How to Apply St. Tropez Bronzing Lotion

The ultimate tutorial on how to apply St. Tropez Bronzing Lotion, the best self tanner we’ve ever used. Step by step instructions.

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Let me start out by saying I am naturally PALE: like Revlon 001-Ivory foundation pale. But I’m also one of those people who tans naturally and looks good with a tan- years and years of swim team have taught me that much. However, ever since my dad was diagnosed with skin cancer for the first time (out of five or six) when I was in high school, I became wary of the sun.

Right now, I’m sitting in my bedroom sporting a lovely shade of bronze- not because I’ve been laying out, but because I’ve been using what I’ve thought of as the best self-tanner for years…


St. Tropez Bronzing Lotion. ($40 for 8 oz. at Sephora)

Yes, I’m talking about St. Tropez – the BEST sunless tanner out there as far as I’m concerned. Celebs and beauty editors alike agree with me: the line is a favorite of everyone from Sienna Miller to Victoria Beckham, and appears at the top of almost every magazine’s yearly “top beauty product” list.

Before I show you guys how to use St. Tropez to get a gorgeous tan like the stars, let me get a few things out of the way:

Yes, it’s a mess to put on.

Yes, you will look like a mud wrestler while you let it dry.

Yes, it is pricey.

After all that trouble, why would anyone use it?

This tanner will give you a PERFECT color that most self-tanners out there can’t beat- it’s dark and makes you look like you’ve spent the weekend in Ibiza. No orange- ever. Seriously, its color is unparalleled and that’s what makes it (in my opinion) the best on the market.

Zephyr posted a great self-tanning tutorial a while back, so check that out if you just want to learn how to use self tanner the right way. This how-to focuses solely on St. Tropez (yes, this tanner requires its own tutorial. So worth it, I promise!).

To get the best results, do this right before going to bed at night- don’t bother with actually showering as you’ll shower again when you get up.

How to Apply St. Tropez Self Tanner

Step 1: Exfoliate

Every self-tanner tutorial starts with this step, for good reason: dry skin= streaky tan. Focus on your knees (especially right under your kneecap), ankles, elbows, and wrists. I just use a loofah without body wash- I think the St. Tropez brand exfoliator is a waste of money. Some say to avoid using a body wash that has oil in it, I’ve found that it doesn’t make a difference. Make sure to shave, too!

Step 2: Moisturize

Olay Quench Body Lotion

Olay Quench Body Lotion- $7.69 at Target

Again, make sure to get the dry areas (knees, wrists, elbows), as well as your face and neck. St. Tropez makes its own moisturizer, but any one you have lying around will work.

Step 3: Apply

st tropez video still
Still from application video (don’t worry – it’s supposed to look streaky until you wash it off!)

This video from St. Tropez does a great job of explaining how to apply their self-tanner. Here are my tips:

  • Don’t worry about the number of pumps they tell you to use- use however many you need to coat the area you want to cover.
  • Definitely use gloves! I used to apply it without using gloves and had to wash my hands every five minutes. You can buy a huge pack of vinyl or latex gloves at any drugstore and they’ll last forever- plus you’ll avoid orange palms!
  • As the video says, don’t rub it in too much and, above all, don’t worry about making it even. It will look streaky before you wash it off!
  • Don’t worry about buffing– If you follow Step 4, you won’t have to use it!

Step 4: Sleep

This tanner takes a while to set in- at least 6 hours. We’re busy girls; we don’t have 4-6 hours to wait around for this tan to dry. Instead, just sleep while it dries. As long as your sheets aren’t too light-colored, you won’t make a mess.

Step 5: Wake up and Shower

Girl showering in a waterfall
I mean, if you can shower in a waterfall, do that.

As soon as you wake up, jump in the shower. Don’t look at yourself in the mirror unless you want to be freaked out- your tan will look streaky. Don’t worry- it’s supposed to! Make sure to get every part of your body wet- the water washes away any streakiness.

Step 6: Dry ‘n go

Once you’re out of the shower, pat yourself dry and marvel at your bronze skin- I swear it will look great. Moisturize your entire body and face– again, whatever lotion/cream you use normally will work now.

To prolong the life of your tan (it’ll last about 5-7 days) moisturize as often as you need- I usually lotion up twice as often as usual. That’s all you need to know!

What do you guys think?

Guys, I promise that using this is not as annoying as it seems- once you get the hang of it, probably after a few uses, you can apply it in under 15 minutes. Plus, you’ll look just as great as your beach-going friends- except without the risk of melanoma!

Now I want to know what you think. Have you used St. Tropez products? Will you? What’s your favorite self-tanner? Tell me everything in the comments!

36 thoughts on “How to Apply St. Tropez Bronzing Lotion”

  1. Thanks, Sam! I actually didn’t know that, and I hope people read down to your comment to correct that. It doesn’t change my views on faux tanning, but it does tell me that I picked a poor example, for which I am sorry.

  2. Cara – Michael Jackson had vitiligo, a disorder where the cells responsible for producing pigment die off/malfunction etc. My dad suffers from the same condition and has to wear high SPF sunscreen every day just to keep from getting burned from moderate sun exposure. In the summer, he can’t wear shorts or t-shirts or forget about a hat with a brim if he wants to stay in the sun for any length of time. The extent to which he has to protect himself goes beyond what even naturally pale individuals have to do. The skin-bleaching is a rumor. I know this isn’t entirely relevant to the rest of your post, but I just thought people should be aware that it is a condition that can cause real suffering.

