Save $$ with DIY Self-Tan Lotion

With summer and skin-baring clothes right around the corner, my Casper-white skin is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with; however, I’d rather not spend money on novelty products like self-tanner or spray tans that streak and look more like frost bite than anything else.

SO, I was very excited when I found out the other day that I could make my own self-tanner with black tea and hot water. Not only is it DIY, it’s FREE if you have black tea–and if you don’t? It’s still cheaper than the store-bought tanning products.

What you’ll need:

~4 black tea bags

~2 cups boiling water

~Sponge or spray bottle (Either sponge it on or spray it on, followed by rubbing it down into the skin)

         OR        Optional:

~Cocoa powder

~Body lotion

Let’s do it!

(BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Read the whole post, and CLICK HERE for a short list of answers to some of the points brought up by other readers)

NOTE: While your next step is sitting, take an exfoliating shower to ensure that your skin is clean and oil-free. Then dry off your skin completely before applying your creation.

~Put the 2 cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn the stove off and put the 4 tea bags in and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.

~Stand on top of a towel you don’t care much about or that you don’t care getting dirty. Now, if using a sponge, soak it in the tea and wipe all over your body. If using a spray bottle, fill it and spray on your body (and I recommend rubbing it into your skin afterwards).

~Let your skin dry and then apply another coat if you want a darker shade. Make sure that you are dry when putting clothes on so that they don’t stain.

~If you want an extra kick in your color, slowly mix a little bit of cocoa powder at a time to a handful of body lotion. When your are comfortable with the light brown color, apply it all over your skin and wait for it to dry.

~Tan should last for 3 to 4 days! Yes!

(Pssst! Don’t forget to check out my latest posts about DIY, life as a twenty-something and my rabbit, Francis)

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83 thoughts on “Save $$ with DIY Self-Tan Lotion

  1. How exactly does this work? Does it temporarily stain/tint your skin or is it like a wipe on/wipe off type tan? Also, will the color show up immediately or take time to develop? And if I put more than 4 tea bags in the water, will I get a darker shade?

  2. The trick is to make sure that you prep your skin first: You need to exfoliate with a good sugar scrub first. Exfoliating your skin will “sloff” off all of the old dead skin and allow your skin to “accept” the stain from the tea better. This does work and its so much cheaper than going and paying for a spray tan! It does take several applications, and you have to be careful around those really rough places like knees and elbows.
    The cocoa powder in the lotion trick I have not tried.

  3. Easy way for an even teabag tan:
    Fill bathtub with really hot water. Put 6-8 tea bags in there for 10 minutes, sit in tub for 10 minutes, while exfoliating, and then get out and dry yourself off with an old towel.
    Finish with a lotion.

  4. I haven’t tried this by the steps directed, but I know the concept works. Growing up in the south and defiant about sunscreen, my brothers and I would dab our burns with chilled, wet tea bags. We would end up with dark tea splotches on our not burnt skin, and even dark trickles where the tea ran off our backs.

  5. Well, I have gotten clearance darker makeup and mixed it with lotion in my hand and applied and it worked pretty well. Exfoliating is the key.

  6. I think the reason that this may not be working for some of you is that this recipe is a very low concentration. When I make this self tanner at home, I use one cup of water and 6 tea bags. I also add a vanilla tea bag so I’m not walking around smelling like black tea the whole day. You need to exfoliate really well before you start spraying, make sure that you are completely dry and make sure you rub it in to prevent an uneven coverage. I have been doing this for years because I don’t like all the nasty chemicals that come in store bought self tanning lotions/ sprays. It does take some practice, but once you get the Han of it, it can’t be beat.

  7. FYI – just because it didn’t work for YOU doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others. Comments saying “it don’t work” are useless.

    • How can a comment saying it doesn’t work be useless? Personally, I would like to know if its not going to work before I try it.

      • Well, it’s more useful if they said why it didn’t work. If they just said it didn’t work, what does that tell you? Nothing.

      • All results are different…… For some people it does work and some it doesn’t. Saying it doesn’t I’d very useless because the person who did it probably did it wrong

  8. Years ago when I was a swimming teacher and accidentally got redder than normal…our thing was to sit in a bath of tea…it soothed the burn and your skin tanned. I am going to go back to doing this. Not the burning part though.

    • It is not about being cheap, it is about unknown chemicals people want to avoid in their body. Some people just enjoy doing things themselves, nothing wrong with that. And people are cheap if they want to be.

