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5 Steps to Apply a Fake Tan to Mask Acne

Tanning is a great way to get ready for summer, and it can be even more fun if you want to do it at home. Whether you just need a little color or are looking for that deep bronze glow, there is no better way than using a self-tanner. 

One of the best things about self-tanning products is how easy they are to apply. However, if your skin has any acne on it, then the process becomes much more difficult. 

There is nothing worse than tanning your skin and having red spots show through, so what should you do? Read this article and find out!

1. Choosing the Best Tanner

Before you purchase a tanner, you’ll need to decide what kind of tanner is best for you. There are several options available for purchase, including lotions, gels, and sprays. Many brands also offer products that can be applied with a tanning mitt to ensure an even application. 

For example, if you have acne-prone skin or sensitive skin in general, opt for a gel formula instead of a spray or lotion, so your pores aren’t clogged by oil while trying to heal blemishes caused by common acne medications like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide

Moreover, try to look for alcohol-free tanners and offer moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera to ensure your skin doesn’t dry out while trying to achieve an even tan. 

2. Tanner For Sensitive Skin

If you have susceptible skin, avoid self-tanning products with DHA (dihydroxyacetone) as the main ingredient because it can irritate irritated or broken skin. Instead, choose a product that uses plant extracts like argan oil, jojoba oil, or cocoa butter rather which won’t clog pores but still deliver color over time. 

Be sure to read reviews of each product before buying them so you’re aware of any possible side effects specific brands may cause on certain types of skins. 

Additionally, be sure not to purchase too dark tanners for your skin type, so you don’t experience any discoloration or streaks. 

If possible, test out the tanning product on a small patch of skin before applying it to the entire face. If there’s no reaction after 24 hours, then go ahead and apply as directed by each specific brand.

3. Applying the Tanner

Applying the tanner is easy! Before applying, wash your face with warm water and soap. Next, apply the self-tanning cream on a cotton ball or makeup pad. 

Gently rub it around all areas of your skin with acne for about one minute per section you are working on (for example, forehead, nose, etc.) Keep rubbing until there is no residue left behind from the tanning product. 

This may take some time, but make sure to do it properly to avoid wasting any of this precious tanner, which can be expensive depending on where you buy it! 

Once applied all over your face, use a separate fresh cotton pad/ball to blend in the edges along cheekbones and jawline by gently tapping into these areas. 

4: Tanner That is Too Dark

If at any point you feel the tanner is too dark or it suddenly looks fake, don’t worry. There is a solution! All you have to do is apply some baby powder on your face and wait five minutes before wiping it off with a tissue/paper towel.

If at any time during this process, if for some reason your acne starts flaring up again (which can sometimes happen when applying makeup products), just wash off the self-tanning cream and dab benzoyl peroxide on these areas that are acting up until they clear up again. 

By doing so, there shouldn’t be any of those pesky red spots remaining after!

5: Using Makeup to Tan Your Face

You can also use makeup to create a tan if a regular tanner is not available to you. To do this, choose a liquid foundation that is one shade lighter than your skin tone. 

For example, if you have dark skin, it would be best to use liquid makeup with yellow undertones as these will create the illusion of warmth and glow on your face. Apply two coats of foundation all over your face and neck area. 

Allow for 15 minutes to dry before applying another layer. Apply an additional coat if necessary until the desired color tint is achieved.

If you are going to use makeup it is important to make sure you are choosing products made with acne-safe ingredients. I highly recommend using an acne-safe primer that works well with your skin type and does not contain any comedogenic ingredients.

How To Pick a Skin Friendly Tanning Lotion

Interested in getting a dark, gold-digging tan? We recommend St. Tropez’s self tanner. With only one step, this textured mousse will guide your application with its light color, ensuring that no patches are missed during the process. 

You can get a salon-like tan without having to spend money on a spa visit! With just one swipe, you’re an instant bronze babe! Your self-assurance will soon begin to shine through! 

Apply the Luxe Tan Mitt to your skin to create a seamless blend, then wait for your tan to develop over 4-8 hours. 

After using the tanning mitt, you’ll be able to radiate with confidence for the rest of the week. This is the kit for first-time users as well as those who consistently achieve excellent results.


  • Get a dark, even tan with just one swipe
  • Blend seamlessly into the skin without any patches
  • St. Tropez is vegan – perfect for anyone who’s concerned about animal testing
  • Perfect for all skin types, including sensitive skin


Only use a product that is going to be helpful for your skin type. You do not want to make it worse or cause any more acne by using the wrong products. 

Another option, if you are looking for a temporary fix, will allow you to do some color correction on your face where it has been affected by these spots and discolorations, then top with a powder foundation of choice. This way, you can create an illusion that everything looks great!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a body and facial moisturizer in the shower to help with dry skin?

Yes, if you have very dry skin that is flaking off, then using a moisturizing product in the shower will be helpful for you. You can also try using a moisturizing body wash.

Can I use the same product for my body and face?

No, you should not use products made for the body on your face because it will lead to skin irritation. Also, most body washes products can be drying, which would make dry patches worse.

Is self-tanning bad for acne-prone skin?

This depends entirely on what type of self-tanner you are using! You need to avoid any kind of spray tans or lotions with Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), as this ingredient has been shown repeatedly to cause breakouts.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook! I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health. I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on. This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it. As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”. After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts. In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy. Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself. After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅 While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently. To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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