Megan has been writing on all kinds of topics since 2012. Her main interests include alternative medicine, running, gardening, and her kids.
DIY Self Tanner
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 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 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
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
- Start out by combining 1/2 cup of unscented white lotion in a bowl with 1/3 cup of pure cocoa powder.
- Mix with a fork. Make sure to break up any clumps and blend well.
- 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.
- Smooth the tanning lotion over your entire body evenly.
- 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.
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
- Rinse the carrots and cut them into thin slices.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the sliced carrots and brown sugar.
- Reduce heat and simmer for three hours.
- Turn off the stove and let the sunless tanning oil cool.
- Pour the oil through a strainer to separate the clumps from the liquid.
- Pour the self-tanner into a spray bottle. You can get these for a dollar at Dollar Tree.
- 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.
Coffee or Tea Homemade 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
- 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.
- Mix enough lotion and coffee/tea to get your desired color. The more coffee or tea you add, the darker your tan will develop.
- Put the resulting mixture in a spray bottle and apply it.
- 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.
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 of 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!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
What do you Think?
Haley on July 22, 2020:
Are you able to put any of these on your face? Or your eyelids? I'm completely pale and I don't want to finally have a tan body and have my face still look like a ghost.
paige on June 10, 2020:
I tried the first one but it didn't do anything for me but it kind of worked. Also after I put it on it kinda started to flake off.
Polina on June 09, 2020:
Iodine? Is this safe for all body? I only use it for infections... sounds unusual for all body
Callie on June 07, 2020:
Hey I'm just wondering if it will come off in the shower I mixed lotion and coffee together and the tan already looks great...
isabella on May 15, 2020:
the cocoa powder one does work but it works weakly maybe if you leave it on longer it might work better but shower before laying down or sitting down also I worked well and doesn't stain your clothes and I used it in a glow-up video on youtube and it worked and I also gave some tips to improve it
Shara on May 10, 2020:
Does not work
yes on April 28, 2020:
After the cocoa power tan, do you wipe off the excess? will it be sticky? also, will it stain cloth if you touch or sit down???
yes on April 28, 2020:
Jeep on April 19, 2020:
The coco looks great if you use hot coco powder!
Riley on March 12, 2020:
Wow, the coffee one worked like a charm on me!!!!
Amy on December 17, 2019:
Doesn’t work! Don’t try it!
Aaiza on December 04, 2019:
Guy just now i have done the tea one and it works like magic. never am i going to ever by fake tan again. Heres what you should do:
1) boil the water and in a cup add in 1 tea bag
2) once the water is boiled add in half or even less (your choice) of the boiled water
3) using a soft sponge put the tea solution onto the areas that you want to tan
4) let the first coat dry then apply the second coat.
5) finally you can if you want add on scented lotion because it does have a tiny bi of a smell but it goes away. if you apply lotion then make sure the tan is fully dry and then wait 5 mins after completely dry just to be sure.
Try this out and im sure you will love it just like i do !!
Lauren on June 21, 2019:
Does the coco powder one stain the skin and how long does it last or how often do you to apply it?
Lee on April 25, 2019:
I tried the coco powder one. Nope. Nope and nope hahaha sorry but once it dries this is just one bad bump from being really embarrassing.
Beka on April 23, 2019:
I just covered my body in a cup of water with 4 tea bags boiled in it and I have a beautiful tan. I did one coat of it and let it dry then I did another. I am never buying fake tanner again.
Monika Anderson on November 13, 2018:
It is necessary to be very careful with the ingredients, there may be individual non-tolerance. This article is about this in more detail https://www.tanoholic.com/diy-lotions-oils/
Kayla on September 04, 2018:
I am thinking the 1 bad comment is 99 percent from a "tanning professional"
I am an experimenter and rely on comments so I am going to try it out and update all of you beautiful ladies and men.
Yi on July 21, 2018:
I love dark tan all my life and yes i am asian babe my brown skin tone and yes i am hawaiiano female
Debbie on February 02, 2018:
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.
Xenda on June 19, 2017:
Does it come off in the shower?
R. Lail on June 01, 2017:
What a wonderful idea! I love self tanner but not the color of orange on my skin. lol
Glenda on May 04, 2017:
Will coconut oil work instead of Unscented white lotion?
Miranda on May 01, 2017:
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!
Jett Fitzgerald on April 18, 2017:
Does this wash off when you shower each time..
Penny Hobbs on April 14, 2017:
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....
Patti on April 13, 2017:
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?
email@example.com on April 12, 2017:
i was wondering how would instant coffee work
Teresa on March 19, 2017:
A friend of mine use to bathe with tea bags in the water and she had lovely tanned skin.
Cynthia Bullard on February 20, 2017:
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.
Missy on February 20, 2017:
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.
Alexa Rica on June 22, 2016:
I was just wondering does the one with the cocoa powder and lotion leave a smell ?
Kay on May 11, 2016:
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.
imogen on March 12, 2016:
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.
big E on September 08, 2015:
Is it possible to tan yourself black?
like a dark chocolate spray tan?