    • It is not only for the sake of spending less money ( although think about it, what could you do with those five bucks? Where I live I could get a whole day at the pool with those AND a snack from the vending machine) it is also about knowing what you using, be healthier, and more eco friendly. Plus a lot of self tanner make you orange.

    • This does work!! Exfoliate in the tub in order to just tan legs and bum. Step out and dry off. Get a magazine or fan to hurry the drying. While the water is probably mid foot deep, stand up in the tub, start spraying thighs and calves and all over. Let it drip down your legs, set 3-5 seconds then lightly rub in to even coverage. Step out of the tub and stand on a towel. Let the tub drain while you rinse it a little. The tea dilutes. Sit on another towel at the edge of the tub, spin around putting legs in the tub. Spray ankles and feet, then hang out and Pinterest while your feet dry. After sitting 10-20 minutes, spin around and get out. As you stand you can feel your skin is taught. Not a bad side effect! Check your color. If you need darker, repeat. This time the tea is cooler so it feels gross. I promise this will work.

  9. I laugh at some of the comments. Everyone is different. If you took the time to read this article then don’t hate on something that clearly works for some. If it doesn’t work then don’t do it again. If you want to know if it works, then just try it. Geez people. I’m pretty sure most of everyone here has teabags. If you’re a little worried, don’t waste a lot of time and try it on a hidden patch of skin first. If it gives you some color, then do it all over.

  10. Iif you did this, would it be fine to leave the extra tea in the squirt bottle and use it again next time? Or should you steep a new mixture?

  11. ….im very curious about this, excited to try it but I have to admit im not sure if it will work, I hope I am proven wrong :P
    so should I sit in a hot bath with the tea bag solution? or just spray it on me??

  12. Exfoliated like crazy. Made a really concentrated tea (with really good quality tea bags). Used a sponge AND a spray bottle. NOTHING happened. Nothing. Not even a little color. If this really did work well for other people, then it’s probably the best self tanning solution, but it seriously didn’t do a thing for my skin. :/

  13. I have blonde hair…if I try this – will it color my hair?? I am going to Vegas for a week in the beginning of March and have been trying to figure out how to get tan without going to a bed or getting a spray – I hate both of those options!

  14. I tried this and I like it. Hopefully it will last and not wash off in the shower. I like the idea of Cocoa mixing with lotion. I mixed it with my Jergens glow lotion to give it a little more bronzy look. But make sure you mix it really good and apply it evenly or else it will streak. And everyone who says it smells idk what you’re talking about I smell like my cocoa lotion. I like it. Definitely safer for your skin compared to tanning beds. But I think your skin has to be able to tan in the sun in order to be tanned with this. I also shaved and exfoliated twice before I applied it, once before shaving and once after because of the oil/ moisturizers in shaving cream. I also waited like 15 mins after the shower so my skin was dry. These worked for me but if they don’t work for you go to a tanning bed and tan then go but Jergens glow lotion and apply after tanning and every day leading up to the next time you go tanning. But this was definitely worth trying. I’m pleased with the results!! 😀

  15. I’ve always wanted to try a self-tanner but not sure how well any of them work. I really want to get a good tan(even through I am a light tan already). Does this work REALLY well??

  16. I’m just curious as to wether it will sweat off on my white shorts, or the back of my white tank top. So not cool if it does. If it doesn’t work for me, ok, but if it works and then colors my clothes, yuck. I am pretty sure cocoa in lotion sweats off. However, a bit of cocoa brushed through your hair in greasy spots makes an excellent dry shampoo! You know, for those of us who are brunettes and don’t want white residue from powder.

  17. Mmmm… yeah nice try, I think I’ll just stick to my self tanners. There a hassle enough as it is, I don’t need to be adding tea bags and coco in the mix. But if this works for others then that’s great!

  18. I just tried it and it worked great. I used 5 black MANGO tea bags (so I smell more tropical and not just like a tea bag walking around- gross) and 1 cup of BOILING HOT water. I exfoliated in the shower immediately before, and put the solution into an old body spray container. Then I sat outside in the sun and applied about 10 VERY LIGHT coats to my skin. Its more of a mist just enough to make your skin damp and shiny, then let it dry. It took about 25 minutes and looks absolutely beautiful. This is for sure my go-to tanning solution :)

  19. I’m going to try this. I’ve been researching quite a bit as if I use a store bought self tanner I break out all over in hives as I apparently have an allergy to something in the self tanning lotions, sprays, wipes etc. I tried spray tans last year, but that can get a bit pricey to keep up.

