It’s a good thing Summer is running late this year as I’ve spent months with multicoloured limbs testing numerous self tanners, narrowing things down to five winning formulas. While I’m naturally pale, I do love a deep tan in Summer. And by deep, I don’t mean a tacky shade of TOWIE, but that back-in-the-day shade of bronze that resulted from holidays spent sunbathing from dawn ’til dusk (before I knew about SPFs higher than Factor 6. Cringe.) These products replicate that colour, some with a touch more depth.
What I’m trying to say is that they will give you a deep tan, but not a ridiculous looking one, so no need to be scared of words like Ultra or Super Dark. Think natural looking deep golden or olive toned skin. Minus the damage and hours spent lying very still on 3 solid meals of crisps and dry bread rolls, washed down with a litre of frozen water. (Anyone else use that trick… freezing bottles of water pre-beach to keep it cooler for longer?)
I’d read multiple rave reviews for Xen-Tan Absolute Luxe (M&S Beauty Stores and marksandspencer.com) and now I get the hype. This is a creamy gel with a light caramel colour guide and gorgeous scent. I found application a bit like massaging in body cream and the product felt rich and luxurious on my skin. A mousse might be easier for beginners, but I had no probs applying this. The resulting colour was a medium golden tan in one coat and deeper golden olive in two, a really flattering shade which lasted for 6 days.
I always prefer two thin coats for the most natural look and find that self tan is a bit like nail polish in this manner. After one coat I’m convinced that I can still see my pale skin through it; two looks more polished and even.
For All My Eternity Tanning Mousse Gold Edition is a new brand to me - and one of the most luxurious formulas I’ve used. Along with the Xen Tan Absolute Luxe, this comes closest to the colour I tan naturally, so really suits my skin tone. The mousse is so fine and silky that it feels more like a skincare product and applies incredibly smoothly and easily. Again this has a subtle tint, good lasting power and wears off very evenly.
He-Shi Dark Foaming Mousse has a deep colour guide and blends in easily, so no risk of overlapping or missing bits, though you probably won’t want to go out until you’ve rinsed the guide off. I’ve used this one a lot over the past few Summers, especially on my legs, which I do like to be a touch darker than my upper body for camouflaging powers and the confidence to actually get my legs out! It goes a gorgeous golden olive shade, which you can see on my skin in this post. If you’re in a rush, the Rapid One Hour Tan is great too (review here).
I’m not of the overnight tanning school of thought; I value my sheets too much - and self tan doesn’t know what time it is. I apply early evening and shower off before bed; 3-4 hours is ample developing time.
So at one point I had He-Shi on one leg and Vita Liberata on the other. A risky strategy I know… and not gonna lie, I was a tad nervous, but once developed, there was only a marginal difference between the two. Vita Liberata Super Dark 4-7 Day Tinted Tan Mist is a fraction deeper and a touch more olive toned. To use, spray onto a tanning mitt, then apply directly to skin for a fast-drying, deep instant tint, developing into bronzed limbs for up to one week. I really like both this and the He Shi for my legs, so if choosing between the two, go for whichever formula appeals most - they’re both excellent.
If like me you often forget to tan until shortly before heading out, St Tropez Self Tan Express (1/3 off at Boots.com!) could be your new BFF. This can be rinsed off after 1 hour for a light tan, 2 for medium and 3+ hours for deep. I left it on all day and loved the results. I haven’t tested how it performs when rinsed off after a shorter time, but when fully developed this gives a really deep even tan, darker than I expected and a true ‘just back from holiday’ shade. This pic was taken a couple of hours after application. Tinted mousse is my tanning formula of choice and this one applies with ease.
Exfoliating in between tanning applications (preferably after a bath) is essential no matter which formula you go for, to remove any residue and dry skin patches, leaving a smooth base.
SUMMARY | Sorry that I don’t have pics of every product applied, but like I say - I had rainbow limbs during testing and things could have ended up a little risqué! Hopefully I’ve given you a heads up on the various formulas and impressive results I achieved with these five. If you want to play it safe with a medium-deep golden shade, stick to Xen Tan Absolute Luxe or For All My Eternity Gold Edition. For a deeper olive colour, go with Vita Liberata Super Dark or He-Shi Dark Foaming Mousse - and to cover all bets, the adaptable St Tropez Self Tan Express.
I realise that these are all high end formulas… and while I’ve had great results with cheaper ones, I often find that they don’t wear as well - fading in patches, whereas all of the above fade evenly - which is important if you’re a repeat tanner. If you have a budget favourite, please let me know!
Which is your self tanner of choice?