Self-Tanning Without a Mitt: 8 Best Alternatives

If you’re a fan of sunless tanning products like self-tanners and bronzers, you likely know how important tanning mitts are for achieving an even, streak-free golden glow. Tanning mitts help you evenly distribute the product for a natural-looking tan without staining your hands orange in the process. But what do you do when you don’t have a tanning mitt on hand?

Luckily, there are many common household items that make excellent alternatives to traditional tanning mitts when you’re in a pinch. With a bit of prep and technique, you can get a flawless sunless tan using items you already have at home.

Keep reading to discover my top picks for tanning mitt alternatives and how to use them effectively.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Tanning Mitt?

Reusable Tanning Mitts

Reusable tanning mitts are my number one recommendation for a quality tanning mitt alternative. Although they require an initial investment, reusable mitts made of microfiber or velvet last for months or years with proper care. They provide excellent control for an even application, without soaking up all your product.

Benefits of Reusable Tanning Mitts:

  • Eco-friendly and cost-effective. Save money compared to disposable mitts.
  • Durable and high-quality materials. Withstand repeated use and washings.
  • Better application control. Velvet and microfiber allow product to glide smoothly onto skin.
  • Reduced bacteria risk. Reuse your own mitt instead of shared disposable mitts.

To use, simply wash mitt with soap and water before each application and allow to fully dry. Store in a clean, dry place between uses. Replace when mitt becomes worn.

Cotton Gloves

Cotton Gloves for tan

An old pair of cotton gloves from your closet can make a handy tanning mitt stand-in. Cotton gloves are gentle on skin and allow you to evenly apply self-tanner with your hands inside the gloves.

Using Cotton Gloves Effectively:

  • Wash and dry hands thoroughly before putting on gloves.
  • Apply self-tanner directly onto the gloves, then smooth onto skin.
  • Pay extra attention to streak-prone areas like wrists, ankles, and knuckles.
  • Wash after each use and allow to fully dry before reusing.

With some practice, cotton gloves give great results! Just be sure to apply pressure evenly and blend well.

Makeup Brushes

Who knew your makeup brushes could help you get a gorgeous, streak-free tan? The soft bristles allow for precise application, and the brushes don’t soak up excess product.

Benefits of Using Makeup Brushes:

  • Target specific areas like joints, wrists, and ankles.
  • Avoid bacteria transfer from hands.
  • Achieve flawless, professional results.
  • Variety of brush sizes and shapes for different areas.

When using makeup brushes, experiment with techniques like dabbing, swirling, and sweeping to blend self-tanner seamlessly. Clean brushes thoroughly after each use.


Sponges make excellent tanning mitt alternatives because they allow you to blend self-tanner evenly for a natural looking glow. Both natural sea sponges and synthetic sponges work beautifully.

Tips for Using Sponges:

  • Dampen sponge and wring out excess water before applying product.
  • Use a light, bouncing motion to stipple and blend.
  • Cover every area thoroughly, including behind knees and between fingers.
  • Rinse sponge extremely well after use and allow to dry fully.

With the right technique, sponges distribute product smoothly without absorbing too much.


If you want a hands-free self-tanning application, clean socks slid over your hands work in a pinch! Socks allow you to evenly apply product all over without transferring it directly onto your hands.

Using Socks Effectively:

  • Choose thick, white cotton socks to avoid color transfer.
  • Slip one sock over each hand and apply product as usual.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after removing socks to remove residue.
  • Use a fresh pair of socks for each application.

The sock method isn’t the most precise, but it gets the job done without hand staining in a bind.

Toilet Paper or Tissues

Toilet Paper or Tissues for tan

If you have no other options, toilet paper or tissues can work to blend and buff self-tanner when used carefully. This isn’t the most effective method, but it’s better than nothing!

Using TP/Tissues the Right Way:

  • Apply product sparingly onto skin first.
  • Gently pat and buff product in using TP/tissues.
  • Use a very light touch to avoid pulling or streaking.
  • Target smaller areas rather than full-body applications.
  • Minimize waste by only using what you need.

TP and tissues are best for sheer formulas or blending edges rather than achieving full coverage.


With their soft, gentle fabric, washcloths are ideal for smoothening on self-tanner evenly and minimizing streaks. For best results, choose a high-quality washcloth without loose threads.

Tips for Using a Washcloth:

  • Dampen cloth slightly before applying product. This helps it glide smoothly.
  • Gently buff product in circular motions without excessive friction.
  • Rinse cloth extremely well after use to prevent staining.
  • Wash with soap and water after each use and allow to dry fully.

Washcloths blend easily for a flawless finish. Just take care not to over-rub.

Makeup Wedges

Similar to sponges, pointed makeup wedges made of absorbent foam are another handy tanning mitt stand-in. They allow precise application, especially in hard-to-reach spots.

Benefits of Makeup Sponges:

  • Precision tip access for hands, wrists, ankles, and knees.
  • Smooth, streak-free blending when used properly.
  • Disposable options available for convenience.
  • Easy to maneuver into creases and tight spots.

When using a makeup wedge, start by dampening it slightly and bouncing/stippling product onto skin. Rinse and replace wedges frequently for best results.

Beauty Blenders

Made popular by the cosmetics industry, Beautyblenders (brand name) or beauty blenders (generic) are soft, spongy makeup applicators that allow flawless application and blending. Beauty blenders work fantastically as an alternative to tanning mitts.

Tips for Using Beauty Blenders:

  • Dampen and lightly squeeze out excess water before use.
  • Bounce and roll blender over skin to stipple self-tanner evenly.
  • Use fingertips to blend perimeter edges for a seamless look.
  • Wash thoroughly after each use to prevent staining. Disposable options available.

With the right technique, beauty blenders distribute and blend product like a dream for streak-free perfection!

Key Takeaways on Tanning Mitt Alternatives

After exploring numerous options for DIY tanning mitts, let’s recap some key pointers:

  • Reusable mitts provide the best user experience and results but require an upfront cost. With proper care, they last for many uses.
  • Disposable household items like cotton gloves, socks, and makeup wedges allow a decent application in a pinch. Use a gentle touch and wash hands after use to avoid staining.
  • Tools like brushes, sponges, and washcloths excel when the right technique is used. Practice smooth, even blending and stippling motions.
  • Sheer products and lighter application work best with makeshift tools like TP and tissues when applied carefully.
  • Prep tools properly before use and clean thoroughly after use for hygiene and longevity.

No matter which alternative you choose, having the right technique is key. Prep your skin, use a light hand, blend areas together for a seamless look, and wash all tools thoroughly after use.

With a bit of practice and the right approach, you can achieve a streak-free sunless tan using common household items in place of a tanning mitt. Say goodbye to stained palms!

Now that you know the secrets to smoothly applying self-tanner without a mitt, you can get a gorgeous golden glow anytime. While tanning mitts are preferred for the most seamless results, in a pinch, a variety of handy household items make excellent stand-ins.

So next time you go to fake bake and realize you’re out of mitts, don’t stress! With this comprehensive guide to mitt alternatives, you have plenty of options to get a natural-looking, even tan without the dreaded orange palms.

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