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Yikes. The palms of my hands are orange. It’s a novice self-tanning mistake and an obvious sign that I am a stranger to self-tanning products. I’ve just returned from a week-long beach vacation on Cape Verde, an African island where the sun is hot and the tempo is slow. It was my first holiday in four years and now, I’m back to my optimum shade of melanin after too much time spent indoors during lockdown starved of vitamin D (I looked as lacklustre as I felt). Post-holiday, my skin tone is a deep, very rich brown, and quite frankly, I’m not ready to let this glow go. So, I’ve covered myself in widely-celebrated self- tanning drops by Tan-Luxe because apparently, there's a deeper, richer, glowier, more unified shade of brown to obtain.
Before using self-tanner (with & without make-up)
Of all the beauty trends and body standards that I have subjected myself to, self-tanner was something I felt I could happily ignore. The world of tanning mitts, mousse, spray tans, and the dreaded orange-peel patchy skin has pretty much escaped me, because, well…, as a Black woman, I’ve clearly not been the target market for these products, until now. Across Black beauty communities on TikTok, Youtube, Instagram, Black people who love beauty have been shouting about the benefits of using self-tanner on dark skin; from the lightest to the darkest of melanated skin tones.
At the risk of preaching to the converted, self-tanning on darker skin is certainly not a new concept, with products such as Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam, Isle Of Paradise’s Ultra Express Tanning Foam, St Tropez tanning mousse and more frequently advertised to darker consumers. Still, self-tanning when you’re already brown does invite its fair share of sceptics, with the main criticism being, “what’s the point?” And, it’s valid to question whether self-tanning brands are simply trying to widen the customer base by selling darker-skinned Black and brown women a product they don’t necessarily need or previously desired. I’ve certainly had my own doubts.
Still, unlike paler skin tones, when you use a self-tanner as a darker complexioned person, the pursuit can be for a myriad of reasons, not just to become darker. As Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, medical doctor and founder of SKNDOCTOR, told Refinery29’s Vanese Maddix. "Fake tan can definitely help to address problems such as pigmentation, stretch marks and is even great for adding warmth to your skin when matched to the skin's natural undertone."
Admittedly it’s not the very first time I’ve tried tanning. I got my first (and last) spray tan for an article around seven years ago and I looked… well, a little weird. Unlike a spray tan, I was looking for something more subtle, that I could use on the days when I look my most iron-deficient, and I could control just how deep of a tan I’d get. Fulfilling the brief: Tan-Luxe’s Illuminating drops, a product that has its fair share of fans on TikTok and Instagram.
Tan-Luxe’s dark-skinned fans include Youtuber Gary Thompson of the channel The Plastic Boy who praised the product for giving his skin an “even finish.” “I feel like Black people — any melanated people — get really scared to use self-tanners but they actually even out our complexion, and because we already have that dark base it’s unlikely we will go patchy or muddy,” shared The Plastic Boy, via his Youtube channel.
Costing £36.00 for a 30ml bottle, Tan-Luxe’s Illuminating Face Drops offers a gentle introduction to tanning by allowing users to control just how deep a tan they want. The illuminating drops, designed for face or body, are described as a ‘multi-award-winning formula’ that works with your usual skincare regime, by adding a few drops to your favourite serums and moisturisers for a ‘customisable glow.’ It promises to ‘minimise skin imperfections, unify uneven skin tone and enhance your skin with a luminous radiance without any streaks to give it away.’
After using self-tanner (with & without make-up)
It all sounds great, but here’s where my alarm went off. Tan-Luxe’s Illuminating Face Drops come in two shade options: light/medium and medium/dark. I was immediately deterred because when it comes to “dark” for self-tanner, the products generally tend to mean the shade of Jennifer Lopez. I am doubtful whether this product will make a significant change in the deepest and darkest of skin tones.
When it comes to application, you can add between one-two drops in your moisturiser for a light radiance or a maximum of 12 drops to be fully bronzed. Just before bed, I used a total of eight drops in my night serum over a course of three days and I woke up significantly glowing. The promise of a more even and glowy complexion has been achieved. My skin typically has a more yellow undertone but now is a more vibrant, reddish-tinted shade. Given my dark forehead and my light chest usually appear to exist in two different climates, with the tanning drops my skin tone looks significantly more even. In fact, I’d be bold enough to suggest this could be the most unified my skin has looked in a while. I am not significantly darker but my skin tone looks more bronzed, like Beyoncé in Austin Power’s Goldmember.
Looking at myself in the mirror, all bronze and shimmery, without a scrap of foundation, I really like the result of tanning drops and have been shouting the praises of self-tanning to my Black friends over the past week. Funnily enough, I haven’t converted an entire congregation with my mum texting in response “NOPE. Me, my melanin and I, there’s absolutely no need for this.” Fair enough.
Whether some may like to admit it or not, opting to go darker can mean grappling with some internalised colourism. I know my grandmother, from the Caribbean, would be so baffled about me choosing to go darker. After years of being told to stay out of the sun and finding rogue and aged bottles of skin-lightening creams in the backs of cupboards, self-tanning when you’re already brown feels like a very subtle act of defiance. While I don’t need self-tan, I am enjoying the artificial glowiness. Regardless of whether I’m using foundations, serum, moisturisers, fixing sprays or more, I am always in pursuit of the glow, and self-tanners, whether necessary for me or not, are now just another tool in my glowy skin arsenal.
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