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Self-tanning is popular because it is like makeup for your entire body. The bonus is it lasts a few days! When you add vibrancy to the tone of your skin, it camouflages blotchiness, smoothes cellulite, and accentuates muscles. It creates a leaner, longer look to the legs and to the whole body. Who doesn’t love that! I wanted to create my own self tan formula even before I was thinking about creating a makeup line. I was very motivated to create something that didn’t come with that ever-so-familiar DHA smell. It smells a little different on different people but the more the solution warms up with someone’s natural body heat, the more pungent the odour becomes. What many do not know is that this is a sign of the DHA, the active tanning ingredient, degrading. To keep it from degrading it is very important to keep a DHA-based solution stored in cool temperatures, like in your fridge. A formula will last about four to six months and then start to degrade, which will prevent someone from getting the depth of colour the product is meant to create. Someone will still achieve colour past the expiry date of the DHA ingredient, but the colour depth will be less. For anyone who decides to create a really dark tan that is far-removed from their natural skin tone, it may look great when it is freshly created but as the colour starts to wear off, there is no way it can continually look smooth and like you just have a great tan because your natural, much paler skin tone is going to start peeking through! This type of self tanning is very high maintenance. Even if it could be achieved without the toxic soup of toxic dyes, alcohols, and other chemicals, why not embrace a tan that is a little more realistic for your skin tone. I think just like with tanning beds, self tanning and spray tans can become an addiction, like with many other things. I experienced this myself in my first career in the fitness industry. We often think, if a subtle change is good, a more dramatic change will be better, and that is not always the case. And you don’t want to commit to something where the upkeep is exhausting. It is the opposite of ‘carefree beauty’.

what about lake dyes?

When it comes to ‘clean beauty’, some brands still use FD&C or lake dyes (mostly in lipsticks glosses, blush, bronzers, and eyeshadows)! You might see these listed as Red 40 or Yellow 5, for instance. I am all for self tanning and I am also all for a product that can multitask and streamline your beauty routine but I try to avoid lake dyes as much as possible. The reason they are used in makeup and sunless tanning formulas is because it can be difficult to achieve certain pigments from natural sources alone. They also create an instant stain on the skin when added to a sunless tanning formula and are more inexpensive than earth pigments. As far as the safety of these dyes, it’s sort of a gray area so I’d encourage you to decide what’s best for you. The concern would be that they’re derived from crude petroleum which may contain carcinogenic contaminants and heavy metals. They are linked to migraines, hyperactivity, endocrine disruption, and a myriad of other issues. But rest assured, if you wish to avoid them completely, there are also cleaner options that are only pigmented naturally with elements like minerals, fruit, and herbs! The more surface area you are covering with the ingredients you apply to your body, the more likely a large percentage of those ingredients will be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, especially if you apply a product daily or weekly consistently and it is left on the skin for hours to ‘tan’ it. So it is important to read the full ingredients.

reasons to avoid lake dyes in makeup, self tanning formulas, and food:

food dyes cause inflammation and irritation in colon

how I was using my DHA-free caramel tan incorrectly as makeup

one thing I have learned with makeup and self tanning that can easily be applied to almost everything else in life is that when you are not happy with the results of something, chances are you may be overdoing it. We as humans often get overly-enthusiastic about something and go overboard. I was explaining this new trend of self tanner as makeup to a friend and it made me reflect on why I stopped using my own self tanner on my face. I used to apply it religiously to my face because it meant my complexion would look more even and I only needed a touch of makeup. A few years ago I started to only apply it from the neck down and then add a little more vibrant of a colour to my makeup to match the colour I had attained from the neck down. The reason was, it seemed to highlight any darkness I had on my face, which I didn’t have when I was younger. Instead of creating a little more colour, it created a lot. This is because I was using the same level of colour on my face that I was using on my body. Now I am seeing the error in my ways. We need to be using a lighter shade on our face than we would use on our body. Because we wash and exfoliate our face more than any other part of the body, when a self tanner is applied, the colour develops more intensely on the face than it does on the body so the results are more dramatic. When we have little to no hyperpigmentation, we can get away with opting for a dark self tanner on our face, but as we get these little areas of lightness and then areas of darkness right next to the lightness, creating a dark tan on top of that, can work against us. It can be the same when getting a ‘real’ dark tan on vacation when you already have areas of melasma on your face. So I started experimenting with my own formula to see if there was a different way I could apply it to get the smoothest colour. I realized that even if I love a more rich shade from the neck down, one or two shades lighter than my body shade works best for my face. And because the formula is a self tanner with a built-in high quality moisturizer, it can be lightly applied every day to the face so that you do not have to go through phases where you are more light or more dark and then have to apply your makeup colours accordingly.

