is so important because if you skip this step, the tanning drops will not adhere as well to the skin, which means your tan will fade much faster. The moisturizer you choose for your face should be light, hydrating and quick to absorb. If you have dry skin, try the Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane, which provides 24-hour hydration and is ultra-lightweight. If you have oily skin, go for an oil-free formula, like the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion, a weightless hydrator that moisturizes with a non-greasy finish.
Once you’ve identified the right moisturizer for your skin type, apply a light layer to clean skin and let it sink in for about five minutes. Then, place a dime-sized dollop of moisturizer on your palm and add your self-tanning drops to it. Depending on the self-tanner you use, anywhere from three to five drops is a normal amount for the face. If this is your first time using tanning drops, use fewer drops because you don’t want your face to look orange.
After dispensing your drops, rub your palms together to mix the two formulas. Then you can apply the cream mixture to your face, focusing on the hairline, the jawline and bringing it down the neck so your tan looks as even and as natural as possible.
Once you’ve applied your tan, thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap to remove any self-tan that may have gotten stuck under your nails or in the folds of your fingers.
Step 3. Hydrate
If you’re keeping your skin hydrated, your faux tan is going to last longer and it’s going to fade more seamlessly without flaking or cracking. The moisturizer that you mixed in with your tanning drops should be a part of your daily routine — in the morning and at night.
In addition to wearing moisturizer, add a hydrating serum into your routine, like the Ultra Pure High-Potency 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum. With a formula that is aimed at rehydrating and replenishing dry skin, it’s sure to keep your skin moisturized so you can maintain your tan for as long as possible.
How to Use Self-Tanning Drops on Your Body
The secret to achieving a gorgeous bronzed glow with the help of self-tanning drops lies in your prep work, so follow our tips below to get the best results.
Step 1. Exfoliate
Removing all the dead skin from your body (exfoliation) before you apply self-tanner is important because self-tanner will act like a magnet to the dry skin and dry patches, sticking to them and leaving you with a blotchy, uneven result. If you’re planning to shave, do that before you exfoliate. Once that is complete, use an exfoliating body scrub, like the Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub. Formulated with exfoliating apricot seed shells, it removes dead skin cells without drying out the skin. Wet your skin, then gently massage the scrub in upwards motions, paying extra attention to your ankles, knees and elbows.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: For more tips on shaving without irritation, read our article How To Avoid Razor Bumps And Still Get A Close Shave.
Step 2. Moisturize
Think of moisturizer as a primer for your self-tanner. If you skip on it, your skin will feel dry and the self-tan won’t adhere as well. When looking for a body moisturizer to mix with your self-tanning drops, look for one that is hydrating but lightweight. Remember, you want the tanner to evenly absorb into the skin and a heavy, emollient formula can inhibit that.
On the body, we suggest the Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter, a rich, fast-absorbing moisturizer with a non-greasy finish. Before you mix it with your self-tanning drops, apply a light layer to your ankles, knees and elbows. These areas tend to be dry, which can leave you with darker blotches of uneven color. After letting your lotion absorb for about 10 minutes, you can begin mixing your self-tanning drops with your lotion.
Check the instructions to see how many drops are recommended for the product you use. Anything from five to eight drops mixed with lotion for each part of your body is a good baseline. Remember that with self-tanner — especially drops — it’s best to err on the side of caution because you can apply more in later days, but you can’t take it away.
With one pump of lotion and your recommended number of tanning drops, use your palms to mix the two together to create a uniform cream. Then, begin rubbing it into the skin in circular motions, being extra careful to coat every inch of skin. Repeat this process until your body is completely tanned. After mixing and applying your self-tanning drops and lotion concoction, wash your palms, fingers and cuticles very thoroughly with soap and warm water. If you miss a spot, there is a good likelihood that your hands will turn orange.
Step 3. Hydrate
Self-tan is bound to fade, but if you want it to last as long as possible and look natural when it fades, you have to keep your skin moisturized. Using the same body moisturizer that you mixed your tan drops with, apply a daily post-shower dose to lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. Self-tan lasts about a week, even longer if you properly hydrate so once that time is up, feel free to repeat the process again.