How to Get a Tan Without Getting Freckles

by Barbie Carpenter ; Updated September 28, 2017

Those ultraviolet rays might create a sun-kissed glow, but they just might result in freckles as well. Prevent those pigmented spots, which are a sign of sun damage, and stick to a self-tanner to protect your skin. You don't need a tropical getaway to enjoy a bronzed glow, either -- you can rock your freckle-free tan year-round when you use a self-tanner. Wear an SPF 30 sunscreen daily to protect your faux tan from freckles.

Eliminate unwanted hair.

Shave or wax your soon-to-be-tanned skin to ensure a hair-free surface on which to apply the self-tanner. The hair-removal process can remove self-tanner, so do it before you bronze your skin.

Exfoliate and moisturize.

Massage an oil-free exfoliating scrub into your skin to buff away dead skin cells and create a smooth application surface. Then apply a lightweight moisturizer to your elbows, knees and heels, which will quickly absorb the self-tanner. Along with a light layer of moisturizer on thick skin, your skin should be completely dry before you apply the self-tanner.


  • While any skin you want to tan needs to be exfoliated, some areas require extra care. Spend more time exfoliating the areas with thicker skin: elbows, knees and heels. This extra effort will ensure an even application of self-tanner from head to toe.

Apply the self-tanner.

Massage the self-tanner into your skin in a circular, upward motion, one body part at a time. Begin at one ankle, moving up the leg, and then start the other leg. Apply a thin, even layer to avoid overdoing it and ending up too dark.


  • Several types of self-tanners work using this method, including a foam mousse or creamy lotion. Choose the right shade of self-tanner by staying close to your natural skin tone. Those with fair skin tones, for example, should use a lighter formula than those with deeper olive skin.

Tan your complexion.

Massage self-tanner into your face last. Use a lightweight moisturizer to hydrate freckle-prone spots before application. Then focus on working the self-tanner into non-freckly areas, massaging the tanner outward to even out your complexion. Avoid applying too much self-tanner to your nose and upper lip, which are more likely to absorb the self-tanner and, thus, appear darker.


  • Create a sun-kissed glow without the self-tanner by working a bronzer into your makeup routine. After exfoliating your face, apply a sheer foundation with a built-in bronzer. Or use a powder bronzer applied to your cheekbones, bridge of your nose and temples for a naturally radiant look.

Let it dry.

Wait at least 10 minutes to allow the self-tanner to dry, and always follow manufacturer recommendations on drying time. Don't put your clothes back on until the self-tanner has set, to ensure you don't stain them.


  • Salons offer a variety of artificial tanning options, including spray tanning and airbrush tanning, which often use similar ingredients as at-home self-tanners. These options might be right for you if you'd prefer leaving the freckle-free tanning to the professionals.

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About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.