I promise this isn’t some spammy magazine article. It just sort of looks like one. But seriously. This really is what happened when I used sunless tanner on my boyfriend to cover up his farmer’s tan.
Sunless tanners sort of terrify me. The last time I used a sunless tanner was toward the end of the 80’s. I distinctly remember being very very orange by the end. And of course the tops of my toes and my knees and elbows were uncomfortably darker than the rest of my body. For these reasons I have avoided sunless tanners like the plague ever since.
Last month I received a deluxe sample of St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse in my allure beauty box. Basically a sunless tanner in a pump bottle. Much thinner than a hair mousse, this sunless tanner goes on clear. The formula is supposed to allow you to be able to dress immediately after application. However I found that this product was still slightly tacky to the touch for about a half hour after applying.
Reviews for the St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse agree that this sunless tanner gives you a natural looking tan. Nothing too dark. Just more of a subtle glow. While subsequent applications build color for darker looking skin.
Still, as a Gen-exer who’s survived big hair, orange skin and what is probably the worst fashion decade ever – I was still hesitant to give this sunless tanner a try. So I turned my boyfriend (who is incredibly WONDERFUL btw) into a guinea pig.
My boyfriend often works outside for this job. As a result, he’s developed quite the wicked farmer’s tan. If you’ve ever had a serious farmer’s tan, then you know there’s not coming back from it. At least not until the middle of winter with three feet of snow on the ground.
So, as Greg (the BF) has zero plans for going shirtless this summer, I decided to try out this sunless tanner on this chest. That way, if this sunless tanner turned his skin orange AF, he and I were going to be the only two people to see it.
Here is the before photo. Greg was adamant that I hid his face. Not because he’s self conscious, but because he’s a ghost on social media. He’s the kind of guy who enjoys private moments, well – privately. (I know. He’s already wondering WTF he’s gotten himself into.) Therefore, in this photo he has a frowny face. After all, his chest is white AF compared to his face, neck and arms.
After the first application Greg no longer glowed in the dark. However, there also wasn’t really a drastic change. Nothing was orange though, which was awesome. So the next day we decided to try it again.
By the third application, Greg’s fake tan darkened considerably. And it definitely looked more natural than I had imagined it would. (Thus the super happy face!)
And a side by side comparison. The lighting is unfortunately different. Not because I lacked the foresight to take photos at the same time each day, but because it’s been like Seattle in Southwestern Virginia lately. The rain just never stops. (Also I lacked the foresight to take photos at the same time each day.)
The results of this sunless tanner were pretty impressive at tackling Greg’s farmer’s tan. Especially when you compare them to what I had to work with over twenty years ago. You do, however, have to be really careful about applying it. Because you can’t see this tanner once you put it on, you won’t know if you botched your application until after the fact.
Here’s a photo where I had grabbed Greg’s arm, after the product had dried, but before I’d had a chance to wash my hands. (Oh no!)
We also found that the color started to lighten within a few days. By the end of the week, Greg’s chest looked nothing like the after photo. And the sunless tanner became uneven as it faded. The parts of Greg’s chest that had hair stayed darker than the other parts of his chest. So it almost looked like he had rolled around in dirt.
All in all, though, I think that the St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse is a decent product. While it’s not something I would probably ever use, it is perfect for hiding a farmer’s tan. I think this product would be great summer events or weddings that require something like a strapless dress.
Tips for Using A Sunless Tanner
If you’re planning to use a sunless tanner this summer, then you’ll want to be sure to exfoliate first. This helps to ensure an even looking tan. Otherwise self tanning products tend to look blotchy and will fade unevenly. You can easily make your own custom body scrubs. Or you may like this organic sugar scrub (pictured above) from BK Apothecary.
This moisturizing body polish contains a luxurious combination of sunflower oil, shea butter and authentic monoi de tahiti oil blended together into a nourishing emulsion that resurfaces dry skin. Formulated using organic sugar, this natural body scrub gently removes dead skin and impurities. It also helps skin to attract and retain moisture, while revealing a smooth, dewy glow. (Buy it here.)
After exfoliating your skin in the shower, be sure to apply a moisturizer. You’ll want to apply an oil free, fragrance free moisturizer on your hands as well as on the backs of your heels and on knees and elbows. The skin on these parts of your body tend to be drier than the rest of your skin.
