How to Apply Self-Tanner on Your Entire Back

Even the no-man’s-land between your shoulders. 

You’re self-tanning the night before a vacation, and the dead center of your back is one pale void of out-of-reach skin. Self-tanning expert Nichola Joss is about to go all Heloise on this situation.


Raid the kitchen. 
“Get a long-handled wooden

spoon, put a tanning mitt on the spoon end, then tie it with a rubber band,” Joss says. (Don’t cook much? Try a long-handled loofah.) For the back, Joss likes fast-absorbing mousses that spread on evenly. She recommends a Tan Applicator Mitt, which feels like a giant foundation sponge, and St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse. An ultrafine aerosol formula helps with touching up mistakes (try Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Mist).

Double down. 
Use two pumps of mousse on the mitt at a time, and make sure the product is rubbed into the mitt itself so there is no visible excess. “Otherwise, you get spills that can look splotchy or streaky,” Joss says. First tan where you can reach — neck and shoulders, waist and lower back — with your gloved hand. Next attach the glove to your handle and apply two more squirts. Sweep the tool “up and down, from side to side, making sure you cover the whole middle,” Joss says. Finish “with large circular motions around the hip and lower back area” to blend.

Fix mistakes. 
The minefield, Joss says, is your spine just above your shoulder blades, which even if covered can be poorly blended. She uses a mist formula here to fix harsh lines. “Gently bend forward, bowing your head, and raise your arm [with the canister] up over your back,” she says. “Spray from side to side from above your head, and the mist falls gently and evenly onto the back.” Keep at least six inches of distance between the can and your skin.