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I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I’ve got to be honest — I like the way I look when I’m tan. I know that sun exposure can damage my skin, causing skin cancer and premature aging, but a part of me hates being that girl with skin that’s so fair that it’s blinding when you look at it in direct sunlight.
Obviously, I’m exaggerating (a little), but the point remains that I like having a little bit of color to my skin. While I’ve always thought self-tanner was a better option than tanning in the sun, I could never reconcile my fear that I’m somehow going to end up with orange skin, a streaky tan, or some other equally horrifying result. So when a recent trip to Sephora led to the saleswoman personally recommending St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse ($40, amazon.com), I thought, why not?
[Read More: How Do Self Tanners Work?]
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): This Puts the Tan in Sunless Tanners
More commonly known as DHA, dihydroxyacetone is a common ingredient in self-tanners because of how it works. After topically applying DHA, the 3-carbon sugar reacts with amino acids and amino groups to produce melanoids (brown pigments) on the protein-rich stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin). This results in a darker skin color, which fades over time due to the skin shedding itself every 35-45 days (Danish Ministry of the Environment, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology).
Many think that applying the self-tanner will result in a “base” tan that will protect users from UV radiation, but this isn’t the case. In fact, according to Spectrochimica Acta, DHA in sunless tanners can increase free radicals by 180% in the first 24 hours after application. So if you’re applying a sunless tanner, make sure you keep up with your application of sunscreen throughout the day, particularly in the first few days after application, as it can actually make the sun’s free radical damage worse.
Aloe Vera: Soothe and Hydrate
Aloe has been used for thousands of years with uses ranging from medicinal to skincare, and it’s no surprise; studies have found it to be an effective method to treat burns and soothe skin (Indian Journal of Dermatology). It’s also super-hydrating, meaning that it should help keep skin from desquamation or peeling, which will cause your tan to flake away (Skin Research and Technology). Aloe has also been found to act as an anti-inflammatory , but researchers have yet to agree on its other purported properties, like wound healing (Sylvester Comprehensive Medical Center; Journal of Ethnopharmacology). Luckily, St. Tropez warns against using its Bronzing Mousse if you have broken or particularly dry skin.
Aromaguard™: A Better Smelling Sunless Tanner?
According to St. Tropez, sunless tanners smell because of the way DHA reacts with the proteins on the skin. Instead of leaving users with the “wet biscuit” smell, Aromaguard™ claims to reduce it by at least 70%, thus leaving a pleasant yet subtle aroma. Whether or not this is true (there isn’t any published data to verify this), the mousse does contain a variety of ingredients (probably for their fragrances) that could be potentially irritating to skin, like citric acid and linalool.
See the Difference: Before and After Photos of St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse
Overall Rating: ****
As far as self-tanners go, St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse is definitely one of the best. I applied it with the recommended mitt, and my legs looked naturally darker. I wouldn’t say there’s a dramatic difference in color with one application, which I think is good, because it allows you to build up color more gradually (meaning you won’t suddenly look spectacularly and inexplicably tan). I chose to keep my results on the believable side and didn’t use more than one layer/application. Overall, I’d definitely recommend this product; it applied easily, didn’t smell, and dried pretty quickly. As always, be very vigilant about sunscreen after applying this, particularly because of the DHA.
Water (Aqua), Dihydroxyacetone, Ethoxydiglycol, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Decyl Glucoside, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Bisulfite, Citric Acid, Fragrance (Parfum), Benzyl Salicylate, Cinnamal, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Citronellol, Eugenol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Isoeugenol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Caramel, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Red 40 (CI 16035), Blue 1 (CI 42090)