Self Tanning Questions

How Does Self-Tanning Lotion Work? (+ My Favorite 3)

Written by: Anastasija

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Self-Tanner is a popular product in the beauty industry, and one of the great things about it is that it comes in different formulas and types. Self-tanning lotion is one of these, and this article has everything you need to know about using it.

What is a self-tanning lotion?

The self-tanning lotion is essentially a product which comes in a creamy, hydrating lotion form, but also contains self-tanning pigment. A lot of the time, these lotions are a form of gradual tan, and don’t have too much colour all at once – you’ll have to build it up.

It’s very quick to use and apply, as gradual self-tanning lotions don’t even require a mitt and you just rub it into your body using your hands. You should probably use an application mitt for regular self-tanning lotions, however, as these can be prone to streaks.

Because some self-tanning lotions are forms of gradual tans, these ones mean you don’t need to worry if you have missed a small spot slightly one day, because this will eventually become covered over by the extra layers you apply in the following days.

There’s also not really much need to fuss over scrubbing a gradual self-tanning lotion off between applications because the colour of each layer is so faint. However, a regular self-tanning lotion should probably be exfoliated off, if it’s not already faded.

One thing that can save you time is that the formula of a self-tanning lotion is also designed to nourish and hydrate your skin, usually incorporating other special ingredients to care for and repair it. This means you don’t have to use a separate moisturiser alongside it on the days you are applying the tan.

Also read:
What Self-Tanner Do Celebrities Use? (Kardashians, J.Lo, …)
How do Self-Tanning Wipes Work? (Best Ones)

How does self-tanning lotion work?

Now you have a bit of an idea of what a self-tanning lotion is, how does it work? As mentioned, a lot of self-tanning lotions are gradual tans, which means they have a slight colour which is designed to be built up to create a beautiful bronze. Keep in mind, you’ll have to be patient as this does take longer than your regular self-tanning mousse.

A self-tanning lotion still uses dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to add pigment to your skin, just like any other self-tanner, but in different concentrations and with other ingredients. This DHA is designed to react with the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin (completely normal) and the result of this is the coloured skin.

Why Does Self-Tanner Smell featured
Bondi Sands Mousse and Lotion.

When you use a gradual tanning lotion every day, which is the recommended frequency, the pigment gradually builds up, as you gradually add more and more DHA to the skin. Although you’re also adding other ingredients to the skin, such as the hydrating ones, the DHA lasts longer than these, so the DHA concentration slowly goes up.

For other tanning lotions that aren’t gradual, the process is quite similar to a tanning mousse. They have a higher concentration of DHA than their gradual counterparts, and generally use the same process of apply, wait for the colour to develop, and shower, as a mousse. Of course, this can still vary between each product, so check your individual instructions.

Self-tanning mousse vs. lotion

Self-tanning mousses are the most popular self-tanning option, because they produce consistently good results, they’re more familiar to most people, and just all-around fabulous. When considering whether to buy a new type of product, like a self-tanning lotion, it’s good to compare it with something you already know.

One obvious difference between the two is moisturisation. If you use a self-tanning mousse, you’ll know that you have to constantly keep moisturising your body, as dry skin can make the tan fade, and a lot of self-tanning mousse seems to make your skin even dryer than before. A tanning lotion has its own hydrating benefits, but you’ll still have to use another moisturiser every now and then when your skin is dryer if using a regular tanning lotion.

If you use a gradual tanning lotion, you don’t need to apply moisturiser, as this should contain everything you need, which saves a lot of time.

Sometimes, people find self-tanning lotions can be a little more prone to streaks than mousses, so you should best lookout for this. With a gradual tan, these streaks aren’t a problem, as they aren’t very obvious at all – no need to completely remove the tanning mousse you just spent ages applying because it has streaks!

Lastly, the biggest difference is colour. If you’re using a regular self-tanning lotion, the colour shouldn’t be too different from the mousse, but a gradual self-tanning lotion obviously takes much longer to build up that same colour. However, it does take much less time to apply.

Also read:
What Is The Best Self-Tanner For Fair Skin? (5 Favorite Ones)

Self-tanning lotion vs. self-tanning mist

Another popular self-tanning product which is becoming increasingly popular is the self-tanning mist. If you haven’t heard of this before, a mist is just like a spray bottle that squirts self-tanner onto your body, like a perfume.

