Self-tanners: everything you need to know

With the arrival of the sun and good weather we like to show off tanned skin. Exposing ourselves to the sun with the aim of tanning is always harmful to our skin health. But there is a way to get a natural, healthy tan – and maintain it – all year round. That's what self-tanners are for. Today we tell you everything you need to know about them.

Exposing yourself to the sun with the aim of getting a tan has 2 disadvantages:

1. The increased risk of skin cancer.

2. The aging of our skin: spots and wrinkles appear.

There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. There is only one exception: the tan we get with the use of a self-tanner.

What is a self-tanner?

A self-tanner is a cosmetic - in cream, mousse or spray - that is always applied to clean, previously exfoliated and dry skin in order to gradually achieve the desired tan.

DHA sunless tanning

DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is a derivative of sugar cane. It is a 100% natural active ingredient and totally harmless to the skin. It is a large molecule that is impossible to penetrate into the deep layers of the skin, which guarantees safety since it acts superficially and that is why the tan disappears after 6-9 days if you do not reapply self-tanner. It is the most used ingredient in natural and conventional self-tanning products.

The DHA solution does not contain perfumes or any unpleasant odors normally associated with conventional self-tanning products. Even so, your tanner may have some odor depending on other ingredients, oils or perfumes.

Types of self-tanners:

There are many types of self-tanning products and they usually have the same type of mechanism when it comes to tanning the skin. When choosing your self-tanner you should take into account the tone and type of self-tanner that is most comfortable for you according to your goals. We have tried them in cream, lotion, spray, mousse and wipes.

- Self-tanning emulsion: cream texture but with a light texture and non-greasy touch that provides a natural and luminous tanned tone.

- Self-tanning mousse : mousse formats are usually ultra-light, with a velvety texture and usually provide a natural golden tan with a lot of glow . In a single application you usually get a super tan and it dries very quickly. We recommend them for people who have a lot of practice with self-tanning and are already a little tanned.

- Self-tanning lotion/cream : they usually have a cream or lotion texture ( a little more fluid) and are the easiest to apply if you do not have practice or if you want to achieve a gradual tan. It is applied like a body cream and you must wait 8 hours to check the achieved tone. It can be reapplied again to get more tan and it is very easy to maintain the tan achieved. Simply reapply the cream or lotion every 3-4 days.

- Tanning drops or liquid tanner : it is the easiest and most practical format. Simply mix a couple of drops of a self-tanner with your facial or body day cream until you get the tone you want. Then you apply the mixture on your face/body and massage, and voila! Tanned in less than 3 minutes. Of course, when you shower or remove your makeup, the tan disappears.

- Tanning spray : it is possibly the most difficult self-tanning format to apply and achieve an impeccable effect the first time. You have to have a lot of practice because it is sprayed directly on the body, they usually dry quite quickly and must be applied evenly. Before it dries, you should perform a massage to facilitate penetration and absorption and check that there is no more self-tanner than necessary in some areas (especially knees and elbows).

- Self-tanning wipes : self-tanning body wipes are designed to tan the entire body and do it well in the most difficult to reach places. They are very practical, you simply have to massage your entire body and you will get a uniform tan very quickly. At the moment we have not tried any brand of natural tanning towelettes.

How does self-tanner work?

When dihydroxyacetone (DHA) comes into contact with the epidermis (whether by applying a cream, massaging the skin with a tanning towel, or spraying a self-tanner) the DHA produces a chemical oxidation reaction that "tans"/"stains" the dead cells. of the most superficial (external) layer of our skin.

That layer of skin is usually the layer that is removed every 2/3 days due to the natural peeling process. That is why it is very important to have the skin previously well exfoliated and hydrated, to naturally interfere in the prolongation of this natural process and preserve the tan for longer.

The main advantage of a self-tanner...

It is the healthiest option for those people who want to get a healthy and quick tan without exposing the skin to solar radiation . You can get a progressive, natural and uniform tan on both your face and body.

If you use it correctly you can show off golden skin , a sun kissed effect or a soft or intense cinnamon tone in both summer and winter and in a short time.