  20. This works really well, Lovelies, if you do this before applying it:

    First, shower or wash where you need to apply this. Then, exfoliate the area! Use a nice sugar or salt scrub, or even wash with a tough body brush and soap

    It should stay until you wash it off :] Also, if it’s staining your tub,use a powder cleaner, like Comet, to clean it :)

    • By the way guys, I just made my own and did as I said above, except I used 5 REGULAR tea bags (classic tea) and 1 green tea bag in 1 cup of water. It definitely works, plus it gives a bronzy, glowing look to my pasty legs <3

  21. I think the tea to water ratio depends on your skin. Myself,a pasty white Irish girl, did a 1:7 ratio. It definitely made a colour difference, not the same as your standard self-tanner, but at about an eighth of the cost you can’t complain.

  22. Im curious enough to try it, but since I read the entire thread and noone has yet to comment on whether or not it fades after shower or onto clothing, I will do it tomorrow morning and wear an old white tee all day of my hubbys then take a shower tomorrow night washing as usual. I will post results monday moring :)

  23. Can’t wait to try this , hoping it works! Could you give me advice on what kind of brush I should get to exfoliate?

    • I just tried it. Since its a stain, it shouldn’t come off when you sweat but this is only true after the first wash. There will be residue left from when you first put in on and that can sweat off. But after you wash it off the next morning(I put it on before bed) then it shouldnt sweat off after that.

  24. so bad wanted this to work sounded so good tried it exfoliated sprayed and sprayed got all kinds of stuff brown but not me does not work!!!!!

  25. My goodness, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Great tutorial and a lot of great suggestions in the comments. I am going to try it!

  26. This worked for me! I have tried many self tanners that have either not worked or have had a bad reaction. I tried it exactly as was directed and it did work. The only thing I did different was I went in my back yard and sprayed it on and let the wind and sun dry it. I am very white and two toned due to the fact that I love tshirts and never wear tanks or sleeveless. I sprayed the more white areas heavier than the rest and although I am still two toned it is way less noticeable than before. As for it coming off on your clothes? After I dried I put on a white shirt and wore it the rest of the day and not a spot in the shirt! Took a shower that evening and there was a slight fade in color but still looked better than my stark white! I do think that 2 cups water is way too much. Think next time I will mix it with just 1 cup cause I had way too much left over. This is not a permanent fix but a great solution for quick fix!! Will definitely be doing this again!!

    • I think I will try it on my legs first and see how it looks. That way if it’s blotchy, I can just cover it up with pants.

  27. Pingback: Save $$ with DIY Self-Tan Lotion…Update | The Post-College Revelations

  28. I used 1.5 cups water, 8 tea bags, and a folded up paper towel (ran out of sponges). I exfoliated with a candy came salt scrub and dried thoroughly. I rubbed down my whole body twice and it worked. I wished it was darker but it was definitely a noticeable difference. I don’t stink and I’m not sticky. I wouldn’t recommend doing this daily but it’s a nice quick fix.

    • Finally tried this. Used 11 recyled lipton tea bags 1/2 cup boiling water. Steep. Not dark enough microwaved 2 min.Sponged on one leg left the other as the control group. Did 2 coats then inspected. Not working looked at other leg-wait it is working now that I compare. Did the other leg and face. Used space heater to dry the coats. 12 coats later look quite tan. I stopped counting 25 minutes after starting and after about 15 coats. This does work but not for the faint of heart. It is a ton of work. At the end I resorted to pouring the remainder in a spray bottle and misting my face. This is much easier. I will touch up again tomorrow. I probably will never do my whole body again just my face so I don’t have to use concealer everyday. I just look healthier. I am happy with this because I can’t use sunless tanners cause the smell makes me wretch.

  29. I don’t understand why people are asking if it really works or not …. Clearly it works for some people and not others for what ever reason so the best thing to do if you got the stuff at home or even i you dont it doesnt cost that much is to just try it if it works than that’s awesome if not try something else.

  30. My grandmother used this method during WW2 because she couldn’t get ‘stockings’. she also used a pencil up the back of her leg to simulate the seam on stockings. and you know, haters gonna hate. it worked then, it’ll work now. Keep up the good blog!

  31. I feel like the people who have a problem with this may be using black tea with orange pekoe in it too. You need to use pure black tea.

  32. My sister has beautiful porcelain white skin, and I have naturally darker skin. Both shades are beautiful. Why change the way God made you?

    • I read through this entire thread and now I m dead inside. I no longer desire to be tan. I agree with Kayla. I m white, and I guess I m going to stay that way.

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