Self-tanning mists are quite quick and convenient to use, comparable to a gradual self-tanning lotion, and faster than a regular one. However, many people find they miss areas, or find streaks on the skin after using a self-tanning mist, which you don’t normally get as much with a self-tanning lotion. If this happens with a gradual lotion, as mentioned, it is easily fixed.

Once again, you have to moisturise when using a tanning mist, but not so much with a gradual self-tanning lotion.

There aren’t really too many differences between a lotion and a mist, but it mostly depends on your personal preferred application technique.

Also read:
How Do You Use St Tropez Self-Tan Purity? (Face Mist & Water)

My 3 favourite self-tanning lotions

Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Lotion

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One of the newest collections from tanning experts at Bondi Sands is their PURE range. In this collection, the products aren’t only designed to deliver the perfect, flawless tan that we all know the brand for, but they put skincare first, too.

This gradual tanning lotion is enriched with cocoa butter and shea butter, two incredibly powerful ingredients when it comes to delivering nourishment and protection to the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Not to mention, the formula also features vitamin C, improving the skin’s radiance, as well as vitamin E which contributes to added hydration.

These make it the perfect option for those with dry skin, and for use all year round.

TAN-LUXE The Butter – Illuminating Tanning Butter, 200ml

TAN-LUXE The Butter - Illuminating Tanning Butter, 200ml - Cruelty & Toxin Free
351 Reviews
TAN-LUXE The Butter - Illuminating Tanning Butter, 200ml - Cruelty & Toxin Free
  • What it is: A richly hydrating body moisturizer from Tan Luxe that doubles as an easy to apply self tanner perfect for beginners
  • Good to know: Paraben free, sulfate free, vegan, and certified cruelty free by PETA

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Another skincare-focused formula, The Butter, is a best-selling product around the world from one of the fastest-growing luxury tanning brands, TAN-LUXE. Just like the name suggests, this lotion is like smothering butter into your skin, feeling extremely soft and nourishing, and leaving your skin with the smoothest finish.

The tan builds gradually over 4-6 hours after application, all whilst serving you with skin-loving ingredients simultaneously. As if it could get any better, the product also contains reflective nanoparticles which leave your skin with an illuminated, glowy finish. It’s the perfect summer glow!

Bondi Sands Every Day Gradual Tanning Milk

Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk | Long-lasting, Tanning Body Moisturizer Enriched With Aloe Vera and Vitamin E for Glowing Skin, 12.68 Fl Oz
3,946 Reviews
Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk | Long-lasting, Tanning Body Moisturizer Enriched With Aloe Vera and Vitamin E for Glowing Skin, 12.68 Fl Oz
  • Enjoy a year-round tan with Bondi Sands innovative dual action Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk; Enriched with aloe vera & vitamin E for healthy, glowing skin it glides on effortlessly for a long lasting, golden tan every time
  • Apply tanning milk evenly onto clean, dry skin in a smooth, circular motion; Wait for milk to dry before dressing

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If you are looking to up your daily moisturiser game, this one from Bondi Sands has a small amount of DHA added to the formula which gradually builds up a gorgeous, extremely natural-looking tan that you can flaunt as you’ve been on a long summer vacation.

One of the things which makes this really convenient is that it moisturises your skin at the same time, so you can just replace your regular daily moisturiser with this one. It is also a big bottle with a pump, making it easy and quick to use, even on busy mornings.

Final thoughts

Self-tanning lotions are a strong self-tanning method, and you can find different ones, with different properties or ingredients, to suit your lifestyle. Gradual lotions are incredibly easy to use and take back so much of your time to do other things that matter to you, rather than waiting for hours until a self-tanner is ready to be washed off.

Now that you know how self-tanning lotions work, you can decide which option is best for you!

About Anastasija

Welcome to my website! I'm Anastasija, and as a redhead with a sensitivity to the sun, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect sunless tanner six years ago.

After extensive research and four years of personal experience, I'm here to share my wealth of tips and tricks for achieving a beautiful, sun-kissed glow.

Whether you're interested in self-tanners, spray tans, or safe sun exposure, this website covers it all.

Join me as I provide valuable insights and guidance for various methods of getting that desired tan.

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