Self-tanning, or fake tanning, has become ever-popular now more of us know the dangers of sun tanning. Gone are the days of everyone oiling themselves up just to sit and bake by the beach or the pool.
And for good reason. There is no such thing as a safe (sun) tan. The increase in pigment, known as melanin, is what causes your skin to appear browner – that in and of itself is a sign of sun damage. When our skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation/rays, it increases the production of melanin to try and protect the skin from further damage. Overtime, regular tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. And, contrary to popular belief, getting a tan does not protect you from sunburn or further skin damage. Having that higher melanin in your skin, because of tanning, gives you an SPF of about 2-4 – most sunscreens are at least SPF 30-50.
Self-tanners are designed to give you that all-over golden glow, without spending time in the sun. Fake tan works thanks to an ingredient called DHA. Essentially, the DHA in fake tan is colourless until it reacts with your skin. The DHA reacts with the amino acids on your skin and the dead skin cells, temporarily staining them brown. Dermatologists largely agree that self-tanner, overall, is safe for our skin. But that doesn’t mean all self-tanners are good – it’s still important we choose a natural and safe self-tanner.
When choosing a self-tanner, there are some ingredients to look out for and avoid. Mineral oil is a derivative of petroleum that has been shown to have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties. You might find this used in fake tanners as it creates a slippy and spreadable consistency. Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, often listed as ‘natural preservative’, can be used in some tanners but is often irritating for the skin and eyes. You should also avoid artificial fragrance and colours which are often created from petrochemicals (no thanks) and irritate the skin. Here are five safe self-tanners for all-year-round.
Gradual tan moisturiser
A gradual tan moisturiser works like a regular body lotion, except your skin gradually appears tanner with each application. A gradual tan moisturiser is great for someone with naturally fair skin who is hesitant to tan. It’s also great for those winter months where you want a healthy glow that’s subtle enough to pass off as your own. Eco Tan Winter Skin for Fair to Medium Skin Tones is a great option as it contains nourishing ingredients of rose geranium and aloe vera, which means it actually moisturises your skin and is free of any nasties.
Face tan water
Face tan water has got to be the best invention since, well, fake tan. With face tan water you can kiss goodbye the moon face days and forget having to apply foundation every morning just to match your face to your body. A face tan water gives you a buildable beautiful tan. It’s also a water-like consistency which is great for the skin on your face. You can apply face tan water like a regular toner and expect to wake up with bronzer skin after each application. Wotnot Naturals’ new Organic Tan Water Mist is a great choice because it’s made with only organic ingredients, making it safe, pure and natural. The mist function also makes it super easy to apply and avoids you having to worry about stained hands.
Tanning mousse is a classic and perfect for those wanting a salon-like tan. Tanning mousse is great because the foamy consistency makes it easy to apply evenly and streak-free. When applying a tanning mousse, you’ll want to use a tanning mitt to avoid unevenness. Conventional tanning mousses will often be full of nasties and chemicals. The Wotnot Certified Organic Self Tan Mousse, however, is made with certified organic ingredients – no pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals in this mousse. It’s also full of skin-loving ingredients like Kakadu plum and camellia which contain high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants to protect your skin and leave it hydrated and soft. Tanning mousse tends to be an eight-hour or overnight developer, meaning you apply it before bed, wait for it to settle and then let it develop while you sleep.
Another classic self-tan formula is a tanning lotion. A tanning lotion is great for those that are new to tan but want a full, not gradual, tan. A tanning lotion can be applied like regular body lotion, but it’s still best to use a mitt.The Eco Tan Invisible Tan for medium to olive skin tones creates a beautiful and believable bronze glow – it’s also full of nourishing, certified organic ingredients which means it never looks dry on the skin. Like a tanning mousse, a tanning lotion tends to need about 8 hours to develop.
DHA free tan
DHA is the main ingredient in most self-tanners that gives the bronze, golden look. The tans we’ve mentioned above use all-natural and organic DHA from plant-based sources like sugar. DHA has been approved for use on the skin, but some people still like to avoid DHA altogether. There are very few DHA-free tans out there, but Aussie Bronze has pulled it off with their Instant Tan. This tan is instant, so it’s great in a pinch before that last-minute event. It also washes off in your next shower, so it’s not good for those seeking a longer-lasting tan.
When it comes to achieving that streak-free, salon-like tan, you need to carefully prep your skin. It’s recommended you exfoliate 48 hours before tanning and apply lotion to dry areas, like elbows and knees, where tan can cling and look patchy. You also need to wear sunscreen even when wearing tan, especially in the summer.
About the founder
Aida Rejzovic is the proud founder of Sassy Organics – an all-natural, organic and eco retailer committed to helping you adopt a more considered lifestyle.