helpful tips for using my DHA-free caramel tan as makeup

I have created a whole makeup line around my original product, my caramel tan. The formulas are created to work synergistically and my caramel tan works especially well with the demi method of makeup. The ‘tan shade’ created adds a more vibrant colour to the skin for all skin tones. So this can cancel out the ‘toning step’ of the demi method. The dye-based self tanners on the market are applied more like a contour, but I find that with my formula, it is much more simple to apply it evenly to the entire face, back of neck, and upper chest. If there are any areas you want to dilute the colour a little or even neutralize it all together, (like areas of melasma, or around the inside area of the face, and the trickier areas like hands, feet, and elbows, you can apply a small amount of my coconut cream, raspberry elixir, or your favourite moisturizer over the caramel tan application to those specific areas and gently blend it in. Again, that is over top of my caramel tan. Any areas where I want it neutralized completely, I can ‘custom erase’ the application with a damp washcloth. My self tanning formula does not contain any dyes or caramel which provides instant colour. This can be a colour that can look green or more muddy instead of a vibrant tone on certain skin tones. It’s like creating a bronzer that suits every skin tone, its impossible. It can also be rubbed off on clothing and sheets and possibly stain them. If you prefer the darkest shade of my caramel tan, extra dark, on your body, but would like a lighter shade for your face, which is what I recommend, without investing in more product here is my suggestion. apply my coconut cream moisturizer or raspberry elixir right before your caramel tan application on your face so that it is diluted all over the face. Or mix it with your favourite moisturizer in the palm of your hand so it is about half and half, then apply it. This will create a lighter final result than ‘extra dark’.

the new trend – dye-based self tanner as demi makeup video tutorials:

cara part 1

cara part 2

cara part 3

athea part 1

athea part 2

If you watch the two demi artists in the videos above, you can get an idea of the current trend of using your self tanner as makeup, demi in particular. I think a filter has been added to cara’s videos as it is difficult to see the light areas she is describing. She is adding the self tan solution (which is the norvell and loving tan solution in the refillable marker) in tiny pixel-sized spots all over the face and she contours her nose by applying a little extra around that area. As she mentions in the video, this application can take up to an hour! I like watching her technique, but personally I am not willing to devote that much time to my makeup, even if it lasts for days. So read on for my own spin on this technique, which takes a few seconds to apply, in kind of the opposite way of what the artists above are doing, but with similar longterm results. The other problem with using a product like norvell double dark or loving tan solutions, is that their formulas contain lake dyes. Some lake dyes have been banned by the EU and many come with a warning that they should not be applied to skin, let alone close to the eye area. The darker the formula, the more lake dyes, because the actual DHA has no colour to it upon application. DHA develops slowing within the first few hours. She slightly blends the application into her skin a little with her fingers. This means, not only is she applying the lake dyes around her eyes and nose, she is also acquiring an equally dark stain on her fingers which will take several days to wear off. Here are the ingredients of the product she is using:

Norvell Double Dark Full Ingredients:

