How to Make Your Own Homemade Self-Tanning Lotion

Updated on October 14, 2015
How to make your own homemade self-tanning lotion—three recipes.
How to make your own homemade self-tanning lotion—three recipes.

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.

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 homemade 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 sunless tanning 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

Recipe for cocoa powder sunless tanning lotion.
Recipe for 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


  1. Start out by combining 1/2 cup of unscented white lotion in a bowl with 1/3 cup of pure cocoa powder.
  2. Mix with a fork. Make sure to break up any clumps and blend well.
  3. 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.
  4. Smooth the tanning lotion over your entire body evenly.

  5. 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.

See It in Action

Carrot-Based Homemade Sunless Tanning Oil

Recipe for carrot-based homemade sunless tanning oil.
Recipe for 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


  1. Rinse the carrots and cut them into thin slices.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Add the sliced carrots and brown sugar.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for three hours.
  5. Turn off the stove and let the sunless tanning oil cool.
  6. Pour the oil through a strainer to separate the clumps from the liquid.
  7. Pour the self-tanner into a spray bottle. You can get these for a dollar at Dollar Tree.
  8. 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.

Reference: Donatella von Slutthen at Donatella's Fashion.

Coffee or Tea Homemade Sunless Tanning Lotion

Recipe for coffee or tea sunless tanning lotion.
Recipe for coffee or tea 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


  1. 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.
  2. Mix enough lotion and coffee/tea to get your desired color. The more coffee or tea you add, the darker your tan will develop.
  3. Put the resulting mixture in a spray bottle and apply.


  • 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.

After only one quick application of the tea tanning lotion to my left leg.
After only one quick application of the tea tanning lotion to my left leg.

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 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!

Add Your Recipe!

If you would like your homemade tanning lotion featured in this article, email me at I will try out your recipe and if I like it, I'll share it here.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Debbie 2 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Xenda 10 months ago

        Does it come off in the shower?

      • profile image

        R. Lail 10 months ago

        What a wonderful idea! I love self tanner but not the color of orange on my skin. lol

      • profile image

        Glenda 11 months ago

        Will coconut oil work instead of Unscented white lotion?

      • profile image

        Miranda 11 months ago

        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!

      • profile image

        Jett Fitzgerald 12 months ago

        Does this wash off when you shower each time..

      • profile image

        Penny Hobbs 12 months ago

        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....

      • profile image

        Patti 12 months ago

        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?

      • profile image 12 months ago

        i was wondering how would instant coffee work

      • profile image

        Teresa 13 months ago

        A friend of mine use to bathe with tea bags in the water and she had lovely tanned skin.

      • profile image

        Cynthia Bullard 14 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Missy 14 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Alexa Rica 22 months ago

        I was just wondering does the one with the cocoa powder and lotion leave a smell ?

      • profile image

        Kay 23 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        imogen 2 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        big E 2 years ago

        Is it possible to tan yourself black?

        like a dark chocolate spray tan?

      • profile image

        Kelsie 2 years ago

        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.

        I don't recommend the cocoa powder, because I have tried it with various lotions and it causes those brown clogged pores you sometimes get with self tanner and you can not fully blend it in or it starts to bunch on your skin and the more you rub or apply more, the worse it gets. Burt's Bees was the first lotion I tried.

        The tea or coffee will work, but you need to make it really, really strong. Apply it in your bathtub or shower and immediately clean your tub to avoid staining it. It stinks. It's sticky. It also causes the brown pores.

        I wouldn't do any of these again.

      • profile image

        tashanicole 2 years ago

        I think it works for some an not so much for others the coffee is awesome. I started doing my own changes. Boil two cups of water added one cup coffee ground simmered for couple hours let stand so I can use it while applying lotion or mix. Very happy with the way this works

      • profile image

        Pam 2 years ago

        I am referring to the brown sugar and carrot self tanning. A lot of work and it doesn't change color of your skin at all. It DOES NOT work. Very sticky. I tried it for 1 week. Even when it dries it sticks to your clothes.

      • profile image

        Pam 2 years ago

        Don't waste your time on this. It doesn't work. It makes you very sticky and even when it dries your clothes stick to you. Terrible!

      • profile image

        Tanny 3 years ago

        I want to know if THE homemade carrot tanning works and doesn't come out with the shower. Maybe I can add tea to the preparation

      • profile image

        carcar 3 years ago

        I work out a lot so of course I would sweat often...does sweating cause it to run and streak on skin? or cause it to stain clothes?

      • profile image

        lexy 3 years ago

        I usually use

        instant coffee mixed in with my fav lotion works a treat, just wish it would last longer

      • profile image

        Corie 3 years ago

        So I found out that coffee stains your skin the hard way. I was trying the baking soda/coffee ground recipe to slow hair growth on my legs (less hair by the way but not all gone). You are supposed to apply it once a day for a week and wash it off. Well I noticed a gradual tan coming to my legs in the 3 days that I had been using it. I am gonna try the coffee lotion from this hub but I know for sure the grounds leave a stain until you exfoliant. Hope this helps.

