Can You Use Cocoa Powder As Fake Tan?

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It’s no secret that sun tanning and tanning beds are dangerous – from speeding up the skin’s aging process to the risks of cancer. So it’s no wonder that people are turning to self-tanners as the safer alternative to get that tropical vacation glow without the health risks of sun tanning and tanning beds.

But we are living in the age of DIY YouTube videos and TikTok hacks, so for whatever is out there, you can almost certainly find a do-it-yourself version online. Self-tanner is no exception.

According to The Internet, you can indeed make a self-tanner at home using cocoa powder! Can you use cocoa powder as fake tan? Well, yes! But does it actually work, and is it worth doing?

People can make anything look like it works, or that it takes less time to do, with Photoshop or creative video editing. How many times have you tried one of those 5-minute crafts, only to find out that it didn’t take 5 minutes, nor did it work out like you thought it would.

As it turns out, cocoa powder as a fake tan is one of those hacks that are actually really easy to make AND it works! ….sort of.

In this article, we are going to show you how to make and apply your own DIY cocoa powder fake tan and let you know how well it actually works and what you need to know before trying this method.


Can You Use Cocoa Powder As Fake Tan?

Yes you can use cocoa powder as fake tan! But there are some things you need to know if you want to try this.

1.   Using a cocoa powder fake tan is more like using a bronzer than a self-tanner.

A self-tanner works by using DHA to create a chemical reaction with the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin which darkens them to simulate a tan. This chemical process gradually darkens skin over a few hours and eventually fades as you shed those dead skin cells. A self-tanner usually lasts about 5-7 days.

A cocoa powder self-tanner, on the other hand, is only cosmetic. Like using a tanning bronzer, or applying a colored cosmetic to your skin. The color that goes on will stay that color and will not darken.

Your cocoa powder tan will only last until you wash it off.

Your cocoa powder tan will only last until you wash it off.

2.   It’s not ideal in really hot temperatures or if you’re planning on swimming, dancing, or sweating

Because it just sits on top of your skin and will come off with water, you do not want to use a cocoa powder self-tanner if you are planning to attend a pool party!

You also don’t want to apply it and then go for a workout at the gym or head to the club, because sweat will make it run and streak.

Any activity that makes you sweat will cause your fake tan to run and potentially stain your clothes because cocoa powder contains dark-colored tannins.

That said, it does work! So if you just want to give your complexion a healthy glow, don’t come into contact with water, or start sweating profusely, making a cocoa powder self-tanner can be a very cost-effective alternative to manufactured fake tanning products.

3.   Cocoa Powder Scrub will not give you a dark tan.

Though you will notice a slight difference between your before and after color, don’t be expecting a “basking in the Mediterranean sun for the last month” kind of tan because you will be disappointed.

4.   Cocoa Powder can actually make the skin appear lighter in the long term

Cocoa powder is actually hailed as a “skin brightening” ingredient for face and body scrubs! Cocoa contains flavonols and polyphenol and caffeine. Those are actually good for your skin and contain anti-aging properties, but they also stimulate blood circulation at the topical level resulting in toned, bright, plump skin.

It’s also said to reduce the appearance of scars, age spots, and stretch marks.

Though you don’t have to worry about cocoa powder bleaching your skin, it may make it appear to be “brighter” after you wash it off, if you regularly use cocoa powder as a fake tanning method.

How to Make Cocoa Powder Self-Tanner

There are a few recipes out there, but the easiest to make and least likely to run is that which uses a mixture of cocoa powder and coconut oil.

What You’ll Need:

  • A small mixing bowl
  • A spatula or spoon
  • A body brush
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup coconut oil


  • In a small bowl add the cocoa powder to the coconut oil.
  • Mix with a spatula or spoon until well blended. It should look a bit like brownie batter… but try to resist the urge to taste it. It definitely does not taste like brownie batter.

And voila! You’re done.

Super easy to make but be very mindful of the “How to apply” below.

But before we get to that, it’s important to note that the cocoa powder formula will look really dark when you mix it up, but it will not be as dark when applied to the skin.

The color it appears once you’ve gone through the whole application (and rubbed it in) is the color it will remain. It will not develop a darker color over time like a self-tanner would.

If you are trying this for the first time and are not sure of the color you will get – do a test patch first.

And it washes off so you have nothing to worry about.

It might be better to try it in a small area before doing your whole body so you can see if the results you get are worth going through with it.

How to Apply Cocoa Powder Self Tanner

Step 1 – Exfoliate

Make sure to exfoliate before applying the cocoa powder, as this will rid your skin of a build-up of dry skin cells, and any other impurities.

Step 2 – Dip the body brush into your mixture and gently tap onto the skin.

A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. And don’t worry if it looks too dark yet.

Step 3 – Rub the mixture into your skin using your hands

You need to rub until the oil really starts to absorb into your skin. It will be easier if you do a section at a time, rather than your whole body at once.

Carry on the same process to all the places you want to apply the fake tan.

Step 4 – Let it dry

You cannot afford to be impatient if you don’t want to stain your clothes and bedsheets and towels, etc. Wait until the oil is fully absorbed before you get dressed.

At this point you will be as dark as you’re going to get using this method. And like we’ve mentioned before, it’s not going to be a huge difference. Now it’s not unreasonable to expect that if you want a darker tan you could repeat the process, but DON’T DO IT!

Re-applying on top of your previous application will just cause streaks and blotches and there will be too much oil for your skin to absorb or dry properly. And you will get it everywhere.

Can I Use Cocoa Powder On My Face?

Yes you can! Cocoa powder is very good for your skin.

Is Cocoa Powder Good For the Lips?

You can mix cocoa powder with shea butter or beeswax for a nude-tinted lip balm.

Besides smelling like chocolate, cocoa powder lip balm gives your lips a nourishing dose of flavanols and polyphenols to help keep your lips moisturized and smooth.

Take Away

Can you use cocoa powder as fake tan? Yes, using cocoa powder for a fake tan works as long as you keep these three things in mind:

  • It’s not going to be a dark tan
  • It only stays until you wash it off
  • Don’t get wet and avoid situations that will cause you to sweat

In certain situations, using cocoa powder as a fake tan can work, but as far as how well it tans and practicality goes, as your go-to method of self-tanning, it gets about a 3/10.

If you like the look of your skin being tanned on a regular basis, it’s much more practical and a much better investment to go for a proper self-tanner.

Here are a few other options we have looked at:

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).