Self-tanner: how to choose it and (well) apply it?

Self-tanners make it possible to display tanned arms and legs at a time when skirts and swimsuits are springing up. Don’t be afraid of the carrot effect anymore! Their formulas have evolved and are now more natural and more effective. Our advice for choosing your self-tanner and applying it well.

How to choose your self-tanner?

The self-tanner molecule that makes a tanned complexion is DHA (dihydroxyacetone), more and more often of vegetable origin and more or less concentrated: from 2% for a light tan to 5% for an intense tan. It is sometimes coupled with erythrulose, a sugar which takes longer to act, but gives an even tone. The formulas have evolved, because now the pH is better controlled (it must be slightly acidic for the reaction to take place, so a so-called “buffer” substance is added).

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In some products, DHA is coated for a long-lasting action, or even combined with melanin or another molecule for a natural color. Finally, we often find salicylic acid, slightly exfoliating, so that the product does not “hang” on dead skin which would then be more pigmented.

>> It does not protect from the sun. The resulting tan has nothing to do with tanning. It is a surface coloring that lasts 3 to 7 days, not at all a rise in melanin, the process that allows you to be tanned. The self-tanner therefore absolutely does not protect against the sun.

A good self-tanner smells good

Gone is the rancid smell that emanated from the products after a while. Thanks to new emulsifiers, the formulas are more stable. And, by adding antioxidants, we prevent the DHA from oxidizing – which gave that nasty smell – and we also protect ourselves from the free radicals that the reaction of the skin with the DHA causes. Some brands also add flavors evocative of holidays: monoi, coconut…

A good self-tanner does not dry out

Or rather, it compensates for its drying effect: the coloring is the result of an oxidation reaction between DHA and the amino acids of the stratum corneum, the superficial layer of the skin. However, this operation consumes a lot of water and causes, a few hours after application, a feeling of tightness, even of crocodile skin. To compensate for this effect, most formulas now contain moisturizing glycerin, and sometimes even nourishing vegetable or shea oils.

Which texture to choose?

Dry mist, cloudy foam, milk, tinted gel or even water… It’s impossible today not to find the galenic to your liking. Neophytes will prefer tinted gel or mousse, often with caramel. We see where we put them, they spread easily and create a tan by “makeup” while waiting for the self-tanner to take effect. Another advancement: the applicator gloves made of super soft material (sponge or velvet) created by English brands – great specialists in self-tanning -, which allow you to spread the product very well, without the risk of marks on your hands if you forget to carefully wash them.

How to properly apply self-tanner on the body?

A few days before, it is necessary to exfoliate and moisturize your body, insisting on the traditionally drier and hyperkeratinized areas (wrists, knees, feet and ankles). Do not forget to moisturize daily to make the skin smoother: the texture of the self-tanner will also glide more easily. For use, shake and apply the product, preferably with an applicator glove (making sure to cover all the skin well to avoid streaks), then rinse: the longer the product is left to act, the stronger the tan will be. intense. For a subtle golden complexion, shower 1 hour later. Depending on skin type and skin tone, the tan will fully develop 4 to 8 hours after rinsing off.

>> Can self-tanner be applied to the face? On the face, we preferably choose a self-tanner with a fluid and gelled texture, which we apply by smoothing movements, always from the center to the contours, avoiding the hairline and the eyebrows. Be careful, some areas need to be less golden than others, such as the eye contour. To tone down the color, you can first apply an eye contour, which will “dilute” the formula.

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