      • profile image

        Hanna 3 years ago

        Great ideas here!

        however I need to get a tan for tomorrow and all of these ideas seem to be a process, is there anything that works within and hour or so?

      • profile image

        emma 3 years ago

        can you just use coco and water?

        how long do you leave the coco method on for?

        does it wash off easily?

        will it leave me with blotchy patches?

        thanks :)

      • profile image

        Michelle 3 years ago

        I make my own, but with diff recipe. And works wonders the first day i used it. I had family asking if i gone and had a spray tan don.

        1 part coconut oil

        1 part black tea cooled to room temp. 3 bags per cup of water.

        2 tb spoons of coco powder

        1 part any unsented white lotion. I use Cetaphil. You can use sun block.

        Mix in a blender till smooth. If you want it a little darker add one or two drops of black food coloring. A little goes a long way.

        It will be runny to start with. Let it sit, it will thicken up. You can store in the fridge up to 2 months.

        Exfoliat. And apply generously let soak in before getting dressed. Yes it will stain cloths if not carfull. I like to aply and lounge around for 15 min before getting dressed. Does not wash off easily in pool or in shower.

      • profile image

        Chantel 3 years ago

        Do you spray it on and let it dry, or rub it in?

      • profile image

        Debbie 3 years ago

        Don't mix the oil with iodine. That is EXTREMELY TOXIC AND UNHEALTHY for you!!!!

      • profile image

        pamuthe 3 years ago

        Definitely going to try.

      • K Lee Ellis profile image

        K Lee Ellis 3 years ago from California, USA

        So interesting! I've never heard of this technique before, but I'm excited to try it! Now, picking which one is the tricky part....

      • Winchestery profile image

        Winchestery 3 years ago

        Interesting article. Hadn't heard of any of these before.

      • profile image

        moose17 4 years ago

        maybe try mixing both the coffee and tea solution to the lotion, see if it works better.

      • profile image

        tasha 4 years ago

        Does the tea stain wash off?

      • profile image

        Sharon 4 years ago

        I've tried both the cocoa and the coffee, neither worked, even tried adjusting the recipe and using less cocoa and it just wasn't happening, the cocoa does wash off, it only lasts until you get wet! Thanks anyway.

      • MissEbiz profile image

        Elizabeth Tomaszewski 4 years ago from Riverside NJ

        WOW! I can't wait to try this

      • profile image

        elena 4 years ago

        I will try this, it sounds really great

      • Jenny30 profile image

        Jennifer 4 years ago from Canada

        This is pretty awesome. I am a skin therapist myself so I treat a lot of people with anti-aging products to help get rid of crows feet, wrinkles, age spots and anything really related to sun damage. Sun beds are so terrible for your skin and using a self tanner is far better. This was a great hub to show how to make a homemade tanner! again great job!

      • profile image

        Gina 4 years ago

        Great idea,but does it come off in water,like taking a shower or the pool?

      • profile image

        Tatty 4 years ago

        For those who don't know where to get all the ingridients, check out, it has it all! ROP388 code gives you $5 to $10 discount, great bargain!

      • profile image

        lesliebyars 4 years ago

        I can not wait to try this. I pinned it, voted up, useful and awesome. I am afraid of tanning beds and am ghostly white. Thank you!!

      • Chelsi Nicole profile image

        Chelsi Nicole 4 years ago

        Going to try this!

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

        My favorite it the tea.

      • profile image

        cindy 4 years ago

        which one is the best tea,coffee or cocoa

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

        Yes. There is no specific brand name needed.

      • profile image

        karen 4 years ago

        I only buy Tesco home brands do any tea bags work

      • shalycriston profile image

        Shaly Criston 4 years ago from USA

        Very interesting stuff here, I have gone through entire hub and got some new thing about homemade self training lotion. Thanks for sharing such a nice information here!!


      • Nationette profile image

        Jackie DelMonte 4 years ago from Nashua, NH

        Great Stuff! I love diy tricks and tips.. and money savers!

      • carrie Lee Night profile image

        Carrie Lee Night 4 years ago from Northeast United States

        Learning in Life: Interesting article :) Maybe I give it a go sometimes, my skin is a little pale. Thank you for taking the time to write something useful and natural.

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

        Try using a little less cocoa.

      • profile image

        diane 4 years ago

        The cocoa didn't work all that well. I had to wash it off just to get the stickiness off, and by the time the sticky cocoa was off so was the color. I may have done it wrong, any tips??

      • gosupress profile image

        Bram 4 years ago from Amsterdam

        Gonna try these tips out for sure.

      • profile image

        Heather 4 years ago

        Tried this. Yea do not use body butter for the cocoa recipe.

      • profile image

        Amanda 4 years ago

        For me this did not work, and we had tried both, coco, and tea.

