I’m a pale person. Not so pale that I have to buy the “porcelain” shade of foundation, but pretty light nonetheless. So I was more than a little apprehensive when I opened this package from iFabbo and saw a sunless tanner marked “dark”. Gulp. Er, just how dark are we talking here, and what are the chances I’ll turn orange or streaky instead?
Besides, I kind of like being pale. I know that’s weird, but I think I look fine with pale skin, and since self-tanners are a bit of work, I tend to avoid them. The only time I can honestly say I’d like to be bronzed is if I were to hypothetically win an island vacation, and then it would be nice to have a product that could give me a natural tan that same day so I wouldn’t look so out of place on the beach.
Still, for curiosity’s sake, I gave this tanner a full test–and I’m glad I did, because it really exceeded my expectations. Read on for the details and before-and-after pictures!
The product: Beautisol Medium Self-Tanning Mousse; $29/4 fl. oz.; available through the Beautisol website
The claim: (From the Beautisol website) “A lightweight, quick drying self-tanning mousse for all skin colors and skin types which produces a natural looking tan. A light guide color allows you to see where you applied the product and where you missed to ensure a flawless application. Antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients help nourish and hydrate the skin. Contains an odor eliminating fragrance technology called PURE SCENT that helps to eliminate the unpleasant processing odor all self-tanners have!”
I tried it: The bottle comes with a handy guide card that suggests tips for pre-tanning prep and better application, as well as a chart showing how much mousse you’ll need for each section of the body. As with all sunless tanners, you’ll want to prep by exfoliating evenly in the shower and shaving your legs if necessary. After toweling I applied a bit of body lotion to my knees, ankles and elbows to protect those drier areas from over-saturation.
Like a hair mousse, this tanner needs to be shook up well before being pumped onto the included soft mitt for application. This protects your hands from turning orange and spotty during the application process. The mitt takes a little getting used to at first but it’s really not hard to use. You can simply wash it out later with a little soap and warm water, as you would any of your makeup brushes.
The mousse is super-dark but thins out very quickly and leaves only a subtle guide color; this color then develops over the next 6-8 hours to a deep, rich tan. The mousse absorbs and dries very quickly, which means you need to work quickly to avoid streaking. Because the color develops to such a dark shade, mistakes are very noticeable, or at least they were on my pale skin–so you’ll want to take your time with the application.
The easiest way to apply the mousse to ensure even coverage is to work in very small sections. For example, I found it easier to do each side of my calf separately, buffing in toward the middle and out toward the feet and knees, rather than trying to cover the whole calf at once as I would with a blob of tanning lotion. For the torso I covered each side separately, buffing in across the middle, then did my stomach and chest separately. You’ll want to cover the upper and lower arms separately and buff lightly across the elbows and shoulders. You get the idea; working in small sections seems like a tedious pain compared to slathering on a lotion, but you’re less likely to miss spots and you’ll get more even coverage overall.
Be sure you bend your knees so you don’t wind up with little white lines across the caps (oops!) and buff evenly around those little spots that you might overlook: your armpits, up around your hairline and ears, and across the backs of your hands and feet. Your can just use the leftover mousse on the mitt to do these areas, but take your time and get between those toes, etc.–it will be noticeable if you don’t. While Beautisol recommends using a separate tanner for the face, I used this mousse on my face and it turned out fine, but you’ll need to be careful applying closely around the eyes and the mouth so you don’t wind up with white “rims”!
The good news is, while application takes much longer than a traditional tanning lotion, the dry time is super-speedy, so you can get dressed sooner. It’s best to wear loose-fitting clothing so you don’t wind up with odd lines; I recommend using this tanner before going to bed, so you can just wear some loose old sweats and a tee. In the morning, you can shower off the guide color and touch up any spots you might have missed.
Here’s a before-and-after picture showing what I normally look like, left, and how I looked while my color was developing. I took my “after” picture next to the office window since that’s where I was sitting in the first picture, so the color would be most accurate. People love to point out to me that I look really pale but I guess I don’t really think about it until I see a photo of myself. The only makeup I’m wearing in the picture at right is a little tinted lip balm–no bronzer or anything like that. Typically it would take quite a bit of makeup magic to give me that tone! I guess I am a rather pale person.
