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This Is What Happened When We Tried Five Popular Fake Tans

From the barely noticeable to the oh-so orange.

by , , , , ,
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

If you have any experience using fake tan, you'll already know that it was not designed to be your friend. It's messy, smelly, and hard to get right.

Snapchat: ChrissyTeigen

But when you use the right formula for your skin, it can be magical. It's just a matter of finding it.

For this reason, we decided to road test five popular mousse fake tans to figure out which one is best. It was quite a journey...

J Bronze, Le Tan, Bondi Sands, St Tropez, Creightons

All prices in this post are stated in AUD.

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

Gyan: A couple of years ago, I had a pretty solid tanning routine that consisted of me slathering myself in the stuff every Thursday night without fail. These days, however, I reserve my tanning efforts for special occasions only. I alternate between two different self-tan mousses, depending on the shade I'm after, and how much time I'm willing to ~marinate~. I will admit, I was pretty nervous to stray from the products I know and love.

The "mousse" formula was very runny and messy to apply, even with a mitt. Once it was finally on, I waited the recommended four hours before showering. Though the shade was "medium", I've got to say that I was expecting to look at least a little more tanned than I had before application but alas, I did not.

This could be a great, affordable tan for those who aren't looking for a dramatic tan but for me, it just wasn't right. Back to the other faithfuls I go!

Rating: 2/5

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

Jenna: I used to fake tan for nights out and big events, but in recent years I've tried to embrace my natural pastiness (read: I cbf to fake tan). So I was a bit nervous to try this one, certain I'd end up a streaky, orange mess.

Applying the fake tan was pretty quick and easy – the foam was a good consistency and simple to spread and rub in. I'm pretty sure I ended up going over a few spots twice because I was paranoid I'd missed places. I applied it in the morning, waiting for about 30 minutes to make sure it was completely dry before getting dressed. As the day wore on it got more and more bronze, but I wouldn't exactly call it "deep bronze". I was still very beige, which was actually OK – I felt it looked more natural, and still like myself. It wasn't really streaky except in one spot on my arm, which was definitely the result of my own application skills (or lack thereof).

One of my colleagues couldn't tell I'd tanned, but another told me I looked like I'd just got back from a holiday, which is basically goals. The tan faded within a day or two. While the results weren't dramatic, it didn't take a whole lot of effort to achieve them, so I feel like I'd totally use this again.

Rating: 3.5/5

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

Michelle: Sadly, the only time I ever tan is when my 30+ SPF sunscreen isn’t strong enough for the Australian sun – in which case I go 50 shades of red, then after a while develop a tiny tinge of brown.

The tan I had was Bondi Sands ULTRA DARK, which for me was clearly not the correct choice. I had high hopes for Bondi Sands because it’s the brand all the YouTubers rave about, but the whole "ultra dark" thing scared me a bit. The tan was meant to go on for a minimum of six hours, but I knew that was a big no-no for me, so I put it on for two hours. Applying it to my body was fine, but I had to get my mum to help me out for my back, which was streaky and patchy AF.

It all seemed fine. I washed my body and the tan seemed like it did nothing, but then I woke up. Lord, my hands and feet were orange as a pack of Cheezels, and my elbows and knees looked like I had been commando-crawling through dirt. But after a day or two, my legs and arms developed into a nice colour.

The formula of the tan itself was good and if I were to get it again I would 100% get a different colour, but tbh the hassle of applying it and having to wait for it to dry and all that was too much. I think the pale life is the one for me.

4/5 for the tan but 1/5 for my application

J Bronze Dark Tanning Mousse, $34.95

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

Jemima: I’ve never tanned myself, unless you include using a gradual tanner. I was pretty nervous about this whole thing, and assumed I would fuck it up somehow and end up an orange, streaky mess.

The fact that this was a mousse made it really easy to apply. The problem is that the directions on the bottle don’t say anything about how much I should actually put on, and whether I should really rub it in or just leave it on the skin. In the end I just half-rubbed it in and hoped for the best. Then the bottle told me I had to wait for four hours before I could wash it off, but stupidly I applied it at 8:30pm. Considering my normal bedtime is 9pm, I ended up only leaving the tan on for three hours before showering so I could sleep, but I think that was enough considering how white I was before.

It actually ended up being a pretty good tan. It looked natural, but in hindsight I probably could have applied more on my inner arms, as they still look super white compared to my legs. It lasted really well for a couple of days, but after a weekend where I got covered in oil for a massage, and swam in chlorine, it had faded. So it’s perfect for a short-term tan, especially if you have commitment issues and might want to wash it off quickly.

Rating: 4/5

St Tropez Classic Bronzing Mousse, $39.99

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed
Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

Tahlia: I’m naturally quite pale, and unfortunately didn’t inherit my family’s European tanning genes. I used to fake tan in my teens with that beautiful orange Johnson’s gradual tanning lotion that we all loved, but since that mistake I don’t really touch fake tanning products.

When applying the St Tropez bronzing mousse, the directions told me to use a “tanning mitt” and I was all “lmao what is that?”... So I didn’t, and as I attempted to wash the fake tan off my hands, I really, really regretted it. Like, that shit did not want to come off. Application was super easy though, even for a total fake-tan noob like me, and I assume it’d go on a lot smoother if you did have a tanning mitt (whatever that is).

I quite liked the look of it the next day (minus the patches on my arms I somehow missed) and it wasn’t streaky at all. The fake tan smell was definitely quite strong in the first 24 hours, but after a while it gradually faded, much like the tan itself. The mousse probably gave me a good three to four days of colour, and it’s something I’d definitely use again if I wanted to bronze up for a night out or something similar.

Rating: 4/5

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

- Finding the right shade is just as important as the right brand.

- Fake tan application is an art form (and a mitt helps).

- The more expensive brand names gave a stronger, longer tan, but for short-term and subtle tans the cheaper options are totally worth it.

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