How To Tone Your Body With Self-Tanner

Shannon Farrell
Fake abs like a swimsuit model

Fake abs like a swimsuit model.
Photo: Getty Images

While there’s no replacement for putting in real work at the gym, we’re always grateful for a little extra help looking toned in our tiny bikinis and mini dresses. Our favorite beauty secret? Using self-tanner to subtly sculpt our abs and slim our limbs.

The secret is all in the application, says St. Tropez Finishing Expert Sophie Evans. “A self-tan application will naturally contour the body and make you appear to be slimmer and more toned,” says Evans. “But to really sculpt and make the body appear to be even more slim and trim, we etch out definition with a darker self tan.” During a professional spray tan, an aesthetician like Evans will contour the entire body using a professional spray gun. “We chisel in cheek bones, eye shadow, jaw line, in between and underneath the breasts for lift, sides and center of stomach for abs, underneath and on the top of arms and the sides of the inner and outer thighs, [among others].”

No time to make an appointment? Evans tells us how to get the look at home.

Tan, then contour.
“If you want contouring to last, you can’t tan and then contour using the same formulation during one application.” Because skin can only absorb a limited amount of tanner at a time, the contouring will disappear after one wash. “You need to use two different strength self tans or apply a base tan on the first day, then contour on the second day.”

Use an aerosol tanning formula.
“Aerosol formulations are great because you can sweep the color along curves and muscle lines,” says Evans. St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Spray ($40, has a 360 degree nozzle so you can spray upside down and get to those hard-to-reach places. “Simply spray/sweep about six inches away from the body. If you overspray, take a dry cloth or applicator mitt and pat off any excess.” Tanners take about an hour to absorb into the skin, so wash off mistakes quickly before the color develops. “If it has developed and doesn’t look good, take a hot shower or bath and exfoliate.”

Fake perfect abs.
“You will need some sort of definition to start with or it can look silly!” Evans advises. “Apply a lighter layer of self tan all over, then simply spray the sides darker, make a darker line down the center of the stomach and then spray the horizontal lines of the abs.”

Hate those love handles? “Sweeping the sides of the stomach with an aerosol self-tanner will create a slimmer, more flattering look on any shape and size.” For best results, she recommends contouring a day before you hit the beach so the product has 8 hours to settle into the skin.

Read more: The 5 Rules of Self-Tanning

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