When it comes to skincare, I’m a huge fan of mixing things into my moisturizer. Adding a few drops of my favorite face oil or hyaluronic acid serum to my daily face cream is a quick way to multi-task that also feels luxurious. So when I first heard of tanning drops, I was curious. You mean I could add a tiny bit of this stuff to my moisturizer and gradually achieve a natural-looking glow? Once I considered how helpful these would be for prolonging a fake tan (airbrush tan tends to rub off from your face the quickest, after all), I was sold. Unfortunately, I also had exactly zero idea how to use the drops correctly.
After watching a few helpful YouTube tutorials, I got the hang of the process pretty quickly, but I still wondered if my method was the most accurate. To get the definitive, expert-approved answer to applying tanning drops, I spoke to Isle of Paradise founder Jules Von Hep. Isle of Paradise, a vegan, cruelty-free self-tanning company, offers three different shades of self-tanning drops — all at $32 each. Ahead, Von Hep breaks down how to use tanning drops effectively.
Von Hep says exfoliation is key in creating the perfect skin surface for tanning drops. “I recommend exfoliating 24-hours before application,” Von Hep explains. “Make sure your skin is clean and dry and that any serums you may have applied prior have absorbed into the skin.” Von Hep also recommends steering clear of using facial oils before applying the drops to your skin. If you’re worried about your serums not absorbing quickly enough, you can mix the tanning drops with your skincare before applying.
Mix Them With Your Favorite Moisturizer, Lotion, or Foundation
According to Von Hep, you can think of these drops as a self-tan concentrate that you can mix with your daily moisturizer, serum, or even liquid foundation. “In the palm of your hand, place your chosen formulation, and create a small well in the middle. Add your drops for face and décolletage,” Von Hep instructs. “I recommend up to four drops. However, you are completely in control.” The formula is simple: The more drops you add, the deeper the glow will be. Von Hep says adding a spray sunscreen on top is the ideal sun protection option if you’re headed outdoors for the day as it doesn’t affect the tan.
Buff and Blend After Application
Once you’ve applied your tanning drop mixture, your work isn’t entirely done. Buffing and blending the color into your skin after application is key to an even, non-streaky application. “Be sure to buff out any excess around the hairline, underneath the nose, from the cheeks onto the ears, and around the décolletage,” Von Hep says. “This will prevent any tell-tale tan lines.” Von Hep also recommends using a spoolie to brush your eyebrows immediately after application, which should prevent the color from settling into your hairs.
Reapply as Often as You Want
The best thing about tanning drops is that you can use them as much or as little as you want, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to build up more of a tan before vacation, you can use them every day. If you’re going after something more subtle, you can cut back to once a week. “I tan my face every other day, but if you’re using exfoliants in your skincare, you may need to apply on a more consistent basis,” Von Hep explains.
As YouTuber Briana Deschaine explains in her review of the drops, it may take trial and error to figure out the exact number of drops to achieve a glow of your liking. If you’re unsure or new to self-tanning, start with a lower number of recommended drops (the brand suggests using anywhere from 2 to 12) and try adding more gradually until you find your perfect balance.
Feel Free to Get Creative
Using tanning drops for other areas of your body is the same easy process, and you can get creative with how you use them. “I love mixing mine with aftersun during a vacation,” Von Hep says. Suppose you’re applying a lotion and tanning drop mixture. In that case, it may be helpful to work in sections across your body, rather than doing everything at once (which beauty vlogger Abbey Yung demonstrates in her video).
Take Extra Care Around Your Hands
Just like most self-tanning options, the drops still can sink into fine lines quickly if you’re not careful. This may be especially common around your hands, knees, and feet. Because of this, it’s important to avoid applying the tanning drops directly to the backs of your hands. Instead, the brand suggests sweeping the formula across your body with the backs of your hands.
If the idea of using a tanning glove or full-body spray to self-tan intimidates you (or you’re looking to focus on smaller areas, like your face), tanning drops might be a good place to start. Plus, unlike a spray tan, tanning drops don’t involve you having to get naked in front of a total stranger, which is always a plus.