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Pros and cons of self-tanners

Among tanning products, self-tanning creams are the most popular. The effect of their application lasts for about several days (depending on the skin type, pH, penetration depth into the horny layer of the epidermis, and its thickness), fading gradually over time and with the gradual exfoliation of the outer layer of the epidermis.

A significant drawback of using self-tanners is the characteristic smell of the skin, detectable as the tan develops, caused by the self-tanning substance (DHA) present in the majority of self-tanning products.

The intensity of the smell is individual and depends, among other things, on the skin's pH. In some self-tanners, DHA is replaced by a similar but slower-acting substance called erythrulose. Sometimes erythrulose is used simultaneously with DHA to achieve a faster "tan."

During the application of a self-tanner, it is crucial to thoroughly massage it into the skin. Therefore, it's advisable to perform a peeling beforehand – this ensures a more even and lasting tan. To facilitate application, you can lightly moisturize the skin with a hydrating cream before using the self-tanner. It's also recommended to apply balm on the hands before use (and, of course, wash hands thoroughly afterward) to make it easier to wash off the self-tanner and avoid dark streaks.

Self-tanning products usually have separate versions for the face and body. While there are no contraindications to using a body product on the face, it should be noted that body products generally have a higher concentration of tanning substances and a more intense effect. For those aiming for a very subtle facial tan, it's better to opt for creams with a minimal amount of tanning substance, such as Clarins Radiance Plus Self-Tanning Gel or the more affordable Ziaja Sopot.

Self-tanner and pigmentation – the skin's reaction to a self-tanner is highly individual, but self-tanners act on the surface and do not affect melanin production in the skin (which is often the source of pigmentation issues). The process of natural tanning has nothing to do with the "tan" from a self-tanner. In this regard, using self-tanners is safe for individuals prone to pigmentation issues – they do not exacerbate or worsen skin conditions.

However, it's essential to have realistic expectations about the final result and be aware that with skin darkening, pigmentation may also be partially darkened. Self-tanners can work well for individuals with minor acne-related changes when the product is applied meticulously.

For beginners or those looking to achieve a light tan, bronzing powders are recommended – very useful for contouring the face, especially when combined with a highlighter.

I personally prefer pressed powders to loose ones due to the ease of dosing – they are best applied with a large, soft brush, preferably made of natural bristles, on the cheekbones, temples, chin, nose, and eyelid crease.

Recommended products include Guerlain Terracotta Poudre Bronzante (with the advantage of choosing from three shades, the lightest of which is suitable even for very fair skin), and Laura Mercier Bronzing Powder. Powders with shimmering particles or glitter are better left for "after work" or evening outings unless applied with great caution and in small quantities.

Bronzing foundations are slightly more challenging to use because they are applied to the entire face – unless used as a highlighter. When looking for a tan effect, choosing the right color is crucial, so it's better to use a slightly darker shade of a very lightly covering foundation (or dilute it with a moisturizer).

Thorough application is equally important – do not neglect the ears and neck, as the foundation applied to the entire face will be more noticeable, especially if it is poorly matched to the skin color. Individuals with cool undertones (with a slightly bluish, pinkish, or blue tint) should avoid overly yellowish-golden shades, which may, in turn, work well for warmer skin tones (honey or yellowish shades).

There is also an increasing number of products on the cosmetic market that combine the benefits of both types of preparations. These are emulsions containing both a pigment causing an immediate tanning effect and a self-tanning substance, ensuring that the color lasts on the face for the next few days.

The advantage of such preparations is better control over the desired effect – thanks to the pigment, it's easier to avoid streaks and blotches by applying it to the skin, as well as control the amount of applied cream.

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