Tips when applying a self-tanner with DHA:

1. Choose the self-tanner always considering the skin tone you are starting from . If you have very light skin, do not choose a dark self-tanner.

Always apply it at night, on clean, dry, previously hydrated and exfoliated skin (ideally 24-48 hours before).

Thanks to exfoliation you will be able to reduce calluses and even out the tone (and you will also need less self-tanner ).

Pay special attention to knees, elbows and ankles . If your self-tanner is a cream, wait until your skin is completely dry (to prevent it from staining your clothes) . Self-tanning sprays or wipes usually dry quickly.

If your self-tanner contains DHA, keep in mind that, although it is not a dye or makeup, during the first hours after application small particles of DHA can be transferred to clothing. But since it is a water-soluble component, it is easily removed from natural fibers such as cotton.

2. Apply it evenly all over the body or desired area. Choose a place with plenty of light to ensure that you apply it evenly and all over the body.

If you use a cream texture self-tanner, we recommend that you use a glove to avoid traces of self-tanner on the palm of your hands . It will help you apply it evenly and avoid tanning your nails and cuticles.

3. Cautiously apply self-tanner to areas prone to excessive pigmentation . This almost always happens on the elbows, palms, feet and knees. In these areas, apply your self-tanner carefully and make sure that you do not use too much and that you apply it evenly to avoid leaving lighter/darker areas.

If your hands are very dry and/or damaged, you may not get the desired tan; it is difficult to achieve a homogeneous tone if the skin is very dehydrated.

4. After the first application, wait at least 8 hours to see what tone your skin has achieved. If you wish, you can reapply it that same night. Then apply it every three days until you achieve the desired effect. And then once a week to maintain the tan.

Every time you apply your self-tanner, it is important that you do not shower, get wet, or apply any body cream/cologne/makeup as this can cause excessive sweating. Avoid applying any product for the next 8 hours.

5. Duration : the tan lasts between 6-8 days on average. The duration of self-tanning depends mainly on the type of self-tanner, your skin type, its hydration level and its exfoliation process. For this reason, it is very important to keep the skin hydrated during the following days and thus reduce the natural process of skin peeling. It must be taken into account that the color remains in the superficial layers of the skin and there is no absorption into the interior. The softer and more hydrated your skin is, the longer you can maintain your new tan.

On the days you don't apply it, moisturize your skin a lot so that the effect lasts as long as possible.

6. Remember to always use sun protection. Even if you have tanned skin, this does not mean that it is protected. A self-tanner does not increase the amount of melanin (it does not activate either the melanin or the natural tan of our skin), which is why we must always apply photoprotection if we are going to sunbathe .

If you use a conventional self-tanner (not natural), avoid exposing yourself to the sun directly for the next 24 hours because it can have an irritating effect and increase skin sensitivity.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding: self-tanners with DHA can be used without problem during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Always check the rest of the ingredients in your self-tanner and if in doubt, ask us.

7 Points to keep in mind when using a self-tanner:

1. DHA concentration : DHA (dihydroxyacetone, comes from sugar cane or erythrulose) is the most common component of self-tanning products and can irritate the skin if you use it in a very high concentration .

The higher the concentration, the greater the tan. Although it is a natural ingredient, our recommendation is that you check its concentration and that it does not exceed 10%. Natural self-tanners usually contain a concentration of 4-8%.

DHA acts at a very superficial level in the skin, in the highest layer of the epidermis known as the stratum corneum. There the interaction occurs with peptides and free amino acids that give rise to the so-called “melanoidins”, responsible for the tanned appearance of the skin.

2. If you use too much self-tanner or apply it incorrectly, your skin may have a carrot effect or orange tone (for a couple of days). You can "undo" this effect by exfoliating the skin, but if it is very intense it will take several days to "go away ."

3. If you use a conventional (non-natural) self-tanning product, it may cause acne or irritation . The appearance of acne is usually related to its composition. If your self-tanner contains petroleum derivatives, these will have an occlusive effect and you could get pimples or pimples on your back, legs, etc. Check the INCI of your self-tanning product carefully.