Deionized and Purified Water (Aqua), Dihydroxyacetone (Eco-Cert Approved DHA), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Xantam Gum, Caramel (Cosmetic Bronzer), Natural Actives Sunless Complex™: [PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Hydrolyzed Beta-Glucan, Hydrolyzed Cornstarch, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root Extract], Copper, Glycerin, Alcohol Denatured, Propanediol, Vitamin Complex: [Retinol Palmitate (Vit A), L-Ascorbic Acid (Vit C), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit E), Lycopersicum Esculentum (Tomato) Seed Extract], Vaccinium Macrocarpan (Cranberry) Extract, Melanin, Ordenone (Parfum), Caffeine, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Hexylene Glycol], Citric Acid, FD&C Red No. 40/CI 16035, D&C Red No. 33/CI 17200, FD&C Blue No. 1/CI 42090), FD&C Blue No. 2/CI 73015, FD&C Yellow No. 5/CI 19140, Natural Essential Oils as Fragrance (Parfum).

loving tan full ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Isopropyl Myristate, Dihydroxyacetone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Ceteareth-20, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycerin, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/​Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Sodium Metabisulfite, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Coumarin, Benzyl Benzoate, Limonene, FD&C Red No.40 (Cl 16035), FD&C Blue No.1 (Cl 42090), FD&C Yellow No.5 (Cl 19140)

Makeup artists are mixing self tanners to create their own custom colour to use as makeup The brand, ILLUSION BRONZE is interesting too. They ‘customize’ a tan for you. But the customized colour is still an intense blend of petroleum based dyes, just in different variations, with a little DHA.

illusion bronze full ingredients:

Water (Aqua, Eau), Propylene Glycol, Dihydroxyacetone, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Dihydroxypropyl PEG-5 Linoleammonium Chloride, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Caramel, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum), Potassium Sorbate, Hexylene Glycol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Glycerin, Tapioca Starch, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Panthenol, Ascorbic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root Extract (Extrait de Racine de Betterave), Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Red 40 (CI 16035), Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Red 33 (CI 17200), Green 5 (CI 61570), Yellow 6 (CI 15985).

my caramel tan full ingredients:

raw aloe juice*, raw coconut butter*, raw cacao butter, cold-pressed red raspberry fruit syrup*, canadian maple syrup*, bilberries*, sugarcane*, oranges*, lemons*, cranberries*, papaya*, pineapple*, non-gmo tocotrienols sourced from the annatto plant*.

a couple more tips for using my DHA-free caramel tan as ‘makeup’

Before I started my makeup line, I used to sell spray tan units and spray tan solution to tanning salons when spray tanning was all the rage. I know all the formulas, and what single ingredients can be the most drying on the skin. DHA is always mixed with alcohols and it can be really dehydrating. That is another reason I have left it out of my own self tanning formula. Another tip which I think is really important if you want to achieve a realistic sun kissed look on your face, is that it is important to include your ears and around your hairline, all the way to the back of your neck. Otherwise you will look like you have a mask of colour just on your face and your ears will be white! One thing I often notice with this trend is that the face looks quite dark and their hair part is a contrasting bright white. Usually if you have that dark of a tan on your face naturally, you will get some sun on the top of your head too. If you do decide to go dark with your face tan, To give other areas a little bronzing tlc without making a mess in your hair, you could apply a little powder bronzer. I am a bit of a perfectionist, being that i worked with brides for a few years, but for every day, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I hope these tips help! It is a confidence boost to wake up with a light tan on your face, which, like demi colour, camouflages puffy eyes and is subtly slimming to the face. If you happen to feel adventurous and decide to try the much more time-intensive and detailed demi/self tan makeup technique like Cara, let me know how it goes. If you are a beginner when it comes to demi, or makeup in general, it is best to just start with makeup to practice your demi, as it can be easily washed away. Be sure to read my blog post ‘how to use makeup as self tanner‘! If you would like to try my caramel tan but are not sure which shade to try, just click on the ? in the bottom right corner of this page and send me a message with your photo.


caramel tan – DHA-free tan

I have a little more to say about using a self tanner as makeup – read part 2

and don’t miss my post about how to use your makeup as self tanner

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