How to Apply Self-Tanner Without a Mitt: 5 Tanning Alternatives

How to Apply Self-Tanner Without a Mitt: 5 Tanning Alternatives

Gorgeous, glowing skin is easier than ever with incredible products like gradual tanners and self-tanning mousses. The key to a beautiful sunless tan is mastering the application technique and having the right tools.

One tool that you don't want to skip is a tanning mitt. If you're in a pinch and need bronzed skin but don't have a tanning mitt, there are some easy alternatives to still get that perfect radiance.

1. Rubber Gloves

The first alternative tool to reach for if you don't have a tanning mitt available is a set of rubber gloves. Grab the rubber gloves you keep under the kitchen or bathroom sink and get your tanning cream ready. Rubber gloves are a great alternative to applying self-tanner without a tanning mitt because they provide a clean and easy application that protects your hands.

They also won't absorb any self-tanner like a mitt does, saving you some additional product. Put on the rubber gloves, squirt your self-tanner onto the gloves, and apply all over your body. When you're done, quickly rinse the tanner off of the rubber gloves and avoid staining and streaking on your hands and fingernails. Then, store the gloves in a cool, dry place so you can reuse them for the next self-tanner application.

2. Socks

If you don't have any rubber gloves handy, you can also use a sock for self-tanner application. Go with a thicker sock that doesn't have a match and use it to give your skin a healthy tan glow. Slipper socks may be a great option for a self-tanner applicator because of their thickness.

We recommend you turn the sock inside out and then start applying self-tanner. When you begin smoothing the tanner over your skin, the sock’s fabric will absorb some of the liquid and give you a perfect hue. When you're finished, wash your hands and either toss the sock in the trash or wash it. But don't make the mistake of accidentally wearing the sock and getting self-tanner all over your feet and toes.

3. Cling Wrap

Cling wrap also makes a good tanning applicator alternative in a bind. It's inexpensive and an excellent way to avoid making a mess on your hands. Opt for a high-quality cling wrap product that doesn't stick or bunch up when layered. Start by wrapping a thick layer of cling wrap around your hand. The cling wrap should be somewhat tight but not so tight that it makes your fingers numb.

Try to position the cling wrap around your fingers as smoothly as possible before using this method to apply a self-tanner. This will ensure the tanner goes on evenly and doesn't look blotchy or rough. You should also check that there aren't any gaps in the cling wrap coverage over your hand or fingers.

4. Hands

The last easy alternative to applying self-tanner without using a tanning mitt is to apply it with your hands. This is the last alternative because there is a possibility of being left with dark hands and tanning residue that's tough to remove completely.

The reality is many people use their hands to apply self-tanner and have great results. If you can apply evenly with just your hands and not have a big mess to clean up afterward, this strategy may work for you. Once you're finished putting the tanner on, thoroughly remove the tanner and clean your hands off. Exfoliate your hands as soon as possible to keep the tone from setting into your skin and staining. Clean off your fingernails as much as possible so your hands don't look dirty.

Tips for Tanning Without a Mitt

If you're still determined to not use a mitt, there are some tips to help you get smoother, more natural results. Here are our best strategies for how to apply self-tanner without a mitt:

    • Exfoliate Prior to Application – An essential step you can't skip when using self-tanner without a mitt is exfoliating. Use a gentle, high-quality exfoliating product to wash off the top layer of dead skin cells on your body. This will give you a fresh layer of skin to work with and help you avoid blotches and streaks. It will also help the self-tanner set better into your skin, giving you longer-lasting results.
    • Shave Before Applying – You need to time your shaving perfectly, so you don't aggravate your skin and have problems with breakouts or irritation. It's a good idea to shave a few days before using self-tanner, so your skin is smoother during the application. Shave at least 24 hours before putting self-tanner on so you don't have any problems.
    • Moisturize Right After – It's also important to treat your skin after you apply your self-tanner. Moisturize right after the application to lock in your color and avoid dry spots and mismatched tones on your body. Use an oil-free product to keep the moisture locked into your skin.
    • Using Masking Tape – If you want to avoid getting spots of self-tanner on the bottoms of your feet, apply masking tape, especially if you are using a spray tanner.


The Benefits of a Tanning Mitt

Tanning mitt alternatives can work pretty well if you aren't able to access one. However, if you use self-tanner on a regular basis, it's best to invest in this inexpensive and useful tanning tool. Here's why you need a tanning mitt:

    • Helps Prevent Streaks – No other application method can help you prevent ugly streaking in your sunless tan than a proper tanning mitt.
    • Keeps Your Hands Protected – A tanning mitt also helps protect your hands from getting stained with the product. Sometimes, it's impossible to avoid getting self-tanner stains on your palms and fingers if you don't use a tanning mitt. It can be a challenge to thoroughly wash off self-tanner stains on your hands, so a mitt is a better option.
    • Allows for Reusing – Tanning mitts are also designed to be used over and over again. You can get your money's worth by rinsing, washing, and reusing your tanning mitt anytime you want to boost your skin's summer glow. A good quality mitt can last for years if you gently wash it after each application.


General Tanning Tips

Besides investing in a tanning mitt, we recommend other tricks so your beautiful bronze skin looks amazing and natural. So whether you're trying to figure out how to apply a sunless tan without a mitt or how to make your tan last longer, we've got you covered. Whenever you want to apply self-tanner at home, follow these tips for beautiful results:

    • Choose a Cool Room – To start with, make sure you choose a cool, dry room as the spot you'll use for self-tanner applications. Avoid a hot, steamy bathroom or any other place with poor ventilation or air circulation. Turn up the air conditioning and make yourself comfortable, so your sweat doesn't ruin the glow. A room that is hot and humid can also impact the formula and have it break down faster, making application impossible.
    • Be Mindful of Elbows and Knees – Applying self-tanner to elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles takes some finesse and extra care. You may need to lighten your application when you get to those parts of your body. The knees and elbows tend to absorb more of the self-tanner and make your skin look darker, so a light touch is best here.
    • Stay Away From Lotions With Fragrances – Be careful with using just any moisturizing lotion right before applying self-tanner and after. If your moisturizing lotion has a fragrance, it may interact with the tanning product and impact your results. It's best to go with a fragrance-free moisturizing lotion so you don't mess up your tan.
    • Try an Exfoliator for Removal or Mistake Fixes – If you make a tanning application mistake, don't panic. There are several different techniques to help you clean up the problem and fix any flaws. Have a good exfoliating skin product available to help you quickly remove self-tanner errors. If that doesn't work, check out more of our tips to erase self-tanner mistakes.


At Jergens Skincare, we want you to be happy with your skin and get the perfect shade of bronze every time you use a self-tanner. It's also best to invest in a tanning mitt, but we know life sometimes gets in the way, and you may be in a pinch. Try our suggestions for tanning mitt alternatives to get your best glow even if you don't have a mitt available. You can get the results you want from your self-tanner with our moisturizer and bronzer products and by having the right tools ready to go when you want your summer glow.