4. If you have sensitive skin, with rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis or acne, the product may not be absorbed regularly (the tone may not be uniform).

5. Cleansers and makeup removers pH : Check the pH of your shower gels, body lotions and facial cleansers. If the pH is inadequate or they contain detergents, they can reduce the duration of the tan achieved.

6. Vitiligo : vitiligo is a deficiency of melanin that does not react with sun exposure, always maintaining its whitish color. Even so, the spots can react with DHA, since it acts on the cells of the stratum corneum, but we will never be able to match the tones of an intense tan (that area would be less intense).

7. If you do not reapply self-tanner, the tan will disappear progressively, losing intensity , without leaving spots or traces after a week.

5 Reasons to choose a natural self-tanner:

1. List of natural ingredients without synthetic or occlusive ingredients.

2. You get a natural, progressive tan and it is easy to go back if you have gone too far :-), as simple as using an oil cleanser and exfoliating the skin.

3. The tan achieved is much more "real" and natural and does not leave the famous carrot effect so unwanted.

4. The aromas and textures are more pleasant .

5. They are more respectful of your skin and the planet.

Our Favorite Self Tanner (Long Lasting):

1. Island Glow Self-Tanning Lotion . This was the last self-tanning product we have put to the test. It arrived a couple of months ago at theCosmethics and is an absolute best seller. It works on both face and body.

To date, it is the only natural self-tanner without DHA capable of achieving , in less than a minute, the "good face" effect with a subtle progressive tan and a natural glow touch.

Glow Island adapts to any skin tone from the first application. You can use it as a single product, as a makeup primer or mix a few drops with your foundation to increase the glow effect.

"The self-tanner without DHA "island effect" that went on pre-sale and ran out of stock in 24 hours

It's so unique and carefully formulated, it's possibly one of the best self-tanners on the market. And without DHA. Success was assured and so it was. It's the new product from Twelve Beauty and it leaves the skin with a beautiful "island effect" tan," Elle Magazine .

The 7 effects of the “island” effect bronzer

The Glow Island self-tanner, created in collaboration with the communicator and beauty enthusiast, Ana Albiol, achieves up to 7 effects from the first application:

  1.  Instant smoothing effect: thanks to the high molecular weight hyaluronic acid in its formula.

  2. Elastic skin: thanks to the sugars present in its formula, which imitate the hydrolipid film of the skin.

  3. Immediate tan.

  4. Luminous and glow skin, thanks to the iron oxide contained in its formula.

  5.  Primer effect: works better than any makeup primer.

  6. Mixed with your makeup base, it increases its luminosity and makes it lighter.

  7. Illuminator: Used in the form of drops on makeup, it creates an immediate light effect on the skin.

2. If you have light skin and want a soft, progressive tan with a lot of glow: Sunless Glow Gradual Tan Tanning Body Lotion

3. If you already have a little color, or you don't have a light complexion and you want to get a sun kissed tan and gradually increase the intensity: Invisible Tan .

4. If you want to self-tan your face, we have this self-tanning toner. Apply it 1/2 times a week on the face, neck and décolleté and stay tanned all year round. Suitable for oily skin: Face Tan Water.

Tanning without a self-tanner

Tanning lotions that when you shower or remove your makeup, the tan disappears

1. Body cream with invisible tights effect color: Prtty Peaushun .

The spring best seller and the favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna, Pink, Selena Gómez, Paula Echevarría and Letizia Ortiz.

Prtty Peaushun is a creamy, natural and beautifying body lotion with color and golden reflections that provides luminosity, smoothes the skin and blurs all imperfections (marks, blemishes, stretch marks, varicose veins...). A kind of body BB Cream with color and a lot of glow. You can use it on body, face and even hair.

It is not a self-tanner, when you shower Prtty Peaushun disappears from your skin.

Ultra-light sun kissed effect liquid bronzer. Made with aloe vera, coffee cherry, pomegranate and acai berry. This liquid bronzer with antioxidant treatment has been designed to give the skin a subtle glow and instant tan. He retires in the shower

Do you have any doubt? Do you need help choosing a self-tanner? Write to us at and we will help you choose the best self-tanner for you.

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