Kelsie on August 19, 2015:
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.
tashanicole on May 28, 2015:
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
Pam on May 19, 2015:
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.
Pam on May 19, 2015:
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!
Tanny on March 31, 2015:
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
carcar on February 16, 2015:
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?
lexy on December 13, 2014:
I usually use
instant coffee mixed in with my fav lotion works a treat, just wish it would last longer
Corie on July 27, 2014:
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.
Hanna on June 24, 2014:
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?
emma on June 24, 2014:
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?
Michelle on June 21, 2014:
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.
Chantel on June 16, 2014:
Do you spray it on and let it dry, or rub it in?
Debbie on June 11, 2014:
Don't mix the oil with iodine. That is EXTREMELY TOXIC AND UNHEALTHY for you!!!!
pamuthe on June 07, 2014:
Definitely going to try.
K Lee Ellis from California, USA on May 21, 2014:
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 on May 02, 2014:
Interesting article. Hadn't heard of any of these before.
moose17 on April 20, 2014:
maybe try mixing both the coffee and tea solution to the lotion, see if it works better.
tasha on April 06, 2014:
Does the tea stain wash off?
Sharon on March 28, 2014:
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.
Elizabeth Tomaszewski from Riverside NJ on March 07, 2014:
WOW! I can't wait to try this
elena on February 25, 2014:
I will try this, it sounds really great
Jennifer from Canada on February 11, 2014:
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!
Gina on January 25, 2014:
Great idea,but does it come off in water,like taking a shower or the pool?
Tatty on January 15, 2014:
For those who don't know where to get all the ingridients, check out Iherb.com, it has it all! ROP388 code gives you $5 to $10 discount, great bargain!
lesliebyars on January 12, 2014:
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 on January 03, 2014:
Going to try this!
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on November 28, 2013:
My favorite it the tea.
cindy on November 28, 2013:
which one is the best tea,coffee or cocoa
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on September 25, 2013:
Yes. There is no specific brand name needed.
karen on September 25, 2013:
I only buy Tesco home brands do any tea bags work
Shaly Criston from USA on August 09, 2013:
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!!
Jackie Nation from NH-> FL on August 05, 2013:
Great Stuff! I love diy tricks and tips.. and money savers!
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on August 04, 2013:
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.
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on July 24, 2013:
Try using a little less cocoa.
diane on July 24, 2013:
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??
Bram from Amsterdam on July 21, 2013:
Gonna try these tips out for sure.
Heather on July 04, 2013:
Tried this. Yea do not use body butter for the cocoa recipe.
Amanda on June 30, 2013:
For me this did not work, and we had tried both, coco, and tea.
Darline on June 24, 2013:
Which one is the strongest?
Shadaan Alam from India on June 17, 2013:
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.
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on June 10, 2013:
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?
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on May 13, 2013:
Exfoliating gets rid of your dead skin so the color can be better absorbed.
Tiffany on May 13, 2013:
And the exfoliating is so your still does sluff off while your applying and rubbing in? Thanks. :-)))
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on May 13, 2013:
The unscented aspect is more so that the two scents don't combine and make a weird or bad smell.
Tiffany on May 13, 2013:
Hi. I love the cocoa and lotion. I was wondering if it really makes a difference if the lotion is unscented? Thanks :-)
Herbie on May 13, 2013:
OMG!! How unique! Coffee does work??!?
Jim Laughlin from Connecticut on April 15, 2013:
Any recipe for sunscreen? I burn so easily.
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on April 14, 2013:
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.
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on April 14, 2013:
Great ideas for making your own self-tanners!
Thanks and voted up and sharing!
C E Clark from North Texas on April 14, 2013:
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.
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on April 13, 2013:
It hasn't so far. Just make sure it's dry before you get dressed.
Debbie L on April 13, 2013:
I am wondering if it will stain your clothes? Otherwise I think it's a great idea
Nicole S Hanson from Minnesota on April 05, 2013:
This is wonderful! I love the all natural (and cheap) ways to do this here. Thanks for sharing!
Hamza Arshad from Pakistan on March 31, 2013:
that's really interesting you can make your own tanner ..mindblowing!!!
Rebecca Furtado from Anderson, Indiana on March 27, 2013:
So do these actually with stand showers and pools. Does your tan come off in the pool. Just wondering?
Jennifer Ratcliffe from Oklahoma on March 27, 2013:
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! :)
Christin Sander from Midwest on March 24, 2013:
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 from Australia on March 23, 2013:
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.
Melissa from Canada on March 20, 2013:
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 on March 20, 2013:
So interesting! I have never heard of homemade tanning lotions. Think I might just have to try the cocoa one :)
Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on March 20, 2013:
From what I have gathered, this is the most popular by far. It's so simple too!
Janet Giessl from Georgia country on March 20, 2013:
This is so great. I have never heard of making your own tanning lotion. I like the one with the cocoa powder.
Pete from Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2013:
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 Kisby from Berkshire, UK on March 20, 2013:
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 from Johnson County, Kansas on March 19, 2013:
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 on March 19, 2013:
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