DIY Self-Tanner Fail….A Cautionary Tale

diy self tanner

I know you might find this hard to believe….but not every post I do for this blog turns out perfectly. :-)  Witness the great potato crash of August, 2011 and the hard boiled eggs disaster of January, 2012!

But most of the time, when I have a “fail”…I don’t waste your time and mine sharing it on the blog. I just move onto the next idea. For example, a few months ago I attempted to make my own version of gluten-free top ramen noodles for my son Kell because he used to LOVE to eat those pre-celiacs. I worked so long and hard on them…and they were AWFUL! :-( But I just chalked it up to experience, dried my tears, and moved on.

Today I had another unforeseen outcome to a DIY attempt…but I feel like it was such a spectacular FAILURE that I simply had to share it as a cautionary tale if nothing else. :-)

So…what WAS this spectacular failure you ask?

I’m a little embarrassed to even say I attempted such a silly idea!  lol. I mean I really should have known better.

But it’s getting so hot here and I was dying to put shorts on and my legs are so WHITE!  I let my desperation cloud my judgment. :-)


diy self tanner

After an embarrassingly long amount of time spent researching this…I decided that DIY self-tanners mainly followed two “recipes”. One using black tea and one using cocoa powder.

Since I didn’t have any tea on hand…I decided to go with the cocoa powder technique. In hindsight I think I might have had better success with the “tea tan”…but the world will never know because I am NOT doing this again. ;-)

All the cocoa powder self-tanner recipes were about the same:


diy self tanner

Mix together cocoa powder and any kind of lotion at a 1:4 ratio (1/4 cup of cocoa powder, 1 cup of lotion) in a bowl.

Rub it onto your skin after taking an exfoliating bath or shower. (So your skin is nice and ready for a smooth application.)


diy self tanner

diy self tanner

After applying a tiny amount of my cocoa powder fake tanner, the results weren’t too bad. They weren’t that GOOD, but they weren’t that bad either. You can see the tiniest bit of “tan” there.

But honestly, if you didn’t KNOW I’d put on self-tanner, you would never notice a difference, it was so slight. So I decided a second application was in order…and that is when things went very wrong.


diy self tanner

The more I rubbed, the streakier it got! Ummm…even my lily white legs looked better than this mess!

And not only that….but even after I let it dry THOROUGHLY…all it took was one gentle swipe with my fingers and you got this……

diy self tanner

Wow. lol. I’m glad I wasn’t COUNTING on this self-tanner session to work because I would have been very disappointed!


diy self tanner

Luckily it was more of a nuisance than anything….of course I’m not sure if this bath towel will ever be the same. :-/

Moral of the story….save your sanity and your towels and stick with your spray-on tans, or your fake tan in a bottle (just don’t go in those evil suntan beds! Just say NO!)


In case you were curious about the other DIY Self-Tanner that I DIDN’T try, here it is. Make sure to let us know if you try it out. :-)


diy self tanner

Black Tea Self-Tanner


1 cup Water
5 Black Tea Bags

diy self tanner


Brew tea in one cup of HOT water. After it has cooled, put in a spray bottle and apply. Allow to dry completely before dressing or you might stain your clothing.




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  1. Kel says

    Try bean thread vermicelli, aka glass noodles. They’re not very similar to ramen, but they cook fast, are pleasant to slurp, and have a nice texture. Good for a ramen sub cooked in some bouillon or ramen seasoning. At the Asian market or probably on Amazon.

    • Dawn says

      I bought some of these from Costco 2 weeks ago. They are a great sub for Ramen. Not exactly the same but a great sub for our family. No nasty ingredients either and totally wheat and gluten free. Ingred: peas, green beans, and water.

