12 Self-tanners that work

Thursday, 10 November 2016


The first warm days always catch us off guard. Personally, I’m always so happy that the sun’s out and I can unpack my short shorts and dresses that I don’t give a second thought to the body that’s going to be squeezed into them. Until this past weekend, when someone asked if I glowed in the dark (because my legs were so pale).

We get that some folks are still scared of trying a self-tanner – no one wants to look like an Oompa-Loompa or even worse, Donald Trump. But it’s time to get over it because getting an actual tan is a hell of a lot worse for you!

Besides self-tanners have come a long way. Before self-tanners got all fancy, brands were making one product: a DHA lotion. What’s DHA you ask? Dihydroxyacetone (aka DHA) is the ingredient that stains your skin bronze, and these days it’s been added to formulas that come in a whole host of guises. You can pick from lotions, serums, gels and mousses – each with their own benefits.

Here’s a selection of our favourite self-tanners, in their different forms that’ll get heads turning, for the right reasons.

Cream lotion self-tanner

Lotions are typically less saturated with DHA, so you can layer them on for a few days in a row to gradually build your bronze. We love BioNike Defence Sun Self-Tanning Face and Body Moisturising Milk, R99,95 – like all their products, it’s lead and gluten free. You also can’t go wrong with our fave budget buy, Dove Summer Glow Bronzing Body Balm for Pale Skin, R38,99.

Some cream lotions do double-duty as both face and body, so make sure to check the package before purchasing.

Face self-tanners are often lighter formulas than the body versions and offer extra skin care benefits. So choose wisely, especially if you have oily skin (you’ll want something matte), rosacea (look for products aimed at fair skin), or any other epidermis issue.

If you don’t want to look as if you’ve come back from a weekend in the Mediterranean (not quite sure why you wouldn’t) and you prefer a subtle tan, then try Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion, R345, which adds a natural tint to your face and body. It also contains fig and aloe vera extracts and has the added benefit of being a hydrating crème.

Oil or serum self-tanner

If you really want a self-tanner that sinks in, you’ll love the oil and serum versions. These hydrating bronzers dry matte but give you a natural-looking flush. Plus, since they’re so light, it’s easy to apply daily makeup over them once they dry. Try adding about three drops of Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronze Tint, R599, to your favourite moisturiser and you’ll get a gradual natural tan without worrying that you’ll break out from any weird additives.

Mousse self-tanner

Mousse formulas are super lightweight and perfect if you have oily skin. Try Caribbean Tan Professional Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, R99,95. Known for it’s non-stick, quick-drying formula, it’s best applied with a self-tanner mitt for a stripe-free finish. Or splurge on the award-winning Vita Liberata Tinted Self Tan Mousse, R1 135.


Gel self-tanner

If you’re a bit of a novice at applying self-tan and you want to make sure you haven’t missed a spot, try the lightweight gel-lotion California Tan Instant Sunless Lotion, R439,95. A cult favourite, Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel, R345, also offers a quick, streak-free, natural golden colour without sitting in the sun. It’s a non-oily, lightweight gel, that’s easy to apply and dries quickly.

Airbrush self-tanner

If airbrush tans are your thing, then DIY with an at-home version like Caribbean Tan In A Can, R99,95. These fine mists spray the product on, so you don’t have to rub it in. Just make sure to hold the can an even distance away at all times and let the formula set in place. It also comes in three different skin tone options. A is for pale skin that never tans, B is for pale to medium skin tones and C is for olive skin.

Shimmer creams

If you only have a few hours to get ready before a big event or hate getting self-tanner on your sheets and clothes, then an express formula is your best bet. Be a little daring (and glamorous) by adding some micro-sparkle to your self-tan with Caribbean Tan Tinted Body Bronzer Shimmer Cream, R59,95. Wear it for a day at the beach or a night on the town and wash it off in the shower when you’re ready.

Self-tanning wipes

Is there anything more low-maintenance than self-tanning towelettes? Simply swab the little squares evenly over your shoulder or décolletage the way you would with a wet wipe. These are best used for small areas and not your whole body. Try Dis-Chem Self Tan Wipes, R44,95 or Caribbean Tan Tanning Wipes, R59,95.

Self-tanning tips

* Only apply self-tan to clean, exfoliated skin – otherwise, you’ll have darker patches where the self-tan soaked more into the drier or rougher areas
* When exfoliating, pay special attention to the rough areas like your elbows, knees and ankles, and consider using a tanning mitt or latex gloves to apply it.
* Use circular motions to ensure even coverage
* Allow the self-tan to dry completely before putting on any clothes, or they’ll stain
* Wear dark clothes after your self-tan has dried, just in case

Read how to apply fake tan perfectly here.


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  1. Laylaa Edwards

    I am very pale and very scared of sun as I am a skin cancer patient.Someone once told me to try Carribean self tan spray. Worked great and it lasts. I recently discovered Tropitone self tan lotion and I must say it worked very well and I preferred the colour. Only thing is that you have to apply it 2 times a week for it to last.

    3 years ago •

    1. Annika Joubet

      My friend tried the Tropitone, worked best compared to the dove Summer glow I tried

      2 years ago •


    I’m naturally tan so i don’t need these products hehe.

    3 years ago •

  1. Monica Ritter

    The Dove: Summer Glow really works! I started seeing a subtle difference about three days after I started using it.

    3 years ago •

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