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How To Exfoliate Before a Fake Tan

The self tanner advice you hear on repeat is always “EXFOLIATE, EXFOLIATE, EXFOLIATE!” - but do you ever wonder why? The short answer is that it cleans away dead skin cells that can cause patchy tans and fade quickly. This becomes especially important when you're using high DHA self tanners. Exfoliating also has lots of other benefits though, like unclogs your pores, helps clear acne and evens out your skin tone! It also increases cell turnover, which increases radiance and we’re all about a good GLOW. 


  • How much should I exfoliate?

Does this mean you need to rub your skin until it’s red and raw? Absolutely not! So how much exfoliation is enough? You just want togentlyrub off that outer layer of dead skin, to ensure you have a good base before applying any products – not just self-tanner! Dead skin acts as a barrier between your products and fresh skin, so once your dead skin naturally starts to shed, your tan does too! If your skin hurts, you’re exfoliating too much. 

  • When should I exfoliate?
Our preference is a heavy exfoliation the day before tanning, with a lighter one the day of your tanning session. If you prefer to do your heavy exfoliation the day-of, leave at least 3 hours before applying tanner to let your skin settle. Do not apply moisturizer prior to tanning unless you have dry skin. It’s easiest to make this part of your evening showering routine, which is perfect for applying your self tanner and getting your 6-8 hour marinating time in while you sleep. 

PLUS, a good exfoliation routine is also key for helping your skin care products penetrate deeper into your skin! Since PM skincare products have higher active ingredients, the timing is great to maximize the benefits of these products. You’re already spending a ton of money on skin care products, so you might as well be making the most out of it. 

  • When do I shave?

This is different than most advice you'll hear, but we recommend shaving after the exfoliation process to get a closer shave. Most tanning pros are going to tell you to shave then exfoliate because the lubricating strip on razors will prevent the tan for absorbing. This is sound logic but not functional since you'll end up with prickly legs quickly. You want tan and smooth legs, right? Easy solve. Exfoliate well, shave, then cleanse your legs + any other areas your shaved to get rid of the lube build up. Best of both worlds!

  • What should I use to exfoliate? 

For your body, we recommend an exfoliating glove that is textured enough to remove dead skin, but won't damage your skin barrier. We're pretty anti-scrub here because so many scrubs contain heavy oils which leave your skin feeling soft and silky, but will prevent your self tanner from absorbing :( Only use a body scrub if you are willing to vet the ingredients for tan-compatibility. Normal to oily skin will get the best results from using a clear gel body wash like this Solimo one ($5). Dry skin can have many causes/solutions and we can't truthfully endosre a one-size-fits-all product or method.

Other benefits of exfoliation include cleansing skin, unclogging pores, and reducing color transfer from spray tans. If you’re deep cleaning your skin on a regular basis, you’re less likely to fall victim to bacne too. And remember, quality over quantity – you don’t have to exfoliate like a madman to have a good tan. A good scrub 1-2x a week prior to tanning and using professional grade tanning products and you'll be good to go!