I was pretty surprised to turn a deep bronze shade by the end of the day. No orange, no streaks, and only a few missed spots (hello, bellybutton!) that needed a touch-up. But as pleased as I was with my new color, I really wanted to know how I would look after using the tanner for a few straight days. Many self-tanners I’ve tried in the past have looked fine on day 1, but they’ve streaked, built up unevenly, or turned orange after a few days of application, preventing me from getting truly “tan”.
So in the interest of research, I spent the next few days alternating the Beautisol tanner with a regular body lotion on the “in-between” days. I do think that compared to some tanning lotions I’ve tried in the past, this mousse is not nearly as hydrating. This was good news for my face, since I break out easily, but not such great news for my body, since I have dry skin. If you have dry skin I recommend switching to a richer lotion or even body butter on your “off” days, or using it after showering off the guide color each morning instead of a lighter body lotion. Your skin will thank you for the extra hydration, and it will also help your tan wear more evenly.
So what did I look like after the weekend? Here’s a before-and-after to show you the difference. The picture on the left was taken a month or two ago, when I was still naturally pale.
(Why do all of my photos involve a garbage can? And my neighbor’s fence that is about three different colors down the length…I’m just now noticing this as I write this post. Le sigh. I need a new photo spot! On a happier note, look at how lush and green our grass turned in the past month! I thought it was just me until I went out by the highway and saw the explosion of color there too. It’s definitely summer!)
It’s crazy how bronze this stuff made me. This is the first time in years that my face has been so dark my foundation and concealer no longer matched! I honestly felt ready for summer; even though it was kind of chilly I had to wear shorts so I could admire how tan my bright, bright white legs had turned. I can’t even remember the last time I had this kind of a tan.
The trickiness with maintaining this color isn’t in avoiding orange–I think it did a wonderful job of remaining natural-looking. I had more issues with avoiding patchiness. You can literally scrub this color away with a loofah–excellent news if you get a bit heavy-handed on your feet and need to tone down the color, but no so excellent if you’re an absent-minded exfoliator. I got a bug bite on my calf and was vigorously scratching at it with the loofah one morning without thinking, and it was only when I got out of the shower that I realized I now had a large white patch on the side of my leg. Oops! If you use a scrub, a loofah or even a bath poof, you HAVE to exfoliate very evenly all over your body to avoid turning your color patchy. It’s much easier to just maintain than to fix those patches.
I had the worst time with my legs, because on top of the exfoliating, I also shave my legs (more exfoliating) and I seem to have much drier skin there than anywhere else on my body, and as any beauty nut knows, dry skin leads to patchy color. I think that if you were going to keep up such a dark color, you would have to be very diligent about exfoliating evenly and often, shaving on a schedule and moisturizing like crazy to keep skin soft. This isn’t a product you can use as an afterthought.
For some reason, my Alba Botanica Acne Dote wash and scrub did an amazing job of getting rid of over-tanned spots; both contain salicylic acid as their active ingredient, so if you need to banish a dark spot I would recommend using an acne wash and a loofah to do so. Then you can apply a spot of body lotion over that area to prevent the mousse from accidentally sinking in and just buff it into the lighter spots on your body to even out.
One note about the “Pure Scent” tech: you know how they always say that perfumes smell different on different people, because your body chemistry affects the end result of the fragrance? I have come to the conclusion that there is something in my body chemistry that reacts poorly to the active ingredients in self-tanner, because no matter which one I use or how stink-free it claims to be, I always smell terrible until my next shower. So I really can’t comment on whether or not this stuff is less stinky than any other product on the market.
Beautisol products are cruelty-free and vegan, and free of parabens, propylene glycol, and sodium laureth/laurel sulfates.
My verdict: Does this product require a lot of extra work? Yes, more so than any other self-tanner I’ve ever tried. However, it also delivers an amazingly natural tan in a hurry, which makes me think that the extra work is well worth it. If you needed an express tan for that hypothetical vacation, you could use this before bed, shower off your guide color in the morning and reapply under some loose-fitting clothes while you do your pre-vacay prep and packing, shower again that evening and reapply before bed, and be totally bronzed and ready within a brisk24 hours to fly out to the islands. I don’t know of many tanners that can be used on such an express schedule to deliver a dark tan and still turn out so flawlessly.
Will it make a tanning convert out of me? Probably not. At heart I am a lazy person, and as I mentioned, I like being pale. It’s just “me”! I almost feel like I look way too dark in that second picture. However, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wanted a faux glow, and I would certainly use if it I knew I was going on a beach vacation and would be spending lots of time in a swimsuit.