Megan has been writing on all kinds of topics since 2012. Her main interests include alternative medicine, running, gardening, and her kids.
DIY Self Tanner
If you love being tan year-round but weren’t lucky enough to be born with a deep, bronzed skin tone, you have probably spent too much time and money trying to achieve that perfect tan.
Reading: How to make a tanner
The sun and tanning beds can cause irreversible damage to your skin and sunless tanning products can have a horrible smell and include toxic chemicals. If you want to save money and avoid commercial sunless tanning products, I suggest you learn how to make your own sunless tanning products.
You can make them at a fraction of the cost of their store-bought counterparts. Plus, you know exactly what is going into them and what you’re putting on your precious skin. There are many different options and variations to sunless tanning lotion recipes. You can pick the one that is right for you (which may simply be the one you already have the ingredients for).
The best part about making your own lotion is that:
- you will avoid the weird orange color that sometimes comes from store-bought products.
- you can customize the exact color you want by changing the recipe up just a little.
- it is less expensive than its store-bought counterpart.
- the recipes contain no harsh chemicals.
To get the best results from these homemade self-tanners, make sure to check out my advice on applying sunless tanners.
Cocoa Powder Sunless Tanning Lotion
This is the simplest sunless tanning lotion to make. It only requires two ingredients; unscented white lotion and 100% pure cocoa powder. You can use any cocoa powder as long as it says 100% pure on the label.
- Unscented white lotion
- 100% pure cocoa powder
- Start out by combining 1/2 cup of unscented white lotion in a bowl with 1/3 cup of pure cocoa powder.
- Mix with a fork. Make sure to break up any clumps and blend well.
- Adjust the recipe to match your desired color. The lotion will appear darker in the bowl than it will on your skin. Keep adding a little bit of cocoa powder at a time until you reach your desired shade.
- Smooth the tanning lotion over your entire body evenly.
- Apply daily for a gradual deep tan.
- Store homemade lotion in a Tupperware container or in an empty jar that once held lotion.
- Choose a moisturizing lotion for added benefits.
- Exfoliate before application.
- The lotion will look very dark when you make it, but it does not show up that darkly on your skin. If you’re afraid to make it too dark, just use the standard 1/2 cup lotion and 1/3 cup cocoa and keep adding layers until it is as dark as you want it.
- You will be able to see the color as you apply it.
Carrot-Based Homemade Sunless Tanning Oil
Sunless tanning oils are even better than lotions in my opinion because there is even less of a chance of streaks. Less oil is needed to cover your entire body than lotion ounce per ounce. It is quick to spray on and rub in after your shower. This recipe makes about one gallon of sunless tanning oil.
- 3/4 gallon of water (3 quarts)
- 1 pound of fresh carrots (unpeeled)
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- Rinse the carrots and cut them into thin slices.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the sliced carrots and brown sugar.
- Reduce heat and simmer for three hours.
- Turn off the stove and let the sunless tanning oil cool.
- Pour the oil through a strainer to separate the clumps from the liquid.
- Pour the self-tanner into a spray bottle. You can get these for a dollar at Dollar Tree.
- Apply once every week to maintain color.
- If you want to get the most bang for your buck, get all of the liquid out of your carrots as you strain them by applying a little pressure.
- Make sure there are no pieces of the carrot in your tanning solution, or they will clog your spray bottle, and the oil will not come out properly.
Coffee or Tea Homemade Sunless Tanning Lotion
For this tanning lotion, you can choose to use coffee or tea. It’s common knowledge that these drinks can stain your teeth, leaving an undesired effect; they can also “stain” your skin, leaving you with a beautiful tan color. No matter which one you chose, make sure you use the caffeinated type, not the decaf. The caffeine can actually help firm and tighten the skin to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and even cellulite. This just happens to be my favorite homemade tanning lotion.
- Either coffee grounds or tea bags (caffeinated)
- Unscented white lotion
- Brew coffee or tea just like you normally would. If using coffee, use enough grounds for an entire pot but only enough water to make one cup. If using tea, use enough tea bags (typically three to four) to make a gallon of tea, but only about one cup of water. This is typically three to four family-sized tea bags.
- Mix enough lotion and coffee/tea to get your desired color. The more coffee or tea you add, the darker your tan will develop.
- Put the resulting mixture in a spray bottle and apply it.
- Make sure to shake well before each use.
- Use weekly or bi-weekly for best results.
- I personally prefer using tea bags—there is less of a chance of getting little pieces in the spray, and I don’t really like the smell of coffee.
- If you would like to, you don’t even have to add the lotion; the tea/coffee liquid works just fine on its own.
Homemade Outdoor Tanning Oil
If you don’t want a sunless tan, you can even make your own outdoor tanning oil. All you need is some olive oil and iodine. Just mix a couple of drops of iodine with a cup of olive oil, and you are ready to go. Put it in a spray bottle for easy use, apply, and get your tan on!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
What do you Think?
Megan Garcia (author) from Florida on September 29, 2020:
I can guarantee you that the photo’s taken for this were my actual legs. I did these myself.
Haley on July 22, 2020:
Are you able to put any of these on your face? Or your eyelids? I’m completely pale and I don’t want to finally have a tan body and have my face still look like a ghost.
paige on June 10, 2020:
I tried the first one but it didn’t do anything for me but it kind of worked. Also after I put it on it kinda started to flake off.
