If you have naturally pale skin, you might be cool enough to embrace that and flaunt your porcelain perfection through summer and winter. But I feel better when you have a little hint of a tan – nothing drastic, no Valentino-mahogany or TOWIE-tango here – just a bit of warmth to the skin.
Now because I have a finite amount of skin and didn’t particularly fancy going down the Buffalo Bill route, I called upon some Celtic-complexioned guinea pigs – namely my Irish mama and Scots/Polish best friend Jen – to trial some fake tans for me.
I’ve written about Caudalie’s Divine Legs Body Lotion, but that’s more of a wash-off temporary solution. And I talked about the full St Tropez salon spray tan experience here, but right now I’m interested in the self tanners that you apply yourself, at home, in the comfort of your own bathroom - in short, the ones that invariably go wrong, and the wrongness is so much more obvious if you're pale.
Vita Liberata Ultra Sheer Tan, tested by my mum:
“Having tried many self tanning products over the years I was intrigued to be introduced to the first organic one known to me and embraced the opportunity to try and see if there really was a difference. I put aside sceptical thoughts and gave it a go as the beginning of summer appeared. Just what my pale limbs needed – a healthy boost of colour, I hoped. I was not disappointed – Vita Liberata certainly impressed me from the outset – clear instructions and a reassuring tint gave me a good idea of where I was applying."
"As I said, I have used self-tanners before – but they were not always successful and I usually abandoned all hope after the first application as there were too many misses and not enough hits – I tend to be rather lazy [NOW YOU SEE WHERE I GET IT FROM!] and if the product doesn’t produce a good effect I usually give up, citing pressure of time – but in reality I just want instant gratification. Thankfully VL provided this."
"The colour was a matte natural look – as if I’d spent a weekend in the garden weeding or alternatively picking grapes in the south of France (as I did as a teenager in another lifetime!) It excelled itself in the moisturising department as it left legs and arms feeling nourished and smooth – not at all tight as some products have in the past. The scent wasn’t that cloying tell-tale giveaway that comes with others too – a first for me also – it was pleasant and fresh. The mitt was very helpful. All in all this is a product I will happily use all through the summer.” Vita Liberata Ultra Sheer Tan, £15, feelunique.com
And here's what Jen thought of Kiko Self Tanning Spray - Light:
"I am pale skinned. And when I say pale I mean nearly translucent/grey. In the summer, if I manage not to burn, I go off white or beige. So you would think that I would spend a considerable amount of time and money on fake tan except for that fact that past experiences have left me with a deep rooted fear of looking orange. For this reason I tend to steer clear of fake tans and foundation for my face but this summer I have decided to face my fears."
"Phoebe assigned me the task of trying a self tanner and I was given Kiko Self Tanning Spray - Light. It says on the box that it is ideal for achieving a light and even colour and it is hypoallergenic and paraben free. It certainly was easy to apply as you spray on a light mist and then leave to dry. It is difficult to tell if you have an even application as there is no colour to the spray but the fragrance is pleasant enough."
"And the results? I can see a subtle - very subtle - colour change, which makes me wonder if I should have sprayed more? It's very light, but that's good, as you can layer it up gradually to the level of tan you want." £5.90, kikocosmetics.co.uk
In the interests of, I don’t know, science? I tested two products – Bioderma’s Photoderm Autobronzant Moisturising Tanning Spray on my left arm and leg, and St Tropez Bronzing Mousse on my right.
The Bioderma is dispensed in a colourless ‘micro-diffused’ mist which makes it tricky to see where you’re applying it, but the diffuser works at every angle so you can tilt it around to do the backs of arms etc. I stood, slightly confused, in a cloud of the stuff, hopefully wafting my arm and leg around to ‘catch’ it. I didn’t blend or rub the product into my skin, but just left it to its own devices. It dried quickly and didn't feel sticky.
The St Tropez product is quite the opposite – a dark brown substance that closely resembles dark chocolate mousse, it is messy (I accidentally flung some over my dressing table) but at least you can see where it’s going. This definitely needed to be massaged into the skin to make sure that there were no streaks. The mousse moved easily over the skin and by the end everything appeared even.
The Bioderma has a light, fresh, almost citrusy scent that’s really quite pleasant – you notice it more in the mist, but it almost disappears on the skin. It’s hypoallergenic and non comedogenic too. The St Tropez mousse uses Aromaguard technology to banish the dreaded biscuit smell and again, I found this to have a subtle perfume.
It takes twelve hours for the Bioderma tan to develop so you need to be patient, but the results are impressive. I was extremely pleased with my light, golden, authentic-looking tan that still looked like ‘real’ skin. If you notice any areas you missed the first time round, you can always give them a gentle top-up with the spray. This is such a subtle look, it’s ideal for newbies who don’t want anything too drastic. Bioderma Photoderm Autobronzant Moisturising Tanning Spray, £15, zestessentials.com
The tan you get from St Tropez is much deeper – as if you have actually been lolling around in Mustique, rather than spending your lunch breaks in the park – but because they’ve got the formula just right, the colour still looks realistic. It's a rich, golden brown that looks - there's no other way to describe it - expensive. Not for the fainthearted, but definitely a spectacular tan that works just as well on pale skin. St Tropez Bronzing Mousse, £17.49, boots.com
This article originally appeared on xoJane.co.uk.