How do self-tanners work?

You don't want to expose your skin to the sun's damaging rays, but you still want that sun kissed tan? Clarins self-tanner can help you get tanned and visibly glowing skin without the sun. But first it’s important to understand how self-tanning lotion works, and how to apply them in the right way for the best sun kissed results.

1. How a self-tanner works

Wondering how to make your skin glow without the sun? The best self-tanner products when properly applied can give you a sun kissed tan without exposing your skin to the harmful UV rays of the sun. But how does a sunless tanning lotion really work?


The active ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – a carbohydrate that can be chemically manufactured or taken from natural sources like beets or cane sugar. About two to four hours after applying your self-tanner, the DHA reacts to the amino acids in the top layer of your skin. This reaction causes a production of pigments called melanoidins that appear brown as they absorb certain wavelengths of light – this is called the Maillard reaction, and it can continue for up to 72 hours. The characteristic smell of self-tanners is not an ingredient in the product itself, but the smell of the chemical reaction taking place in the skin.


Your tan will begin to fade as your body naturally sheds dead skin cells – this is usually between three to seven days. For a tan all year round, try our best gradual self-tanner – Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body – that can be combined in drop form with any Clarins body lotion to build a natural-looking sun kissed tan from the first application. The adjustable formula lets you determine the intensity of your tan – depending on the number drops you put into your body lotion – while also allowing you to experience all the skin care benefits of your best body lotion.


It’s important to remember that an indoor tanning lotion does not contain a sun protection factor (SPF) so apply a sunscreen lotion if you’re going to head out into the sun after applying your Clarins self-tanner.

2. How to self-tan the right way

There are many fabulous reasons to use good self-tanners. It’s the start of summer and you’re pale as the driven snow. You have a hot date and you’re about to become an expert on how to get a tan fast. Or you spent good money on that knockout evening dress with the very low back and a self-tanner is the best way you know of for how to get rid of tan lines. Or you might just like sun kissed, radiant skin from January to December. Whatever your reason for using self-tanner – here’s our best advice for how to get glowing skin with a bronzing lotion.


De-fuzz and exfoliate. Waxing and shaving can remove self-tanner. Next, you’ll need to exfoliate. Dry or dead skin cells trap even the best self-tanning lotion on the surface of the skin and the result is dark, uneven patches that are particularly unattractive. You want your indoor tanning lotion to sink right in for a more natural-tanned and healthy skin effect. Get rid of rough, scaly skin with a good quality exfoliating body scrub. The same goes for your self-tanner for your face. Cleanse and exfoliate before applying your facial self-tanner.


Get rid of the water but add a bit of moisture. Water doesn’t go any better with your self-tanner than dead skin cells do. So even after you’ve toweled off, wait until your skin is completely dry. You may find your skin tends to be dry after your shower – apply a small amount of a lightweight hydrating lotion on dry spots like knees, elbows, and ankles, and the nostrils if you’re using a self-tanner for the face.


Now, how to get a tan by choosing your best self-tanning lotion.


If you have oily skin or love the consistency of a lightweight gel, Clarins Self-Tanning Instant Gel is non-oily and blends easily over the skin, drying quickly so there’s no wait time before dressing – a great way to get a tan fast. Clarins’ award-winning, sunless bronzer – and beauty editor pick – creates a golden, even, beach-chic tan while soothing plant extracts soften your skin as the color develops. You can apply now and then for subtly glowing skin, or frequently for a deeper tan.


Opt for Delicious Self-Tanning Cream with Cocoa Butter. Enriched with Aloe Vera, the creamy texture of this self-tanner glides onto the skin for a visibly soft and natural-looking golden glow in just a few hours. Remember that distinctive self-tanner smell? Not this time! Delicious Self-Tanning Cream has a delightful Cocoa fragrance.


For a golden, natural-looking tan for the face and body that delivers a hydrating moisture boost, Self-Tanning Milky-Lotion has a smooth, milky texture that melts into the skin for an even application and radiant, streak-free results. The best self-tanner for fair skin and every other skin tone – you get the bonus of a tanning lotion with the irresistible scent of figs!


So how to get tan from pale? Use clean hands or our Clarins Self-Tanning Body Mitt. This best self-tanning mitt is reusable, waterproof, and gives you a smooth, streak-free application without staining your hands. Start at the ankles and work your way up – smoothing on about a teaspoon of self-tanner in circular motions. Applying your self-tanner from ankles to shoulders will help to prevent those weird ‘ink-blot’ marks that happen when you bend over. Do not shower, and avoid sweating, for at least six hours after application.


When applying self-tanner for the face, dab a small amount onto the areas of the face that would naturally catch the sun – so your forehead, bridge of the nose, apples of the cheeks, and chin. Blend carefully outwards with your fingertips. Now use what product is left on your fingers to dab into your hairline and over the jawbone.


Your last step? Prolong the life of your tan with a gentle cleanser and hydrating body lotion for visibly glowing, radiant skin.

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