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How To Get The Best Fake Tan of Your Life During Winter

By Michelle Rostamian

With the shift to the colder season comes nailing down your self-tanning routine. The problem? Navigating the dry, rough, flaky skin that inevitably ensues (and ensuring it doesn’t result in an uneven tan). Of course, there are a few cardinal rules for achieving a faux glow no matter the season. But with wintertime bringing on low humidity levels, drier air, and dehydrated skin, there are a few extra tips to consider while you tan during this season. 

Below, we tapped Cari Gerbracht, Director of Research & Development at Sunless, Inc., to learn tips and tricks for getting the best tan of your life during brisk winters.


Exfoliate Your Skin

Your first step in the pre-tan prep? To exfoliate all of that dead skin.

“Exfoliating allows for the sunless tanning product to dry evenly on the skin, producing even tanning results,” notes Gerbracht.

While exfoliating is standard for getting an even tan year-round, you may need to tweak your product choice in the wintertime. “Because skin tends to be drier in the winter, I recommend using a gentle exfoliator that isn’t too harsh on the skin,” says Gerbracht. “Products with strong abrasive ingredients—like shells and seeds—should be swapped for exfoliating mitts and loofahs.”


Moisturize Dry Areas

After exfoliating, Gerbracht says to turn your attention to the areas that are prone to winter dryness (think: hands, elbows, knees, and feet) and heavily moisturize them. “Skin is much drier in the winter, so it is important to take the time to prepare your skin to ensure you get even natural results,” she says. “Having that extra barrier of moisture on the skin will help prevent color from seeping into cracks and creating a creased look,” she explains.

Pro tip: wait until the lotion is dry before applying your self-tanner.

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Choose Your Self-Tanning Products Wisely

You’re more likely to get an even tan if your skin is well-moisturized, which is why Gerbracht says that in addition to applying moisturizer pre-tanning, look for a self-tanning product that contains a hydrating formula. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, propanediol, and sodium PCA will make up for the moisture loss that occurs in the winter.

When it comes to the shade of self-tanner you choose, go for one that’s only one to two shades darker than your skin. “Because we tend to spend less time outside in the winter months when the sun’s rays are not as impactful, our skin tends to be a lighter shade than it is in the summertime,” explains Gerbracht. “Make sure to allow one application to fully develop before adding a second for the most naturally glowing look.”

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Use a Tanning Serum For Your Face

For many people, skin sensitivity skyrockets when temps dip. For this reason, the same self-tanner you use on your body may not be the best option for your face. Instead, opt for facial tanning serums—they’re a great way to build color on your face and encourage a healthy glow without irritating your skin. Plus, you can use them either day or night by applying one to two drops into your moisturizer during the day or up to six drops at night for a bronzed complexion come morning.

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Consider Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions For Your Body

If the process of self-tanning is too inconvenient or time-consuming, opt for a gradual self-tanning lotion for your body. “Not only are gradual tanners a great way to build color, but they also contain ingredients to hydrate and moisturize dry skin, which is perfect for the winter season,” says Gerbracht.

They’re also foolproof to apply (blend it into your skin the same way you would a standard body lotion) and are less likely to leave behind a foul odor or orange streaks.


Maintain Your Tan With a Hydrating Moisturizer

According to Gerbracht, applying a daily moisturizer is essential to keep your tan intact. Go for a body butter (they’re thicker in consistency than a lotion) and look for one that contains emollient ingredients (like coconut oil) to increase the longevity of your tan.

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