How to Apply Self-Tanner on Dark Skin So Your Melanin Glows

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

There’s a common misconception that people with dark skin shouldn’t bother with self-tanning, but we’re ready to put that myth to rest. As Alana Campos, Founder and CEO of Brazi Bronze explains, “Most people think that Black and Brown women don’t need to tan because their skin is already dark, but self-tanning brings benefits beyond just color.”

Self-tanners deliver an instant glow to dark skin. Whereas people with fairer skin typically use self-tanners to get more bronzed, those with darker skin tones use them to even their complexion and bring out a sun-kissed finish. And if you’re still not convinced, check out the countless videos that show how self-tanning can work its magic on dark skin. Tags like #BlackGirlsTan and #SelfTannerDarkSkin on TikTok offer first-person reviews and tips on how to apply it at home.

Ready to board the glow train? Two experts reveal everything you need to know about applying self-tanners on darker skin ahead.

The 20 Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin (So You Can Finally Stop Looking Like Casper the Ghost)

Meet The Experts

What Are The Benefits Of Self-tanning On Dark Skin?

“Self-tanning gives you a natural glow and evens out your overall complexion,” explains Campos. It can reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, acne scars and stretch marks. “Self-tanning products contain DHA, which is usually derived from sugar cane. It reacts with the proteins of dead skin cells and turns them darker, resulting in the tanned look,” expresses Campos.

Plus, swapping out your go-to tinted moisturizer or foundation for self-tanner is a helpful alternative when your shade doesn’t quite match. “Try mixing between three to ten drops [of self-tanner] into your moisturizer to get a custom glow. More drops equal a deeper glow,” adds Daly.

What’s The Best Way To Apply Self-tanners On Dark Skin?

FYI, applying self-tanner is the same for all skin tones. As such, it’s important to do a patch test to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction before you apply the product everywhere. Once you’re in the clear, follow these simple tips to get your glow on.

1. Exfoliate your skin. Reach for a chemical exfoliator or a physical body scrub to remove any dead skin cells. You want your skin to look and feel smooth, so don’t skip out on this step before tanning. Bonus: Daly tells us that exfoliating 24 hours beforehand will ensure your faux tan lasts longer.

2. Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize some more. After exfoliating, prep your skin with a water-based moisturizer to get the most even application, which will prevent the color from looking streaky. Both experts recommend paying special attention to dryer areas like your knees, elbows, hands and feet.

3. Apply self-tanner in a circular motion. Grab your handy tanning mitt (or gloves) and apply the self-tanner to your body using circular motions. Use the mitt for larger areas like your arms and legs, but for those hard-to-reach spots (i.e. hands, feet, elbows and knees), Campos suggests using a blending blush. “For smaller spots, it’s best to use a brush that way the tan will look even everywhere,” adds Campos.

4. Let it dry and set. To avoid streaks, wait about four hours before rinsing off the self-tanner and reapplying moisturizer. Campos says to skip super steamy showers and use lukewarm water instead so your color doesn’t fade.

How to Find the Best Self-Tanners for Dark Skin

In general, Campos recommends gradual self-tanners because they give you more control over the finish. “Gradual self-tanners are great for dark skin because they let the user decide how dark they want to get, as each application builds up your faux tan over time,” says Campos. “Gradual self-tanners can also even out areas where hyperpigmentation might be a problem.”

Another helpful tip when shopping for self-tanner is to look for words like “dark” and “deep bronze” on the packaging. Many self-tanners also offer color charts to guide you on what shade you can expect to achieve after an application. Don't forget to also check that your self-tanner includes moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and jojoba oil to keep skin hydrated post-tan. Because who’s in the mood for dry patches and ashiness?

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your glow on.

about face matte fluid eye paint review chelsea candelario

Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...