Beauty Tuesdays Guide to Self Tanning: Harmful or not? Difference between self tans, gradual tans, mousse, spray, liquid =D

Now that summer is coming round the corner, I’m sure we are all in the mood to get that golden tan, put on our swimsuits and have fun in the sun! This year’s spring in the UK has been pretty miserable, I could probably count the number of sunny days in one hand.. I’m still wearing my down jacket and wooly coat while I’m out, so not much of a difference from Winter, just thank goodness no need for thermals anymore! Today was bright and lovely but guess what, I had to study. Oh joy. No matter, I took a few breaks and entertained my boring routine with youtube videos, beauty research, and this! self-tanning… This would not be the first time I’ve been interested in it, but it is definitely the first time I’m researched more into it.

So here’s a little overview of this post:

Harmful or not? Types of Self-tanners. Textures of Self-tanners. Choosing Self-tanners based on your skin type. How to apply self-tanners. Recommended Products. My little Self-tanning experience.

The first question that popped into my mind when I was thinking about getting a self tan this summer was.. Does it harm your skin? Are there side effects and long term damage to your skin? It changes your skin colour so how could it not harm your skin? Well, here’s why! 

Self-tans include a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum of the epidermis. As the sugar interacts with the dead skin cells, a color change occurs. This change usually lasts about five to seven days from the initial application. (Source: howstuffworks) This colourless sugar is known as DHA, which is the only approved ingredient capable of such bronzed wonders.

Makes sense doesn’t it? You shed millions of dead skin cells everyday, so applying self-tanners to the outer layer of your skin won’t harm your skin in the long run, cause it’s simply like dying your hair! Hence you have got to reapply it if you want your skin to retain that golden glow.

However, to clear up any myths about self-tans, they DO NOT provide natural SPF just because your skin turned darker, UNLESS! the bottle states that it contains SPF. Even so, just slather on some sunblock for precaution! You wouldn’t want your skin to become wrinkled and damaged now would you.

So.. how to choose which self-tanners to get? There are so so many! They probably occupy an entire drugstore section! Before I explain what type is good for which skin, here’s a little summary of the different types of self-tanners!

1) Instant Self-tanners (Cosmetic kind)

Usually only lasts till your next shower (bronzer, foundation etc).They are usually cosmetic and just apply a layer of colour over your natural skin tone, doesn’t actually change it. Be aware of it melting in hot weathers! Use only for a quick fix on the day/night itself for that extra boost of glowy skin!

2) Self-tanners

Higher DHA in the product, hence staining your skin a darker colour much faster. Takes about a day/night (8hrs) to develop, put it on after a shower, let it dry for awhile and then go to bed. When you wake in the morning, you will look VERY dark, but! no worries, it is probably just the guide colour! IMPORTANT! Make sure you rinse off the guide colour in the morning before going out! If not, when you perspire in the day.. Your guide colour will melt off and streak! Like poor Christina Aguilera.. After washing off you should look nice and glowy if you use the right product =D These usually contain the guide colour to give you that instant bronzed look, but avoid if you foresee perspiring.

3) Gradual-tanners

My favourite! Contains lower DHA, applies everyday like a moisturizer. These are lighter and take a few applications, developing over a few days in comparison to overnight, but you won’t have to worry so much about getting the wrong colour because  you can adjust as light or dark as you want! I also find it the most natural looking of all! Its also perfect for maintaining a spray tan.

Next, what are the different textures of self tanners?

1) Foam/Mousse

This gives the most even coverage with no streaks! It is easy to apply and pretty fool proof. (No moisturizing aspect)

2) Sprays

Pretty self-explanatory, it’s like a hairspray! However, it is difficult to use as streaking is more common and it is harder to see where you’ve applied it and might apply too much at one area compared to another. Good for a quick fix! Probably good for light face glow and a face spray mist need only cover a small space, hence streaking is not as risky.

3) Lotions

Quite a few of these include sunscreen, hence if you’re applying it on the day itself, you will already have some little form of protection. However! The sunscreen does not last on your skin, so you will still have to apply sunblock. This is the safest to use of all tanning products, user friendly, apply with a tanning mit. Do keep in mind that it might streak if you do not get a self tanner with a tint to it. Hence before, buying, it is a little safer to open the cap and see the colour of the lotion. A white lotion might result in multiple applications and streakiness. The best part of this is that it usually incorporates moisturizers! If you choose not to use lotion form, you have got to moisturize even more before applying your tanning product to ensure that you do not dry out your skin.

