How to Apply Self-Tanner Without a Mitt

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New Self-Tanning solution? Check. Ready to apply? Check. Tanning mitt? Ch- wait, where did it go, what happened to it…?

Is there another option? Can I use a sock to fake tan?

Lucky for you, the answer is yes.

There are quite a few alternate options for the traditional way, and in this article, we’ll go over how to apply self-tanner without a mitt.

You may be surprised at the number of different ways you can apply fake tanners, including rubber gloves, socks, or even just your hands.

While alternate options can’t necessarily guarantee as even or as perfect of a spread as a high-quality tanning mitt, they can still do a pretty good job if push comes to shove. 

There’s even a chance that one of these will become your new favorite way of applying sunless tanning solution!

Many people have discovered that while the traditional mitt is great, there are other options that they find to be even better!

In this article, we’ll go over several tanning mitt alternatives, and explain the positives and negatives of each.


How to Apply Self-Tanner Without a Mitt

No tanning mitt? No problem! Here’s what to use instead of a tanning mitt:

1. Socks

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Many ask the question: can I use a sock to fake tan?

Yes, and it works pretty similarly to a tanning mitt.

Using a sock to apply self-tanner will have a similar feel to using an actual tanning mitt. 

With your fingers in the same fabric compartment, you would use the same technique to spread the tanning product over your skin. So if a tanning glove is what you’re used to, this will feel familiar.

It’s a good idea to turn the sock inside out. But after that, you’re good to go. 

A downside is that some product will most likely soak through and get onto your hands, so that’s a good thing to keep in mind if this is something you especially hate about the tanning process. If you have any barrier cream, apply it to your hands.

You can also wash and reuse the sock as a self-tanning mitt again. Just remember that once it’s been used as a tanning mitt, it’s forever retired from its job as a sock. The good news is that when you’re done using this sock, you can switch to its matching sock later on.

2. Rubber Gloves

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Believe it or not, rubber gloves are a tried and true favorite for many people. Some even prefer them to a normal tanning mitt. Since rubber gloves have separate finger holes, they make it easier to apply the tanner to places that require more detail, achieving a more even tan overall. 

Not only that, but they also don’t absorb any of the self-tanner, meaning a smooth spread and less waste.

You can rinse and reuse them as well, making them a reliable option since you can always keep them on hand.

As a bonus, using rubber gloves will ensure that no product gets onto the palms of your hands, so you won’t have to worry about all the issues with uneven tanner on your elbows, ankles, hands, and feet

3. Plastic Wrap

Going this route may sound weird, but using plastic wrap to apply self-tanner is a surprisingly effective option. It’s cheap and accessible, as most people already have some cling wrap in their kitchen. 

Here’s how to use cling wrap to self-tan.

Wrap it around your hand. Be sure to not leave any parts exposed.

Rub the self tanner over your skin the same way as you would with a regular tanning mitt. Its smooth surface will give you a very even application, similar to the rubber glove. 

Since plastic wrap isn’t porous, none of the self tanner should make it to your skin, which is of course a huge bonus. Plus, it allows for easy cleanup, as you can just discard the plastic wrap once finished. 

4. Self Tanning Wipes

Tanning towelettes are gaining popularity—and for good reason! These convenient tanning wipes come already prepared to use, so you don’t have to worry about having any other equipment. 

This makes them especially perfect for travel! You can just toss them right into your bag and know that they include everything you need to acquire that perfect summer glow, even in winter.

These wipes are somewhat less cost-effective in the long run, so that’s something to keep in mind, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra for convenience, tanning wipes are the right option for you!

5. A Face Brush

When applying fake tan to your face, it’s a good idea to use a large “Kabuki style” face brush .

This sort of brush will give you smooth, even coverage.

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6. An Old Wash Cloth

An old washcloth can work as a tanning mitt in a pinch, but make sure it’s soft and absorbent enough to handle the tanner. Like a sock, you may get some self-tanner coming through onto your hands, so consider a rubber glove underneath.

When using a wash cloth, try to keep the cloth as smooth as possible when applying the fake tan. Don’t bunch up the cloth, you’ll end up with a streaky tan.

7. Your Hands

While it may sound a little hectic, applying self-tanner with your bare hands is something many people start out doing. It’s a decent option and allows for a more detailed application, but there are downsides. Just be prepared to have some odd-looking streaks on your hands, especially if you’re not using a rubber glove to protect your hands.

This could potentially be avoided by washing your hands and using a coarse tanning exfoliator right away, you’ll just have to be sure to do this right away so the tanner doesn’t have much time to sit on your hands. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Really Need to Use a Tanning Mitt?

You don’t absolutely need to use a tanning mitt. If if you skip the mitt or a substitute, you will end up with tons of tanning product on the palm of your hand, under your nails, in the creases of your fingers, etc. Your palms don’t naturally tan, so it’s going to look weird.

If you try to use a barrier cream on your hand, then use it to apply tanner to your body, you’ll also be applying barrier cream to your body too! This may result in a streaky tan.

If you use your hand directly, you can either live with tanner on your palm, or try to exfoliate your hand immediately after tanning.

Can You Put Self Tanner On Without Shaving? 

You can, although it’s best to shave beforehand if possible. Shaving helps exfoliate the skin, which leaves it supple and ready for the self tanner. Ideally, you’d shave the day before to give any small cuts you get time to heal.

Should You Wash Your Self Tan Mitt?

Yes, although be sure to hand wash it instead of putting it in the washing machine. You can add a touch of soap to remove stains if you’d like, although it’s best to stay away from harsh detergents. 

Should I Self Tan My Face? 

If you want to, yes, this is a very common thing to do. Make sure that you apply your self-tanner in the right places to ensure that it doesn’t end up looking fake. You’ll want to limit it to around your neck and jawline.

Is There a Way To Avoid Streaks When Applying Self-Tanner?

Be sure you fully prep your body before you apply a self-tanner. This will ensure your tan goes on as smoothly as possible.

When applying a self-tanner, work in circles around your body, as opposed to moving in a straight line. By moving your hand in overlapping circles, you’ll end up with a nice smooth, streak-free tan.

Don’t forget to moisturize after you’re done!


Final Thoughts

Can you apply self-tanner without a mitt? Yes, there are several DIY tanning mitt options available.

There is more than just one way to apply self-tanner, making it even more convenient to achieve a warm summery glow at home.

Learning how to apply self-tanner without a mitt is an excellent idea if you self tan often—you never know when you’ll be without your favorite mitt. It’s probably not a great choice for a beginner self tanner, though.

Note that if you want to apply tanner to your back, see our guide here.

The alternate ways of applying tanner are not only a passable option but are often preferred by many.

Who knows, one of these backup options could end up becoming your new go-to! 

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).