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I’m going to be honest, this sunless tanner has been a tough DIY to crack.  I suppose it’s because sunless tanners, in general, are sort of finicky.  One wrong move and you’re left with steaks, a weird orange hue, a disgusting smell, or some horrid combination of all of the above.

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After doing some research, I decided that I was going to try to use coffee as a main ingredient. This is because coffee has the dual effect of giving skin a bronzed appearance immediately after application and can build skin color when applied consistently over some time.  It does so very gradually (sorry to those of you wishing to be super tan on very short notice) which means it’s hard to mess up: you aren’t likely to get streaks or a weird color that doesn’t work with your skin tone.  (Bonus: it smells pretty good too!)

I also wanted this to be a very light lotion.  Others I have made (basically a variation of my Soft Hands Lotion) were much too heavy for the skin and I was constantly worried that I would end up staining my clothes or furniture.  This sunless tanner ended up being pretty much a “gel” though it has the basics of a lotion.  It sinks into the skin quite quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.  (Like all other tanning lotions, however, I still exercise caution by wearing dark clothes after I slather it on and sleep in old/dark sheets that I won’t mind if they happen to get a little something on them.)

Lastly, the base is made from skin-beneficial oils such as coconut oil, vitamin E oil, sweet almond oil, as well as cocoa butter and aloe vera juice (optional) so that you’re softening and nourishing your skin as your build your color.


  • 1 tablespoon cocoa butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon emuslifying wax
  • optional: 1/2-1 teaspoon sericite mica (it’s to give your skin a nice sheen to it)
  • 1/2 cup really dark brewed coffee, still hot
  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera juice (optional, can replace with water or more coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • optional: 10 drops of vanilla essential oil (or whatever else you think would smell nice with coffee)


1. Place your cocoa butter, vitamin E oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, and emulsifying wax into a small pot.


2. Heat your oils and emulsifying wax over very low heat.

3. Stir every couple minutes.  The emulsifying wax will be the last thing to melt usually.

4. While your oils heat up, pour your hot coffee, aloe vera juice, and vegetable glycerin into a small bowl or jar.  Stir well so that the vegetable glycerin gets dissolved into the hot liquid.


5. Once your oils have melted, remove the pot from the heat and let the oils cool slightly at room temperature.  You’ll notice that they start to be more viscous as they cool. Stir occasionally as this process happens.


6. Add in your sericite mica, if using, and stir well.

7.  Slowly start to add in your coffee mixture into your oils.  Pour in about 2 tablespoons and whisk, add and whisk…until all of the liquid is incorporated.  It might look chunky or thick at first but keep adding and stirring and it will start to look like a lotion.

8.  Let cool further at room temperature until it has started to thicken slightly.

9. While it’s still only somewhat thickened, pour in your sunless tanner into a bottle (I prefer a disc-top bottle but you can use a pump bottle as well).  It will further thicken over the next 24 hours but I’ve made it to be more of a “gel” so it should still be relatively easy to pour.

10.  After you’ve showered and lightly exfoliated, apply a thin coat of the sunless tanner all over your body.  You can do 2 coats if you’re looking for more immediate color but be careful not to lay it on too thick or you could risk staining your clothes.  (Note: I have never actually had it stain any clothes at all but I am still erring on the side of caution. The last think I want to do is stain any of my…or your…clothes!)

11. I normally wear dark, loose clothing after I put it on.  If I’m going somewhere that night, I’ll just wear the dark clothing for 30-60 minutes so I’m sure it has all been absorbed super well and then I put on my regular clothes.  I suppose what I’m describing is just regular sunless tanner etiquette!  This one may be DIY but it still follows pretty much the same principles (it just doesn’t smell bad or leave you with orange steak! Thank goodness!).

The color will continue to build over about a week of regular use and then you can back down to maintenance applications every few days.