The drawbacks of self-tanning used to be relatively many: from mouldy biscuit stench to a zebra finish and uneven “shedding”, most of us have had misadventures in tanning in our time, ranging from the ‘can get away with it’ to the ‘can’t possibly leave the house’ genre of disaster. Self-tanning, however, has come on leaps and bounds since its invention (women used tea bags to ‘get a glow’ in WWII).
The tanning agent DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is now often derived from natural sources such as plants, or mixed with other molecules to prevent that 100% DHA whiff and fetching tangerine hue. From innovative textures to overnight tanning ‘masks’, we’ve come a long way since the first fake tans of the 70s, although wacky new tanning concepts aren’t for everyone.
Here’s what’s new in tanning tech…
The clear mousse
Tan Luxe Hydra Mousse , £37, claims to be the world’s first completely clear tanning mousse, plus the self-tanning process itself is a far cry from the days of heavy chemical DHA- it contains naturally derived DHA that apparently mimics the melanin in your skin to produce the most natural colour for your skintone, which will be a relief for those who’ve endured oompa loompa comparisons in the past. With no dyes to hamper the DHA’s work, you’ll get a realistic result without the odd green tinge, plus as formulas go, the mousse is hard to beat- it dries almost instantly and creates a seamless glow once developed. Throw in moisturising raspberry seed oil, antioxidant vitamins B, C and E and the fact that your sheets won’t be brown come morning and you’re onto a winner.
The overnight bronzer
Trust the world’s most glamorous makeup artist to come up with Overnight Bronze & Glow Mask , £38, a sexy glow giver that hydrates as it tans and builds in intensity depending on how often you apply it (go for three nights in a row if ‘south of France’ is what you’re after). Inspired by Charlotte’s now cult Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette , the idea is to apply a thin layer over face, neck and décolletage before bed, rising to a sunnier complexion come morning. The effect is non-streaky and subtle, thanks to the low levels of DHA, and nourishing seed oils, along with oat kernel extract, soothe and moisturise skin (DHA and dry skin are common bedfellows, but happily not here). If you normally sacrifice skincare benefits for a convincing looking suntan, Tilbury’s putting an end to that particular burden.
The tanning makeup
Swooshing on a bit of bronzer is normally seen as quick fix, but Vita Liberata Trystal Pressed Self-Tanning Bronzing Minerals , £25, hits two birds with one stone in tanning terms. We were impressed with the original loose Trystal Minerals , and the compact form of this DHA infused bronzer only increases the potential for instant gratification with the benefit of a longer-lasting tan. Whether you decide to lightly contour or just brush over cheeks, temples, chin and wherever else you’d normally catch the sun, the colour will linger even once you’ve washed your face, and you can build it up on consecutive days while looking naturally glowy rather than try hard. The compact form is an upgrade on the original in terms of travel, and you can dust it over shoulders and chest for a speedy hit of sun.
If you find that self-tan leaves you drier than a desert the day after with a lovely aftersting of itch (cheers DHA), Tan Luxe’s rich Butter , £24, could be the answer to your arid tan issues. This tan’s not mucking around in the hydration stakes- think coconut oil, cocoa and shea butters and a wallop of nourishing plant oils to nurture flaking limbs back to health. Our tester actually found it a little too rich, and it does take a bit longer to dry than your average faux glow (beware of streaking if you’re the fidgety type), but if your skin could do with a long drink of moisture with the additional benefit of bronze, butter yourself up. Thankfully it also smells more of raspberry than rancid digestives.
The sheet mask
There’s no denying that the St Tropez Express Face Sheet Mask , £8, is one of the most cutting edge inventions in tanning to date, but whether it’s your cup of tea is another matter. Inspired by the Korean sheet mask phenomenon that’s still sweeping the land, the sheet mask is soaked in a tanning serum which develops in five, ten or fifteen minutes, depending on how dark you want to go. We had a few *ahem* issues around the hairline , and if you’re a self-tanning newbie this likely isn’t for you (there’s a lot of tanning solution to distribute, and the colour is fairly deep), but if speedy development time and a ‘two weeks in the Caribbean’ finish are on your tick-list, mask-up. The addition of hyaluronic acid will keep skin plump and juicy too, which as we know by now is quite something in the self-tanning field.
The self-tan exterminator
Whether you’ve had a major self-tanning calamity or are dealing with the slow peeling off of a former fake tan (some slough off at a glacial pace), chances are you’ve tried scrubbing, hot baths, lemons, loofahs, or all of the above, leaving you raw and red, but also, still oddly splotchy. It’s time to bring in a purpose-designed tan buster- Bondi Sands Self Tan Eraser , £14.99, will dissolve your weird patches as well as your worries. Apply the foam to dry skin, wait five minutes, hop in the shower and watch stubborn tan speed down the plughole. It may take a few gos to clear the evidence from a particularly extreme tanning emergency, but this worked wonders on a shabby looking week-old spray tan. You may want to employ a flannel to assist the alkalising formula’s work (DHA is acidic, so they’re engaged in a battle here), but otherwise it’s a got your back, not to mention legs, stomach and even face.
Tan gone streaky? Palms a l’orange? You need our guide to fixing fake tan when it goes wrong
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