Sunless Tanner Trial and Error

Suffice it to say that in my recent experiments with sunless tanners: mistakes were made. For the past several years I had been a loyal, if occasional, user of Alba Organic sunless tanner products. However, preparing for a last minute beach trip I didn’t have time to stop at the natural food store for a refill on my regular bottle. Instead, I was sucked into the air-conditioned oasis of a CVS on my way home from work, scanning the aisles for a product that would reveal my inner bronzed goddess.

For me, sunless tanners are one of those judgement calls that I still can’t decide about. Is it worse to a) risk sunburn on my winter-blanched skin, b) get a crispy tan from regular or even lightly sunscreened sun exposure, or c) preemptively use a tanning product so that I feel more comfortable protecting my skin from sun rays without looking like I’ve been living under a rock? For the past several years, I’ve been operating under theory C: if I use a tanning lotion sparingly before a beach or pool trip, I feel justified in wearing a hat and sunscreen while I’m there. Anyone else give this much thought to their tanning routine? I’ll take that silence as a YES.

So, duh, I ended up buying some weird aluminum bottle of foamy spray tan. Whilst day dreaming of my soon-to-be-vacation, I slathered that stuff all over my arms and legs. It took about 12 hours for the color to really set in… and boy, did it!

Exhibit A

Sunless Tanner Get Clean Girls

Exhibit B

Sunless Tanner Get Clean Girls

Laura was actually the first one to bust me on this one (hey girl!) – she noticed before I did. I actually was in tanner denial, because it looked so ridiculous. In fact, the pictures are from Day 2 or 3, which, believe it or not, was already much better than Day 1. I mean, you should have seen my elbows.

After throwing that bottle of tanner into the trash, I waited a while before purchasing a new Alba sunless tanner, which I still really like. I use it once or twice per summer, when I just want a bit of a boost. Like other tanners, the main ingredient is dihydroxyacetone, which has been used safely for adding subtle tan to skin since 1973.  Dihydroxyacetone is also an emulsifier, humectant, and fungicide; known for its “sweet taste and characteristic odor”.  The chemical is created by a reaction between a bacteria and glycerol.*

So, a few lessons learned:

1. If you like a product and it works for your body, your wallet, and your conscience, stick with it.

2. If you apply too much or the wrong kind of sunless tanner, the sugar scrub that your friend Laura gave you for Christmas will become even more of a treasure. So will your loofah and your dry brush: exfoliation and moisturizer will be your trusty weapons against Splotchy.  The tan may even fade and even out faster than your embarrassment.

3. When you read the words “exfoliate first” in the directions, you should do as they say.

4. Avoid impulse purchases, for skin care items in particular.

Have you had any sunless tanning mishaps lately? Other beauty products that didn’t work as planned/advertised? Please tell me I’m not the only one who had to go to work with orange skin for a few days!

*Source: A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter, M.S.


Alba Organics definitely didn’t sponsor this post. All thoughts, mistakes, and life lessons are my own.


4 responses to “Sunless Tanner Trial and Error

  1. SECRET TANNING LIFE?! i am glad you didn’t tell me about this bc i have wanted to take the plunge for awhile now…but there’s no foolin’ about my milky white skin. also, please address my #1 issue about selfless tanners: how do you do your back?!

    luv, LL

    • Haha secret’s out, Liz! I usually cut the tanning lotion slightly with a regular moisturizer so I get more even treatment, especially on the back. But, truly, that’s a tough one!

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