Self Tanning Questions

Why Does Self-Tanner Smell? Can I Make It Less Smelly?

Written by: Anastasija

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With increasing popularity, new self-tanners are constantly being released and, in turn, we are purchasing new, different formulas. When you use a self-tanner, you may notice that it has a smell, and in this article, you’ll find out why!

Why does self-tanner smell?

Self-tanners contain various ingredients and chemicals to enhance their performance and benefit the user. These chemicals often have unpleasant smells, and this is what you can smell when applying self-tanner.

Firstly, the smell depends on the formula of the product itself. Not all self-tanners smell – some even have fragrance mixed into them – so, if smell is something which bothers you, you can always find one which you prefer. There are also ways to prevent a smell after self-tanning, but we’ll talk about that later.

The distinct, most common smell of self-tanner comes from the key ingredients included in most products: dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is the chemical which is responsible for the beautiful shade of tan you go after using a self-tanner.

Dihydroxyacetone in 3D.

If you’re wondering why the smell happens, it comes from the reactions which occur between your skin and the DHA. This reaction isn’t harmful, however, so don’t be alarmed; that’s what the DHA is supposed to do.

Different self-tanners contain different ingredients that work with the DHA, and these can balance out the smell, or just react differently to your skin to prevent the smell in the first place. A self-tanner that works for someone else won’t necessarily be stink-free for you.

The smell should only last while the tan is developing, and some people won’t even experience it at all. Sometimes, the smell still lingers after showering, which is when it becomes annoying. Many people also find that giving the tan more time to develop before showering (say, leaving it on for 6 hours rather than 4) can make the smell more present, even after showering.

Self-tanners with a higher concentration of DHA will therefore have a stronger smell, which is also more likely to last longer. You can see the DHA concentration in comparison to other ingredients by finding its place on the ingredient list (the closer to the top, the higher percentage there is).

Which is the least-smelliest self-tanner I’ve used?

It’s no secret that some self-tanners have a worse smell than others. If you’re wondering what the smell is like it’s worth checking out the reviews or finding one with a fragrance.

In my opinion, this is the least-smelliest self-tanner I’ve ever used, the Bondi Sands self-tanning express. It costs $29 for a 7 oz bottle.

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Bondi Sands Aero 1-Hour Express Self Tanning Foam | Lightweight, Coconut Tanning Foam Quickly Provides a Healthy, Flawless, Bronzed Glow | 7.61 fl oz/225 mL
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Bondi Sands Aero 1-Hour Express Self Tanning Foam | Lightweight, Coconut Tanning Foam Quickly Provides a Healthy, Flawless, Bronzed Glow | 7.61 fl oz/225 mL
  • Our quick drying, ultra-lightweight aerosol formula provides a rich, natural, flawless dark tan quickly & easily
  • Using a mitt, apply foam using long, sweeping motions to clean, dry skin; Skin may be washed after one hour

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Bondi Sands is a very popular brand for self-tanning products and has released many different formulas and types of self-tanner. They come from Australia and aim to give you a realistic, Australian glow like you’ve spent the day and Bondi Sands beach.

This self-tanning foam takes one hour to develop into a lasting dark tan, and two or three for a deeper tan. Just like a normal foam, you apply it to dry skin after preparation and rinse once the colour has developed.

The product claims to have a coconut scent, and this really balances out the smells of the DHA and other chemicals. It’s great to have a self-tanner that smells pleasant during application, development, and wear. There’s no need to cover up the smell, as it’s very fresh and summery to match your tan!

Some reasons this self-tanner is great are that it can provide a smooth, streak-free tan that fades evenly and doesn’t look unnatural when wearing. One thing to keep in mind is that you should still spend time preparing before application and make sure you know exactly how to apply it. As long as you’re careful with the application, you will have a beautiful colour.

It’s much less smelly compared to the Extra Dark Mousse by St. Tropez for example.


Is it possible not to smell after self-tanning?

It can be really frustrating if your ride-or-die self-tanner has an unpleasant smell, as it can be rare and difficult to find the perfect one for you. If you do find your self-tanner has an unpleasant smell, and you are unhappy with this, you’ll be happy to hear there are ways to prevent and conceal your post-self-tanning smell!


One of the best ways not to get bothered by the horrible smell of a fake tan while it develops is to apply before bed and let it develop while you sleep. In the morning, shower to wash the tan off, and apply a lotion (a scented one is even better) to conceal any remaining smell.

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Another solution is obviously to find a product that doesn’t have a smell and contains fragrance or odour-neutralising chemicals to balance out the DHA. The smell depends on how the self-tanner reacts with your skin, so you should be able to find one which is completely smell-free for you through experimenting with different ones.

As mentioned before, the smell is only caused during the developing stage of self-tanning, but the smell can linger afterward. For this reason, choosing a shower gel to balance out these smells is a good choice when rinsing the self-tanner. Something with a fruity, citrus scent is great for covering up the smell of DHA.

Final thoughts

Essentially, lots of self-tanners smell when you use them, and this is caused by the magic ingredients which get to work on your skin to give you a glow. Luckily, there are ways to get around this smell by balancing and concealing it or finding a product that works better for your skin.

Now that you know why self-tanners smell and how to prevent it, there’s no need to worry next time!

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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