  2. melissa says

    lol…ok, now that ive stopped laughing, or at least its down to giggles only…im sorry that didnt work out for you. my thought is this, i wonder if it would have worked better if you used coconut oil or evoo instead of a lotion. an maybe if there is a dark chocolate powder. tho that could be more expensive to do a fake tan. now im wondering if it would work or not…lol. i dont have the dark chocolate powder, but i do have regular powder and both the evoo an coconut oil.

    tho i dont really need to tan, im a darker skin person in the first place, but i think im goin to give that a try…lol

  3. trish says

    I love your blog, thank you Jillee I’m wondering if turmeric tea would work?

    • Mercy says

      Only if you want to look yellow, but it will work very, very well!
      Turmeric stains like crazy.

    • says

      Oh my goodness, do not try turmeric! I use it a lot in Indian food and it stains so badly! You will come out looking yellow and probably stain your bathtub, towels, clothing and anything else it touches. I save a special spoon for cooking Indian food because it stains so much. Even plastic!

  4. says

    Thanks Jillee for giving me the biggest belly laugh in ages!! I nearly fell off my chair when I scrolled down to the pic of your streaky leg! Rest assured though, I am definitely laughing with you, not at you. After many self tan mishaps my daughter and I were discussing only yesterday our plans for this year. We are both pretty white at the mo, although it is so cold here in England that I am probably blue!!

    • says

      lol! Thanks Louise! Reading this made ME laugh out loud…for real! hehehe. Belly laughs are good for the soul! Even if they are aimed at ourselves sometimes! :-)

  5. Lucy Smith says

    Hi Jill

    With all the DIY you try, there are bound to be times when a trial doesn’t work out as good as you’d like. You’ve had much more success than failures, so I have the highest regard for all the great things you are successful with! I am sure that white towel will come up lovely with your home made washing powder!!! I don’t doubt you at all Jill!!

    I am grateful for all the great items you share – love the hints & tips to use household items for cleaning etc., I usually share them on my FB page and have some friends who share them too! Of course I do pass on your website details too!! ;)

    I’ve shared the FAB mattress cleaner with quite a few friends – love a clean bed!!

    Keep up the great work you do!! Hope life is treating you & yours well!

    Lucy UK

    • says

      Awwww Lucy! You are so sweet! Thank you. :-) Because of people like you I definitely will keep on trying….even if there are a few “fails” along the way. :-)

  6. Debi Savicky says

    just to let you know, I tried the tea and it didn’t do anything, total waste of tea and time!

    • says

      Thank you for sharing Debi! Like I said, I was NOT going to try another one! LOL. But hopefully you just saved another poor soul who might have. ;-)

      • Regina says

        Good thing you didn’t waste your time trying the tea version. I, too, tried it and it does not work, not even the slightest bit. Then I had to clean the bathtub afterwards. Why do I fall for those silly things???

  7. Txgg says

    HaHa that sounds like some cockamamie thing I might try! But fortunately I did not. I used Jergens Daily Moisturizer Natural Glow. And it worked beautifully. I am now on Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Village blending in with the “natives”. At least no one at home said anything because it looks so natural. Thanks for the laugh though!

    • Kristen says

      Agreed! I bought some and started using it with skepticism, but it works great! Very gradual too, so it doesn’t raise too many eyebrows :) Also, it now includes spf 20…win-win!

  8. Tres says

    Pintester I believe tested the tea self tanner and had no luck with it other than dirtying a bathtub. I say rock your white legs!

    • Audrey says

      As a very fair-skinned person myself, I agree…”rock your white legs!” That’s what I do. :)

      • says

        Yep…gonna be rockin’ the lily white legs (with sunscreen of course)! It’s too darn hot to wear long pants all summer! lol

  9. Terri S says

    ha ha!! thanks for saving the rest of us white-legged woman from this cocoa powder horror!!

      • Carol Koessel says

        Ok, I used TEA and COCOA powder-from an online recipe. I had the same result you did! The GOOD news is, it doesn’t stain your skin, so you can just shower it off. I, as well as the bathroom smelled like some exotic tea/cocoa dessert drink! I am so happy to see I am not the only one who is brave enough to venture into new depths to refine my beauty!!!! HAHA!