Jessica Harlow’s ‘Get Sexy Summer Skin! Self-Tanning Tips + Tricks!’


It’s safe to say that gym, tan, and laundry are all important factors in each and every one of our lives, but sometimes a girl doesn’t have the time to get her (fake) tan on. As we are not ones to hop into a tanning bed or get in front of an airbrush machine, these early days of warm weather mean a frightening display of pasty, pale legs and arms not yet primed by the summer sun.

Yes, we all look better with a tan (to a certain extent), but no, not all of us are capable of (/interested in) achieving such a beautiful glow at the beach. The good news is that’s not the only way to garner a sun-kissed look: the somewhat terrifying self-tanner is always an option. Leave it to YouTube beauty-application guru Miss Jessica Harlow to make a DIY neon-orange disaster seem an altogether unlikely possibility.

Step 1: Exfoliate! It will create a smooth surface for your self-tanner.

Step 2: Dry Off! “Wet skin and self-tanner do not mix!”

Step 3: Apply Self-Tanner—Apply a little at a time, moving hands in the same general direction for a more even finish

Step 4: Wash Your Hands—Wash after finishing each you part of your body (after each leg, arm, etc.), to prevent stained palms

Step 5: Apply Lotion—Using a lotion will help the product blend in with your skin as well as boost the longevity of your tan

Jessica’s quick tutorial only lasts two-and-a-half minutes, but she spends another four-and-a-half to address potential questions and concerns from her audience, plus to review the products she's recommending. And she certainly doesn’t seem like she would blend in with Snooki and co., so we’ll be taking her advice for this little (tan) lie to help us glow in our cut-offs.

(Here, two of our faux glow product picks.)

Photographs by Francis Giacobetti for The Pirelli Calendar, 1970.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • MY

    Does it matter then to moisturize after exfoliation but before self-tanner or to do it the way Jessica has advised? I've always thought that the self-tanner would end up all patchy looking if the skin isn't moisturized first.

    • alliemh29

      Moisturizer serves as a barrier between your skin and self tanner, so it would actually result in a patchier look if you applied it right before self-tanner. I'd moisturize the morning of, then exfoliate and apply the self tanner in the evening.

  • bluesky557

    The great tragedy of my life is that I'm allergic to self-tanner. :/

    • Jacqueline Fonte

      Think of it as more like the great blessing of your life, especially if your fair skinned. Depending on how pale someone is, there is almost no way to use self tanner and not come out looking Lohan-ish.

      One of my first jobs in high school was at a tanning salon, and while things have come quite far, applying self-tanner is still a messy, accident-prone situation. :)

    • creezy

      Have you tried the all natural self-tanner by Alba Botanica? My skin reacts badly to tanner as well, but this one doesn't cause any issues.

      • bluesky557

        I'm allergic to the active ingredient in self-tanner (dihydroxyacetone), which is also in the Alba Botanicals one. :(

  • Georgie

    How long after shaving your legs should one wait to fake bake? The main thing preventing me from becoming a regular self-tanner is that I'm worried all the colour will collect in my follicles or something.

    • julia

      definitly it will! i've tried it and was a disaster.. why don't you start waxing? much more easier

  • charlotte stevens

    I'd definitely moisturize before as it helps the product go further easily and not go patchy, and I would always use a mitt and never my hands. Good fake tans stain the hands so much that you have to end up scrubbing them over and over with exfoliators/soap/lemon juice which will dry out your hands and waste your products x

  • Carrie Holt

    That's a great tutorial! There's a few extra steps I learned about on as well. That's also where I found out about Clinique Self Sun, which is now one of my favorite self tanners :)

  • isaobeso

    I've always been confused on how to apply my self tanner, so I don't normally do it. This has been helpful. Also, I was wondering, could you do some sort of article recommending some creams to reduce pigmentation? I love my freckles, but the ones on my top lip some times look quite unflattering. Thanks! Love your site.

    My blog is:

  • tera

    st tropez with the mitt. Please don't waste your time with anything else. It looks the best, you wear overnight and rinse off in the shower, leaving perfection.

  • gh

    do you have to use a self tanning lotion after applying the self tanner? or will any lotion work?

  • Tan Princess Tatya

    Make sure to moisturize a couple of hours before applying the self-tanning product. If done right before the tanning process, moisturizing can hinder proper results.

  • Christy Tanning

    Great video on self-tanning tips. I definitely agree that's important to keep your skin hydrated in between tans.


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