      • profile image

        Darline 4 years ago

        Which one is the strongest?

      • younghopes profile image

        Shadaan Alam 4 years ago from India

        what a new and interesting hub, it is really a new idea i never thought out before, i am pretty sure these would be great to apply too.

      • sparkleyfinger profile image

        Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

        Some weird and wonderful concoctions for self tan. Question- how do they smell? And, do you have any trouble with insects being attracted to you, particularly with the sugary versions?

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

        Exfoliating gets rid of your dead skin so the color can be better absorbed.

      • profile image

        Tiffany 4 years ago

        And the exfoliating is so your still does sluff off while your applying and rubbing in? Thanks. :-)))

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

        The unscented aspect is more so that the two scents don't combine and make a weird or bad smell.

      • profile image

        Tiffany 4 years ago

        Hi. I love the cocoa and lotion. I was wondering if it really makes a difference if the lotion is unscented? Thanks :-)

      • profile image

        Herbie 4 years ago

        OMG!! How unique! Coffee does work??!?

      • jimmyglaughlin profile image

        Jim Laughlin 5 years ago from Connecticut

        Any recipe for sunscreen? I burn so easily.

      • Kathryn Stratford profile image

        Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

        Very interesting. I didn't know it was possible to make your own tanning lotion. And they include ingredients I always have around home! Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up and sharing.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Great ideas for making your own self-tanners!

        Thanks and voted up and sharing!

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

        This is really useful. With the sun and tanning beds both dangerous to skin and causing cancer, this is a great solution. Bookmarking this hub! Voted up, useful, and will share with my followers.

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

        It hasn't so far. Just make sure it's dry before you get dressed.

      • profile image

        Debbie L 5 years ago

        I am wondering if it will stain your clothes? Otherwise I think it's a great idea

      • Nicole S profile image

        Nicole S Hanson 5 years ago from Minnesota

        This is wonderful! I love the all natural (and cheap) ways to do this here. Thanks for sharing!

      • cathie bridges profile image

        Hamza Arshad 5 years ago from Pakistan

        that's really interesting you can make your own tanner ..mindblowing!!!

      • Rebecca Furtado profile image

        Rebecca Furtado 5 years ago from Anderson, Indiana

        So do these actually with stand showers and pools. Does your tan come off in the pool. Just wondering?

      • againdrama profile image

        Jennifer Ratcliffe 5 years ago from Oklahoma

        That is amazing that you can make your own at home tanner. I am still sticking with the store brands! I don't trust myself, and I'm sure I can mess something so simple up! Lol, thanks for posting this! :)

      • ChristinS profile image

        Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

        Wow! I had no idea you could make these homemade with natural ingredients. I shudder to think what's in the chemical lotions in the store. I am definitely going to try these as a natural alternative. Voted up and shared etc. :)

      • sleepylog profile image

        Sleepylog 5 years ago from Australia

        Great hub! I'm always very into home-made beauty products (I make my own soap, which I also use as shampoo) and this hub is great. Even though I like my skin fair and I won't be trying out these recipes on myself, I'm going to share it on Pinterest, Tumblr and StumbleUpon, I hope it'll send some traffic your way. Voted up and useful.

      • Missin Behavin profile image

        Melissa 5 years ago from Canada

        Interesting hub I have tried making the cocoa lotion not too long ago actually. It works well but washes away fairly easily. I think I may try out the coffee/tea one I imagine it washes away easily too?

      • Faith A Mullen profile image

        Faith A Mullen 5 years ago

        So interesting! I have never heard of homemade tanning lotions. Think I might just have to try the cocoa one :)

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

        From what I have gathered, this is the most popular by far. It's so simple too!

      • janetwrites profile image

        Janet Giessl 5 years ago from Georgia country

        This is so great. I have never heard of making your own tanning lotion. I like the one with the cocoa powder.

      • petenali profile image

        Pete 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        This is some good info here. I prefer it when I have a tan, but to be honest, I think that's because it means I am in warm weather which just makes me have a brighter outlook on life in general! Voted up!

      • Emma Harvey profile image

        Emma Kisby 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

        What a great idea! It's healthier and cheaper to make our own tanning products than to put chemicals all over our bodies. Love it :)

      • Gail Meyers profile image

        Gail Meyers 5 years ago from Kansas City - United States

        I have never heard of any of these recipes for making homemade tanning lotion or sunless tanning lotion. If I am not mistaken, I think cocoa is actually good for you too. I have read tea has been used to dye fabric, but I have never heard of anyone using it to color their skin. Thanks for sharing these unique tips. Voted up and useful.

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 5 years ago

        very interesting indeed

        i didn't know that you could make your own lotion

        its great that it doesn't have chemicals involved

        voted up and shared

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

        Surprisingly I was recently new to this idea.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        You are about twenty years late to help me with this information, but it is pretty interesting and I'm sure a lot of people will be interested. Good job.