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How To Pick The Perfect Shade

Tanceuticals Shade Finder

Let’s be real, finding the right shade of self tanner can be a little tricky.

Especially when you’re flying blind and just “guessing” which one will look best on your unique skin.

The goal is to find a natural shade that enhances your complexion and gives an effortless, sunkissed glow.

If you choose something too light, you might not notice much color.

If you choose something too dark, you might think you look ‘orange’ or ‘unnatural’.

Until now, no one has really talked about how to pick the right shade.

It’s usually a guessing game until you land on something that works great for you.

But fear not self tanners, Tanceuticals has your back (and your front)!

We asked our self tanning experts to give us some tips on how people should go about picking the perfect shade for their skin.

Once you go through this quick guide, you’ll be looking tan and amazing in no time!

Before You Choose

Before we get to the different shades that are available, I want to mention a few things that might help you pick the right one…

First, you need to decide what you want out of your tan.

Do you just want a subtle glow? Or do you want a super dark “summer” tan? Maybe it’s something in-between?

The reason I bring this up is some people have no idea what they’re looking for.

That’s fine, but understand it’ll be easier to get what you want if you know what you’re looking for!

Second, realize that everyone’s skin is different and reacts differently to self tanners.

The main ingredient in self tanners that causes your skin to turn “tan” is called DHA. The more DHA that’s in a self tanner, the more pronounced that tan should be.

I say “should” because everyone reacts differently to DHA (and all the other ingredients in the self tanner).

That means you might use an ultra dark tanner, and just get a little glow. While someone else uses that same tanner and gets SUPER dark.

I know that’s not what you want to hear, and it complicates things a bit, but that’s the reality of skin chemistry.

Everyone’s is different!

Third, because of the points above, it might take a little ‘trial-and-error’ to figure out exactly what works best for you.

So if you try out a self tanner and it doesn’t give you the results you want, don’t FREAK OUT!

You can always try a different shade, try out a different consistency (lotion vs mousse vs serum, etc) and try some of the tips and tricks we’ll get to later in this post.

Just remember to breathe and enjoy the process of finding the perfect self tanner for your unique skin tone and chemistry! 😊

OK Here Are The 5 Shades...

So now that you have an idea of what you want to look like and realize this might take a bit of ‘trial-and-error”, lets go over the different shades that are available.

Just as an FYI, this list will go from LIGHTEST to DARKEST…


As the name implies, this is the lightest shade that we make. It’s really designed as a “gradual” self tanner that let’s you build up color until you reach the shade you like best.

That said, this is generally used by very pale and fair-skinned people who just want to add a bit of color to their skin.

It won’t be dramatic and your friends, family and coworkers won’t notice a huge change in your skin tone.

They’ll just think you have a little “glow”.

If you use this overnight and you want it to be darker, you can use it the next night. In fact, you can keep using it until it doesn’t get any darker and you’re happy with your color.

2.  DARK

This is our MOST POPULAR shade and works well for the majority of people who try it.

Even though we called this our Dark shade, it’s more of a “medium” for many people.

This will definitely give you some color and people will notice a change.

However, if you’re super pale and aren’t used to using self tanners, it may be a bit dark for you (in which case you can mix it with your regular body moisturizer to soften the color).

On the other hand, if you tan naturally and your skin leans to the darker side, this one may not be dark enough for you.

You may put it on and not notice a HUGE change in your skin color.

But in general, this is the shade many prefer to start with and experience really good results with!


This shade is only found in our “face and body serums”. It produces a color slightly darker than our Dark shade for the face.

In addition to DHA (the coloring agent in self tanners), this shade/serum also includes Erythrulose.

Erythrulose is a high-end coloring ingredient that produces a slightly darker, but still natural-looking tan.

So overall this shade is a very beautiful and smooth bronze color, but keep in mind it’s a touch darker than our regular dark lotions.


For most of the year, this is the darkest shade we make!

It’s called Ultra Dark for a reason—this one gets you extremely dark compared to your usual skin color.

The reason for that is this formula contains a very high percentage of DHA, which is the ingredient that makes all self tanners produce that bronze glow you know and love.

Of course, what skin color you ultimately end up with after using it depends on your unique skin chemistry.

But this shade should give you a very nice, very dark tan that you’ll love!


Here's something fun for those who want to get as dark as possible...

Our Extreme Dark shade is a limited edition lotion that’s only available at certain times throughout the year.

We call it EXTREME because it contains one of the highest concentrations of DHA that’s commercially available.

If this doesn’t give you a very dark self tan, then nothing will! 

How To Choose The Perfect Shade

Ok so now that you know what shades are out there, it’s time to choose one!

Again, because everyone’s skin is different, and everyone reacts differently to self tanner, the following should serve more as a guide versus rules set-in-stone.

If you have pale or fair skin, and/or just want a subtle glow, then choose our LIGHT shade.

If you have a medium skin tone, or are fair and want to look noticeably darker, choose our DARK shade.

If your skin is naturally tan, and/or you want a very dark bronze color, chose our ULTRA DARK shade.

If you want to get as dark as humanly possible given your skin tone (or if other self tanners don't seem to do much), try our EXTREME DARK shade.


In addition to all our “body” products, we also have 4 self tanners that are designed specifically for the face.

When we make a face self tanner, we always make it a tiny bit “lighter” than what the corresponding body self tanner is.

So for example, our Dark Face lotion will give slightly less color than our Dark Body lotions and mousses.

And our Ultra Dark Face lotion wil give slightly less color than our Ultra Dark Body lotions and mousses.

The reason for this is most people want their face to be a little lighter in color and tan than their body.

It can look weird if your face tan is darker than your body (trust us on this).

That said, you can always mix and match the face lotion shades with our body lotion shades to suit your preferences.

But by and large, if someone uses our Light body shade, then they’ll want to use our Light face shade. Same with our Dark and Ultra Dark body products.

You don’t have to do it that way, but that’s what we recommend (at least to start)!


Before we conclude this post, we wanted to give you a few final tips to finding the perfect shade.

  • Be wary of cheap, orange-based tans

Drugstore and bargain-bin self tanners can use sub-par ingredients and base colors that leave you with the notoriously awful orange-colored tan. And when it comes to self tanner, orange is most definitely not the new black. So stick to high quality, professional-grade formulas that will deliver a beautifully bronzed sunless tan.

  • Use a separate self tanner for your face

As we mentioned earlier, you usually want your face tan to be a tad bit lighter than your body color. In addition, a good face self tanner is formulated differently and is designed or the unique skin found on your face and neck. Once you try a face self tanner, you’ll never use a “body tanner” on your face again!

  • When in doubt, choose a lighter shade

If you’re stuck between shades, choose the lighter option. It’s much easier to build a deeper tan with another application if the first one isn’t quite right. You don’t want to go too dark too quickly. It’s easy to make a light tan darker. But it’s pretty much impossible to make a dark tan lighter (outside of exfoliation and time)!

  • Stick to the seasons

As a (very) general rule of thumb, use a lighter shade in the winter and go a bit darker when summer rolls around. That more closely mimics how people naturally tan. Although, we know many people and celebs that like to be very dark all year round!

It's Time To Get A Beautiful Tan!

You’ve probably guessed by now that the key to a beautifully-bronzed glow is picking the right shade self tanner.

And hopefully this guide steers you in the right direction…

If you’re ready to get started finding the perfect shade for YOU, be sure to check out our kits.

These professionally-chosen packages contain everything you need for the perfect self tan.

You can save a bundle, and they’re organized by SHADE!

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