Can You Put Tanning Lotion On Your Face?

Smiling pretty woman applying cream on her face in bathroom
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It’s drilled into our heads that tanning in the sun, or a tanning bed, is pretty bad for our skin. Not only can it cause wrinkles, dark spots, and leathery skin, but it can even cause health issues such as skin cancer. And sometimes there are mismatches in color between the face and the body.

So, what’s the solution? Self-tanner, of course! Tanning lotion is a popular method to achieve a sun-kissed tan without actually lying in the sun.

The most important thing about self-tanner is making sure everything’s even. But when it comes to applying tanner to the face, many people have questions.

Can you put tanning lotion on your face? Will any self-tanner do? We’ve got these answers and more, so just keep reading!


Can You Put Tanning Lotion On Your Face?

If you’re about to give yourself a fake tan, you may be wondering, “Can you put tanning lotion on your face?” The answer is you definitely can put self-tanner on your face!

While some people prefer to leave their face out of the self-tan game and darken their makeup instead, it is totally okay if you want to apply tanning lotion to your face.

Making sure your neck, jaw, and face match your decolletage and down is important in creating a realistic-looking faux tan.

However, it’s important to remember that not all self-tanners are meant for your face. If your bottle of tanning lotion doesn’t say that it can be applied to your face, it’s best to look for one designed specifically for it.

While some people prefer to leave their face out of the self-tan game and darken their makeup instead, it is totally okay if you want to apply tanning lotion to your face.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Body Tanning Lotion Your Face

If you’re sitting at home with a bottle of self-tanner that’s not suitable for your face, you may be wondering if you should just use it anyway.

An important reason why you shouldn’t is how sensitive facial skin is. The skin on your face is more delicate than the rest of your body, as the skin is thinner.

Body tanning lotion may be too harsh for your face, leading to inflammation, clogged pores, breakouts, and irritation.


Self-tanner made for the face  contains ingredients that are often non-comedogenic, keep your pores clear, and avoid negative reactions.

As well, your face has a higher pH balance than the rest of your body. In light of this, facial self-tanners are made with a lighter formula.

If you think your skin could probably handle body self-tanner, remember that due to the differing pH levels, the tan on your face would be darker than the rest of your body, even if you applied everything evenly.

Body tanning lotion may be too harsh for your face, leading to inflammation, clogged pores, breakouts, and irritation.

You may also want to check out tanning drops. You just squirt a few drops into your moisturizer and you’re good to go! They’re ideal for face tanning. We discuss them below.

How To Use Tanning Lotion On Your Face

Once you’ve got a tanning lotion specifically for your face, it’s time to apply it!

But before you start sweeping it across your cheeks, there are steps to take. Ready to complete your tan?

Step 1: Match Your Face And Body

If you want your tan to look believable, it’s important that your face and body match in color.

Remember that not all self-tanners are meant to be used on your face, and you need to double-check the label before applying it.

If you need to purchase a face-specific tanner, sticking to the same brand can help guarantee that your face and neck will match the rest of your skin.

Step 2: Cleanse Your Face

Before applying anything, you’ll want to make sure your skin is completely clean.

If you’re wearing makeup or sunscreen, apply makeup remover to get it all off. Then, follow with your regular cleanser.

Step 3: Exfoliate

If you’re familiar with self-tanning, you know that exfoliating your skin is one of the most important steps.

Exfoliating creates a smooth base, helping to create an even tan and avoid streaks.

Using an exfoliating cleanser fit for your face, gently scrub your skin, removing dead skin cells that have built upon the surface of your skin.

Make sure to let your face dry completely.

Step 4: Moisturize Moisturize Moisturize

Now that your skin is clean and exfoliated, grab your moisturizer and apply it all over your face.

Hydrated skin further helps create a smooth base for your tan. Make sure to bring it down your neck!

Step 5: Apply Your Self-Tanner

Now that you’re hydrated, it’s time to get your tan on!

For gel, serum, or cream tanning lotion, pump your product directly into your palms and apply it evenly to your face.

The most important part of creating the illusion of a natural tan is to remember to bring your self-tanner down your jaw and neck. Allow it to dry.

If you’re looking for a more subtle tan, mix a pump of tanning lotion into your moisturizer. You can apply another layer the next day for a gradual tan.

Make sure you get the sides and back of your neck, around your ears, your ear lobes, and your hairline.

Don’t forget to wash your hands after application if you don’t wear gloves, or you’ll end up with stained palms!

For mist/spray bottle self-tanners, you’ll start by giving the bottle a good shake to mix the product.

Spray from four inches away while moving the bottle clockwise around your face to make the coverage even. Remember to spray your ears, hairline, jaw, and neck.

It can take up to eight hours to see results, so don’t add another layer before then.

Step 6: Keep Moisturizing

The best way to maintain your new tan is to keep the areas moisturized. 

Dry skin can cause your tan to fade early or become uneven, streaky, or blotchy. 

Use your moisturizer both morning and night to keep your skin hydrated.

Step 7: Use Gentle Products

Our faces are constantly loaded up with products, whether skincare or makeup. We apply AHA and BHA products, heavy creams, pore-clogging makeup, powders, and more.

If you’re looking to make your faux tan last, you’ll want to watch what you put on your skin.

Avoid fading by using gentle products. Steer clear of AHA or BHA products, skincare with harsh chemicals, or aggressive makeup removers.

If you can, try not to use makeup-removing wipes or rough towels on your skin, as lots of wiping and rubbing can cause fading.

Products that dry out your skin are ultimately no-go products while using self-tanner.

Try Tanning Drops

Tanning drops are the newest trend for facial tanning. These little drops, made famous by Isle of Paradise, can be mixed into your facial moisturizer for a beautiful, seamless facial tan.

Super easy!

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops, Dark (Bronzed Glow) - Vegan and Cruelty Free Self-Tan Drops, 1.01 Fl Oz
  • THE LOWDOWN | Isle of Paradise...
  • HYDRATING | Infused with natural...
  • BRIGHTENING | Isle of Paradise Dark...
  • CUSTOMIZABLE | 100% customizable tanning...
  • TO USE | Add 2-12 drops to a minimum of...

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).