  3. I am with Erin on this one, I would LOVE to tan as I live in a country where it is beach season 8 months of the year and I love to lie in the sun, however I burn like bacon and all fake tans come out looking orange when applied to my blue/white skin so I have learnt to accept my snow white looks.

  4. Anna? If you’re looking for something subtle, I’d definitely recommend Jergens’ natural glow moisturizer. They have separate bottles for light, medium, and dark skin tones, so it isn’t meant only for people who are “already tan.” And because it’s a moisturizer and not a bronzer, the result is gradual and not permanent at all. Just grab a “Light” bottle, try it for a few day and if you don’t like the way it looks, you can just stop using it. The color will quickly go away and your skin color will be back to normal. =] hope this helps.

  5. Most of the time I’m too slack to fake tan and I don’t go very dark naturally. I’ve always used sunscreen rather than tan – I don’t want to be old and wrinkly!! My little sister uses sugarbaby which seems good. But I might give this a shot.
    One question: does it go on bronze ie you can see where you have already done?

  6. Is this a good self tanner to use on fair skinned girls?!?
    I’ve come across too many self tanners that make me too tan too fast.
    So for all the really pale people will it still look good?

  7. Cara- very inspiring words. I also have very pale skin with super super light (almost platinum) naturally blond hair and green eyes. I agree with you in many ways and would probably write the same thing. The only thing is that I agree with some of the other girls too, in that I guess it is just a personal look preference. Like you said it is about 50%, not every girl is a walking hollister fake n bake wannabe (although depending on where you go you might think otherwise lol). I personally just let my natural skin work throughout the main part of school because I don’t have time and a tan looks SUPER weird in Buffalo, NY during the cold school months. You should see some girls who tan when there’s a blizzard outside, it looks weird and they aren’t showing off any “toned muscle” then anyways so I don’t see a point.

    On the other hand, during the late spring until early fall I think that getting a fake tan and laying out by my pool can be fun and put me in that tropics mood. Also to be honest I do have to say (whether at the fault of the fashion industry, w/e) that summer colors are MUCH paler or overly bright and I find that it complements at least a little more color in the skin. I’m sure the fashion industry does it on purpose obviously because our skin changes with the seasons for most of us. I don’t tan naturally so thanks so much for the article, I find it very helpful. I use the victorias secret line of bronzers in the summer and for some reason I actually like the smell it leaves combined with the other summer perfumes I use. I like to use the lotion bronzer as a moisturizer after using other fake-bake methods.

    I guess in conclusion: tanning makes me feel complemented to summer colors better and smell vaction-like BUT I am certainly not ashamed of my pale skin.

  8. I am completely un-tannable. I don’t tan at all. I burn and then it fades back into white. So I have since accepted it and embraced it. I’ve had people tell me I look like Snow White because I have pale skin and dark, dark hair.

    And $40 on a bottle of tanner that only lasts 5-7 days sounds ridiculous!

  9. My favorite self tanner is definitely ModelCo’s Sunless Tan in a Can. I used to buy it at Sephora but I’m not sure if it’s sold there anymore… then I stocked up on a few cans at TJMaxx 😀 😀 😀

    The color looks natural and not too dark… (I’m NC20) and it makes me smell like cookies!!! My roommates in college always asked me if I was baking something after I finished applying. Can’t beat that.

  10. Cara – i love your point of view and I think you make some excellent points.
    Now that I tihnk about it, it is pretty disturbing that we are rubbing chemicals on our body that alter our skin color. Maybe we don’t even know all the harmful side effects that self tanners can have. pretty scary

    i think ill stick with natural sunshine and a good dosage of spf

  11. I’m very pale… I used to try and tan, but nothing ever worked out so well. Since then, I’ve learned to embrace my color (or lack there of) and strut my blindingly pale little body to the beach regardless and to not be bashful when I slather on the ‘screen. When people say ‘white’, I respond with ‘porcelein.’ This is a good article for girls who would otherwise be tanning in the sun or with a tanning bed who might be afraid of tanning lotions for being notoriously streaky. It IS okay to not be tan though, and I personally can’t justify spending that kind of money on something so temporary and superfluous as a fake glow. If someone wants to increase muscle definition or look skinnier I don’t get why they just don’t work out some more. It costs less and lasts longer. But I guess, to each their own.

  12. Hi, I used to go to the tanning bed but I’ve stopped, just recently. I love being tan and I think it compliments my features better. I can put on SPF 80 and my skin still gets tan, it was the same with my mom and her parents. I just bought Aerie’s Cocoa Bronze and it smells like tanning lotion. It’s been giving me a decent tan but I wanted to try something darker. I loved your article, Elizabeth. I was just wondering about tips for shaving? I have to shave my legs practically everyday. And I work out almost everyday, so do you have any tips for sweating and what not? Thanks! (Sorry for the long post!!)

  13. I’m extremely pale – as in PALER than Revlon 001 – and an I just don’t tan; I can’t. As much as I like the idea of self tanners, I always run into the same problem: I don’t want to turn out looking like a beach goddess, I just want my skin to look a few shades darker. Unfortunately, even products which advertise as producing gradual or light tans seems to have been designed for someone who is already tan, and I end up looking unnaturally dark or orange. Has anyone know of any produce a light, natural looking tan?

  14. I’m naturally very pale and I’ve never used a self tanner. I tan pretty easly, but I don’t like my face with the tan – I look kind of like I’m dirty. I wouldnt mind to get a little tan on my legs though, it would make the veins less visible and I would look better in shorts – but I’m using sunscreens all year round and I guess I would look very stupid with legs of a different color then the rest of my body!


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