Jojo McCarthy's Steps To Achieving A Flawless Sunless Tan

A sunless tan, when done right, can look just as good as the real thing. If you’re going to spend the money on a fake tan, especially on a custom airbrush, there are tricks to make it last.

Celebrity makeup artist and sunless tan expert, Jojo McCarthy (who has worked with her sister Jenny, Carrie Ann Inaba and Cheryl Burke) has shared her tips, for creating a flawless and long-lasting result. Her instructions work for a D.I.Y. job with a self-tanner too. Jojo is a perfectionist when it comes to her entire service (from color, to application, to maintenance), this is how to get a streak-free, too-flawless-to-be-fake, fake tan.


Jojo’s Sunless Tanning Tips:

What’s the correct way to prepare for a sunless tan in order to get the best result possible?

A. Shave and exfoliate the night before, and apply lotion on your entire body before going to bed. This gives the lotion enough time to fully absorb before your tan. The lotion helps the skin stay hydrated and the tan stays on longer because of that.

The Night Before:

“Apply lotion on your entire body before going to bed.”

The day of the sunless tan, what products should be used or avoided?

A. The day you are going to tan, don’t use any perfume, deodorant or lotion. Perfume and deodorant have chemicals in them that can alter the color of the tan, and the body lotion won’t have enough time to dry.

The Day of:

“…don’t use any perfume, deodorant or lotion.”

What about shaving after a person tans? Should they use special shaving cream?

A. You want to wait two days to shave after the tan is applied.

“Let the tan really absorb for two days and then shave.”

Regular shaving cream is fine when you do shave. Also, once you’ve been tanned, you’re done exfoliating. You don’t want to use loofahs or wash rags, or advanced exfoliators on the face. Also no soap because it strips the tan, use a body wash.

What is the best body lotion to use to maintain the tan the longest?

A. Unfortunately, the majority of moisturizers are heavily oil based, which breaks down the tan. Look for a lotion without mineral oil or fragrance.

“Moisturize everyday once the tan has fully developed but don’t use any heavy oil based lotions.”

I’m currently working on a line with a lotion that will hydrate the skin and help prolong the tan. What I recommend to my clients now is a sunless tanning lotion. I’ve found that works best. (Be sure to select a sunless tanning lotion and not a self- tanner, the latter creates a full tan in one application and won’t provide enough moisture).

What happens to a sunless tan in hot tubs or pools?

A. The heat and chemicals in a Jacuzzi will strip the tan and make it really splotchy. Another thing that will wreck the tan is working-out, your perspiration will break the tan down. It won’t be as splotchy as the Jacuzzi result but it still won’t last as long. If you need to workout while you have an airbrush tan, lift weights and do a little circuit training instead of cardio.

What about people who have had terrible results? Is it something more than just the formula that they should be aware of?

A. For people who have tried to spray tan before and it came out splotchy or uneven, their PH balance could be off. An oily face and dry patches all prevent a perfect result. I have a special PH balance solution that I spray on certain clients with these issues, to prep before a tan. It works to create an even canvas and helps the tan last longer.

The color of the tan you provide clients and celebs looks so authentic. What is different about your custom sunless tan?

A. My formula is red based so it has a “real tan” effect.The color looks tropical and contains Vitamin C, E, and A which helps clarify the skin. It’s also 100% organic.

On more than one occasion, people have told me my solution has even helped clear their acne. It also contains an ingredient that tightens the skin, which helps reduce the appearance of cellulite. I also offers a rapid tan that allows people to get a sunless tan and then shower in 3 or 4 hours later.

Pretty Public Picks for Self-Tanners

Vita Liberata Luxury Tan is the best all-natural sunless tanner on the market. Select Medium for natural color or Dark for a deeper tan.

Vita Liberata Invisi Foaming Tan Water, which is 100% transfer proof. Perfect for white summer clothing and white swimwear.

Always a classic, St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse provides a deep tan every time.

A game changer. The St. Tropez Applicator Mitt is inexpensive and completely changes at-home application. No more messy hands or streaks. 

Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark is an organic sugar based formula and paraben-free. It’s great for people with warm undertones and the dark formula works well for even fair skintones.