Now.. How to choose which product to get for yourself? First off, what is your skin type?

1) Dry

Using lotions are the best as it contains moisturizers!

2) Oily

Any one should be fine, it’s really up to your preference and the brand of self-tanner you choose!

Basics of how to apply selftanners:

1) Exfoliate & Moisturize Well

Before applying self-tanners, make sure that you exfoliate well and moisturize your body a few days prior to self-tanning to ensure the smoothest application. It is crucial as the self-tanners will amplify any dry skin or patches. Concentrate on your elbows and knees and those tend to be the driest places where self-tanners will stain heavily.

2) Use a tanning mitt.

These cost about £3/$6sgd in the drugstore and can be used quite a few times! This ensures a smooth and flawless application, a worthy investment!

3) Have a lemon on hand in the house

Haha, yes this sounds funny, but it is known to be able to lighten unsightly streaks! So just rub lemon juice on the areas that are too dark and which you want to lighten. Do so slowly and gauge the colour!

4) Take a shower

Do so in the morning to prevent any melting of guide colour, especially in a hot and humid country!

Recommended products at a friendly price from Makeupalley and other websites:

I am not including the higher end products as I haven’t personally researched on them, but if you would want me to do so, please let me know ^^

1) St. Moritz Self Tanner £2.99 @ Savers in UK (can be found on ebay for about the same price)

2) Johnson&Johnson’s Holiday Skin £7.14 @ boots/superdrug (cheaper to be found online)

3) Dove Summer Glow £2.55 @ boots/superdrug/savers

4) L’Oreal Nutrisummer 24hr moisturizing lotion £7,45

5) No.7 Naturally Sunkissed Gradual Body Tan £9.50 @ boots

6) L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Sunless Tanning Lotion

7) Garnier Ambre Solaire No Streaks bronzer @ ~£7 @ boots/superdrug

8) Xen-Tan £15.99 @ UK USA This product is fast becoming a beauty cult item and is one of the celebrity favourites! Hence.. the steeper price tag, youch.

Just a little disclaimer, I personally have yet to try these products, but I have heard good things about them on youtube and from website reviews. I am planning to try out St Moritz and the Dove Summer Glow though, so I will do a review on them when I have =)

So… My first tanning experience was last June in USA, when I was working a summer job and wanted to get a tan, but Queensbury, NY was pretty rainy all the time and uniforms give really unsightly tan lines! So I used a gradual tan and slapped on the sunblock.

The gradual tan I used was the Banana Boat Summer Colour Self-tanning Lotion. Honestly, it doesn’t really say that it is a gradual tan, but I definitely wasn’t dark in one application. Took about 4 or 5 applications! It did stay on for about a week though, real nice and moisturizing too! I bought this at Walmart last year, and I apologize but I can’t remember the price! I didn’t take proper product photos as this was a photo I just so happened to take of my product buys last year haha.. I would recommend this product, it was easy to use and tinted so you could see where you applied it and where you didn’t. It wasn’t streaky, but at that time I did not know I had to exfoliate, so my elbows and knees were a little darker, but not dramatically so. It was not orange, it was a lovely golden brown. 

After last year’s experience, I am pretty psyched to try it again and get into the mood of summer! I do admit, I feel the want to get a fake tan when I’m overseas more than when I’m in Singapore. Why? It’s always hot and sunny there.. Sounds like paradise? Not really.. the heat and humidity really gets on my nerves.. But hey, the grass is always greener on the other side I guess!

Here are a few more sites that I surfed to read-up on the slightly more sciency details of self-tanning:

Dr Weil


This blog, theselftanningqueen has a WONDERFUL easy to read post on self-tanning as well!

I hope this post helped answer almost all your questions about self-tanning. Do let me know if you have any more questions! ^^

What is your favourite self-tanner? Have you ever tried any products? Any brand to recommend or tips for applying selftanners? Or anything stopping you from trying? Let me know in the comment box below and share it with everyone too! I’ll love to hear from you =D

Have a lovely week ahead!

Ta for now! Love,



2 thoughts on “Beauty Tuesdays Guide to Self Tanning: Harmful or not? Difference between self tans, gradual tans, mousse, spray, liquid =D

  1. great article! i was just thinking of using self-tanners lately so these tips really helped me in deciding what to do and what to get (since i’ve never tried self-tanners before)! 😀

What do you think? love, Sianne

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