Because dry areas of skin tend to absorb more pigment, applying a moisturizer beforehand will help your sunless tanner look natural and even. When applying a sunless tanning product, you’ll also want to skip these areas every other application for a more natural look.
If you find that sunless tanners dry out your skin, opt for a natural self tanning product. Essenu’s Steal A Tan™ Dark Indoor Sunless Tanning Lotion not only contains natural tanning boosters, it also contains naturally moisturizing shea and cocoa butters as well as aloe vera and green tea. It’s also formulated with marine elastin and caffeine extract to help to tighten and tone your skin for a smooth, beautiful tan. (Buy it here.)
3. Apply in a cool, dry location.
Additionally, always apply your sunless tanner in a cool, dry area. You definitely don’t want to be a perspiring mess when using a self tanning product. Dead skin cells along with sweat, dirt and oil can cause streaking. This is because dirt and sweat form a barrier between your skin and your sunless tanner preventing an even application. So steer clear of that steamy bathroom and opt for an A/C vent instead.
4. Dust on powder where you tend to sweat.
You may also want to dust the insides of your elbows, armpits, the backs of your knees and, um, under your boobs (Hello?! AMIRITE?) with arrowroot powder once your sunless tanner dries. A talc free alternative to baby powder, arrowroot powder helps to prevent creasing or sweating while the product develops. And, of course, once you’ve done the deed, be sure to wait at least four hours before getting wet to avoid streaking or partially washing off the product.
Are DHA Sunless Tanners Safe?
Though FDA has approved DHA, a “natural” sunless tanning agent as safe for cosmetic use, there is some controversy surrounding this ingredient.
DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, is a chemical derived from beet or cane sugar. Restricted to topical use only, “DHA works by reacting to the amino acids present in the top layer of the skin, the dead cells of the stratum corneum, to create a browning effect.” (Source.) It’s generally believed that DHA is safe to use as a tanning agent as long as you avoid inhaling the product. You should also avoid applying your self tanning product to mucous membranes.
If inhaled, or applied to unapproved areas of the body, DHA has the potential to cause asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cancer. For this reason, spray tans containing DHA are not recommended. Additionally, even with the topical application of a DHA tanning product, there is a risk of an allergic reaction that can lead to itching or even hives.
DHA Free “Tanning” Alternatives
There are other options if you’d like a sunless tanning product that offers a golden glow without DHA. Holly + Nectar sells a Summer Daze Sunless Tanner (pictured above) that’s DHA free. This natural coffee sunless tanner is all natural, vegan, and super moisturizing. Free of harsh chemicals, this natural streak free sunless tanner instead uses a blend of nutrient rich oils and coffee that revitalize skin, add moisture, and give your skin a healthy looking tan.
As if that wasn’t enough, the bonus is the scent! There’s none of the chemical smell that comes with self tanning products that contain DHA. Instead, this natural hazelnut sunless tanner smells like hazelnut and espresso. And, it won’t clog pores! (Buy it here.)
Alternately, you may also like BK Apothecary’s Goddess Glow Body Oil. This ultra hydrating, shimmering body lotion contains a blend of bronze and gold micas to give you a natural, sun-kissed glow. More of a gel than a true oil thanks to the addition of cera bellina wax, this captivating formula is easily absorbed and is satiny-smooth. This product is perfect for temporarily bronzing your skin. (Buy it here.)
I also like this Bronze Goddess Shimmer Body Oil from Naturally Beautiful Skincare. Made with real gold flakes and bronze mica pigment, this light weight body oil smells like a sexy day at the beach! It beautifully tints skin with a slight glowing tan and works like a sheer body makeup blurring any imperfections. Simply put, it’s the perfect way to get a summertime glow without spending time at the tanning bed or getting too much sun. (Buy it here.)
Or, if bronzing oils aren’t your preference you can also try a bronzing makeup stick, like these pictured from River Organics, as well as an all over bronzer mineral makeup foundation from Earthtones Minerals.
For more natural alternatives to sunless tanners, be sure to check out these makeup, beauty and natural skin care favorites. I’d also love to hear about your experiences (good or bad) with sunless tanning products in addition to your favorite beauty products for summer. So be sure to share your thoughts with me in the comments!
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