Permanent Self Tanner – What You NEED To Know

applying self tanner

There is no such thing as permanent self-tanner or permanent spray tan and no matter what method you seek out it can never last longer than a few weeks at most. This is because of how tanning works.

For starters, let’s take a look at self-tanning because this is the ideal method to get a tan, of which will be explained why later on.  

Why Self-Tan Isn’t Permanent

The main ingredient in self-tanners is Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which is derived from sugar cane. DHA is the only skin tanning agent that is approved by the FDA, as it does not cause an increased risk of skin cancer or age the skin.

It interacts with your dead skin cells on the outer layer of your skin, staining these cells through chemical reaction and leaving you with a tanned appearance.

You may come across ‘DHA-free’ self-tanners, but these contain erythrulose, which is essentially the same thing as DHA.

Self-tanner cannot permanently stain your skin, since the skin essentially sheds off those dead skin cells every 2-4 weeks, and with them goes your tan.

A tan doesn’t last long even with the use of UV rays, whether it be from the sun or a tanning bed, for the same reasons.

The reason using self-tanners are ideal is because they don’t damage your skin, which makes it the best option for your health – even more so if you wish to achieve a tan all year-round.  

Why Self-Tanner is the Best Way to Tan

Even though a tan from UV rays fades just the same, the damage done by UV rays remains. Damage such as breaking down the DNA in your skin cells leading to a number of problems including skin cancer. Self-tanners, on the other hand, provide the same result, a tan, minus the harm.

The only possible issue you could ever come across with self-tanner is having an allergic reaction to a certain ingredient included. A patch test 24 hours before application will put your mind at ease in this case, so long as your skin does not appear inflamed or irritated in the slightest.

Self-tanners are also better because you have control over it, with the ability to gradually tan yourself until you reach the desired shade and maintain it.

Gradual self-tanners are the best especially when it comes to long-lasting tans, but it does still need to be applied regularly. Plus, it’s gives off a more natural looking tan as it may appear too drastic otherwise.

The majority of self-tanners can last anywhere between 5-10 days; the darker the tan, the longer it lasts, but this still won’t exceed ten days.

There are certain things that can be done to help extend this lifespan, however it’s not about which product you buy but rather how you maintain and prep your skin beforehand.

How to Make Self-Tanner Last Longer

In order to make self-tan last longer, there are some things that you can do beforehand to prep your skin.


If you don’t already moisturize your skin every day (which you should, by the way), then start doing this at least four days before. This is especially important to do on your drier areas such as knees, elbows, hands, and feet so that the possibility of streaks in your tan are eliminated and that it can last as long as possible.

If you continue to moisturize regularly even after tanner has been applied, this does also help contribute to how long it lasts because hydrated skin sloughs off slower than dry skin does.

One great trick in particular that helps make self-tanner last longer is by mixing some of your product with your daily moisturizer, reviving any already fading pigmentation.


It would be a good idea to exfoliate a few days before application as well, especially if you are re-applying tanner, in an effort to remove all of the previous one and dead skin cells in general for an even blend in color on your skin.  

Hair Removal

Wax or shave as much as you can the day before because hair can act as a barrier to the self-tan, leaving you with a patchy look.  

A Splash of Cold Water

Cold water closes up the pores, stopping the product from seeping in too deep as this could clog up your pores, resulting in nasty breakouts of acne. A quick, cold shower or at least splashing some on your face just before is recommended.


Bonus Tip: Apply some Vaseline on your eyebrows and hairline to stop the tanner from dying your hair as it acts as a barrier.

Tools Needed & Application

Not much at all is required to use self-tanner and make it look like a pro’s handy work.

All you really need is a tanning mitt like our special blackout tanning mitt or a mitt alternative to properly blend in the product whilst preventing your hands from getting stained too much, and knowing how to apply it properly helps.

Make sure to apply the tanner on in small amounts, and it is best to work from the bottom of your body up, otherwise you may ruin the tan with streaks on your stomach when applying tanner to your feet and legs.

How to Make Self Tanner Less Damaging

There are several things one can do to minimize any damage done – mostly due to how UV rays interact with self-tanner, not from the tanner itself as we’ve already mentioned that there are no bad long-term affects to self-tanning.

Apply Self-Tanner at Night

This is more so for the benefit of your own health rather than prolonging the tan itself.

UV rays amplify the production of free radicals on DHA-treated skin, so avoiding the sun for a few hours after self-tanning works in your favor.

Free radical production is reduced after four hours, according to this study, hence it would be best to apply self-tanner at night so that it can set and develop on its own without any sunscreen or anything and by the time the sun comes back up the free radical damage will be much lower.

Wear Sunscreen

For the same reason as wearing moisturizer can make your tan last longer, so does protecting your skin from the sun.

The best kind of sunscreen has a broad-spectrum of UVA and UVB protection and are SPF 30 or higher with at least 20% zinc oxide or a combination of zinc with 5% being titanium dioxide.  

Wear an Antioxidant

According to this study, Vitamins A, B3, C, and E are the best ones to minimize free radical damage. Especially Vitamin C and E are great for combating free radicals on your face.

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