Self-Tanning Products

Sunday, 16 March 2008

While bronzers have pigment in the lotion and wash off at the end of the day, self-tanners react with your skin to create a darker appearance, and can last anywhere from 5-10 days. We find out more about these often tricky beauty products.

The Basic

  • Some self-tanners are tinted so you can see where you’ve applied it in the hopes of avoiding unwanted streaking. The tint disappears as the product dries.

  • Self-tanning products all work with the same active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone, which interacts with the amino acids in your skin to produce a tan colour.

  • Choose the right type of product for your skin type:

    • For drier skin, a moisturizing lotion will work best

    • On normal to oily skin, consider trying a gel.

  • The more dihydroxyacetone in the product, the darker your skin goes. Most products are labeled according to expected colour (e.g., “light-medium”, “medium-deep”, and “deep”).

  • If you have fair skin, start with a light to medium product, and then increase the depth of colour slowly.

  • Products designed for the face are lighter in texture and contain less or no oil.

  • Try before you buy. Most stores have testers so put a stripe on your arm, let the color develop, and see which turns out best.


Over six weeks we kept our skin a-glow using these different products and services.

We tested: .  
  • Neutrogena tinted foam (multiple applications): $19/118 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • St. Tropez (multiple applications): $51/240 ml
. . Sephora icon
  • Tantowel towelettes (four applications): $20
. . Drugstore.com
  • Clarins tint-free gel (multiple applications): $33/125 ml
. . Sephora icon
  • Mystic Tanning Booth (single application): $30
. .
  • Spa Treatment (single application): $40
. .

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Tanning Test

  • We weren’t big fans of the tinted products from Neutrogena and St. Tropez. Even though it was meant to help, the dark colour was disconcerting

  • The Neutrogena mousse dried so quickly it was hard to apply evenly.

  • The St. Tropez lotion soaked in for a nice deep tan but the instructions highly recommend using with their exfoliator ($22) and moisturizer ($20) for optimal results. We didn’t feel the additional products were worth the expense.

  • The spa treatment was effortless for us, but didn’t really give us much colour. It also required our personal (intimate) space to be invaded, which was too much for Kristina.

  • The Mystic Booth definitely delivered results. It was a bit too intense for Anna’s fair skin, but Kristina liked the all-over and fast colour. But you had to hold your breath while it was happening to avoid breathing in the spray.

  • The Tantowels didn’t give a very dark tan but they may be handy for traveling.

  • The Clarins gel was easy to apply, especially on our faces, and the price was median-reasonable.


We felt the Clarins gel was our best bet. It was easy to apply and gave good colour.



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