Polina on June 09, 2020:
Iodine? Is this safe for all body? I only use it for infections… sounds unusual for all body
Callie on June 07, 2020:
Hey I’m just wondering if it will come off in the shower I mixed lotion and coffee together and the tan already looks great…
isabella on May 15, 2020:
the cocoa powder one does work but it works weakly maybe if you leave it on longer it might work better but shower before laying down or sitting down also I worked well and doesn’t stain your clothes and I used it in a glow-up video on youtube and it worked and I also gave some tips to improve it
Shara on May 10, 2020:
Does not work
yes on April 28, 2020:
After the cocoa power tan, do you wipe off the excess? will it be sticky? also, will it stain cloth if you touch or sit down???
Jeep on April 19, 2020:
The coco looks great if you use hot coco powder!
Riley on March 12, 2020:
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Wow, the coffee one worked like a charm on me!!!!
Amy on December 17, 2019:
Doesn’t work! Don’t try it!
Aaiza on December 04, 2019:
Guy just now i have done the tea one and it works like magic. never am i going to ever by fake tan again. Heres what you should do:
1) boil the water and in a cup add in 1 tea bag
2) once the water is boiled add in half or even less (your choice) of the boiled water
3) using a soft sponge put the tea solution onto the areas that you want to tan
4) let the first coat dry then apply the second coat.
5) finally you can if you want add on scented lotion because it does have a tiny bi of a smell but it goes away. if you apply lotion then make sure the tan is fully dry and then wait 5 mins after completely dry just to be sure.
Try this out and im sure you will love it just like i do !!
Lauren on June 21, 2019:
Does the coco powder one stain the skin and how long does it last or how often do you to apply it?
Lee on April 25, 2019:
I tried the coco powder one. Nope. Nope and nope hahaha sorry but once it dries this is just one bad bump from being really embarrassing.
Beka on April 23, 2019:
I just covered my body in a cup of water with 4 tea bags boiled in it and I have a beautiful tan. I did one coat of it and let it dry then I did another. I am never buying fake tanner again.
Monika Anderson on November 13, 2018:
It is necessary to be very careful with the ingredients, there may be individual non-tolerance. This article is about this in more detail https://www.tanoholic.com/diy-lotions-oils/
Kayla on September 04, 2018:
I am thinking the 1 bad comment is 99 percent from a “tanning professional”
I am an experimenter and rely on comments so I am going to try it out and update all of you beautiful ladies and men.
Yi on July 21, 2018:
I love dark tan all my life and yes i am asian babe my brown skin tone and yes i am hawaiiano female
Debbie on February 02, 2018:
I have a question on the self tanning with the black tea bags? It call for the caffinated kind. I got the decaffinated kind. Does it matter if it is decaffinaed? Will it still work.
Xenda on June 19, 2017:
Does it come off in the shower?
R. Lail on June 01, 2017:
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What a wonderful idea! I love self tanner but not the color of orange on my skin. lol
Glenda on May 04, 2017:
Will coconut oil work instead of Unscented white lotion?
Miranda on May 01, 2017:
So….. I really want to try this, but is it sticky? A lot of the comments say it is and i HATE sticky, ya know? Also, how long does it last without showers? Will it come off with sweat or rain? When it stains the skin…. can i plz have some comments on staining the skin and its pros and cons? Also, i kinda need this info quick cuz its for an essay thats due this wk. thx!
Jett Fitzgerald on April 18, 2017:
Does this wash off when you shower each time..
Penny Hobbs on April 14, 2017:
But…..does it wash off from swimming or is it staining the skin?I made some….put it on my arms…,and it does look great….but I don’t want it coming off if it rains..and I get caught in it….
Patti on April 13, 2017:
Is the color permanent and does your skin stay tan after you shower or is it temporarily tan and only looks tan when it is freshly applied?
firstname.lastname@example.org on April 12, 2017:
i was wondering how would instant coffee work
Teresa on March 19, 2017:
A friend of mine use to bathe with tea bags in the water and she had lovely tanned skin.
Cynthia Bullard on February 20, 2017:
Just tried to make the coffee self tanning lotion and it does NOT!!!! Work, very liquidy. There are ALOT of fails here on Pinterest. You know none of these self tanners work but u post it anyways. The cocoa powder and lotion doesn’t work either, you get cocoa powder all over u. I find it hard to believe that the final product photo of the coffee and lotion tanner is really a tanning lotion. Probably isn’t. Guess it’s back to store bought. If these don’t work work for me and a lot of other people then they are not working for u. You know they don’t work. I just waisted some really good shea butter body lotion. Thanks for nothing.
Missy on February 20, 2017:
Just tried to make the coffee self tanning lotion and it did NOT!!!! Work very liquidy. There are ALOT of fails here on Pinterest. I think u know this does not work but u post it anyways. Cocoa powder and lotion doesn’t work either. You get cocoa powder all over u. I find it hard to believe that the final product photo is really coffee and lotion, it’s probably not. Guess it’s back to store bought self tanners.
Alexa Rica on June 22, 2016:
I was just wondering does the one with the cocoa powder and lotion leave a smell ?
Kay on May 11, 2016:
Seems like instant coffee would work better…wouldn’t dilute lotion. Haven’t tried any of the methods yet but not happy with the color of sunless tanners. Thanks for the post.
imogen on March 12, 2016:
we mixed tea and lotion as a kid to make body makeup, as we called it. It still leaves you kind of orange. Btw, it’s not caffeine that tightens your skin but tannins in tea.I think it’s better to love your natural skin color. In india it’s the opposite they come up with recipes to lighten their skin.
big E on September 08, 2015:
Is it possible to tan yourself black?
like a dark chocolate spray tan?
Kelsie on August 19, 2015:
I haven’t tried the carrot one, because I saw it posted on a blog where the op shared before and after pictures and shocker, it made her skin orange.
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