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Fake Tan ~ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I was initially going to review one or two fake tans individually but I thought it would probably make more sense and be a bit more helpful to review all of the ones that I've tried together and also do a quick comparison of them while I'm at it!

The 4 that I will be comparing are: the St. Tropez Mousse, St. Tropez Lotion, Xen Tan Dark Lotion and He-Shi Liquid Tan. These are all within the same price range. I also have Xen Tan Transform Luxe in the photo and I'll review this briefly too but I can't compare it with the other tans since it's a gradual tan and not a weekly one so it serves a different purpose. I've been using most of these over a few years and the ones which are newer to me, like the He-Shi, I've been using for a few months so I think I've given them all a fair try!

I'll also just mention that tans do react differently on different skin tones and types so do keep in mind that these reviews are just based on my experience with the tans on my own individual skin.




Before I apply any tan, I exfoliate really well. Right before putting on the tan I'll apply moisturiser to dry areas like knees, elbows, feet, wrists and under arms. All of these tans last about the same amount of time on my skin. I think the longevity of the tan has quite a lot to do with the condition of your skin. For example if your skin is dry and flaky then the tan may not last too long so make sure to exfoliate and moisturise well. Generally if your tan starts to wear off patchy or scaly then you're probably not exfoliating regularly enough. To keep a good colour, I have to apply any of these tans a few times a week. If you're tanned already then you may not need to apply them as often but I'm basically starting from a blank canvas, lol!


St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse


Application - Since this a mousse, the application is absolutely fool-proof. I find that it applies best with a surgical latex glove. It's extremely quick and easy to spread around and it dries within minutes so you don't have to wait around before getting dressed. The mousse is brown so you can see where you're applying it and it does also give a little bit of instant colour. This is one tan that you can actually apply in the morning and leave on throughout the day as there's absolutely no residue or stickiness. It's completely streak-free and very even. I think it's a great one to try if you're new to tanning.

Smell - St. Tropez is not the best smelling brand of fake tan and the mousse does have that classic fake tan smell while you're applying it but I actually find that it's not too evident after the application process. The smell doesn't get any stronger as it's developing. I often put some of this on in the morning and leave it on all day and, unless I'm smelling really closely (lol!), then I really don't find it to be too evident.

Colour - It gives a very natural colour - no orange in sight! This won't be very dark after one application but it can definitely be built up over a few days.



St. Tropez Bronzing Lotion


Application - I tend to use a surgical glove again with this one. Since this is a lotion, it takes a little bit more effort to spread than the mousse version but it's still extremely easy to apply. It's a brown lotion so you can tell where you're applying it and it takes a very short time to dry - although probably not quite as quick-drying as the mousse. This one is best applied at night and the excess showered off the next morning. Again, it leaves no streaks or unevenness at all.

Smell - This smells the same as the mousse - just a classic smell of the tanning ingredient, DHA. Definitely not the best scent in the world but not unbearable either I don't think!

Colour - Gives a nice non-orange colour. I find the colour of this leans more towards the yellow toned side so it's more of a golden tan. It's not the darkest of tans but it can be built up. It's not my favourite colour-wise mainly due to the more yellow tone which is not ideal for me personally so I don't find myself reaching for this one over the others.



Xen-Tan Dark Lotion


Application - This applies nicely with either a glove or a mit. The lotion is quite a thick one so this tan probably takes the most elbow grease to spread around. It's by no means difficult to apply, however. It's a very dark brown lotion so, like the others, it's easy to know where you're applying it. It dries after a few minutes too. This tan does leave a slight bit of a muddy appearance after application. For this reason it absolutely needs to be applied before bed and then showered off in the morning. After showering, though, it's lovely and even with no streaks at all!

Smell - It smells like marzipan! After a few hours, however, the smell of the DHA will come through a bit. I really don't find that to be an issue though since it's one that I'd be wearing overnight anyway.

Colour - Xen-Tan has more of an olive base so it's never orange or too yellow. I think it's a very realistic tan shade. It gives a darker colour than either of the St. Tropez tans.



He-Shi Express Liquid Tan


Application - The consistency of this tan is like water. Now this proves to be a bit problematic and off-putting when applying it as you have to be very careful that it doesn't drip all over the place. To catch drips, I'd recommend spreading a big towel out underneath you or you could apply it in the bath. Since it's an extremely runny liquid, it must be applied with a mit so that it doesn't become too messy. It's a brown colour so you can tell where you've applied it and it's very quick-drying. It leaves no residue at all behind. I've been applying this before bed and letting it develop overnight which is most convenient for me. Unfortunately this is where it goes a bit downhill because, despite it having looked nice and even after application, a few times now I've woken up with a streaky, uneven tan which didn't go away after showering! I tried to apply it several ways to avoid this happening - not moisturising before, moisturising before, using different mits. I even bought the He-Shi mit to see if that would help. I found that both using the He-Shi mit and moisturising before (despite it saying not to!) actually did make a difference. The last time I applied it I only had a minor streak which wasn't too bad. Overall though, I think the application is a bit hit or miss for me.

Smell - He-Shi has only a faint tan smell. I can barely smell anything at all when I'm applying it. It does become a bit stronger as the tan develops, though but it's still not strong in comparison to others.

Colour - Streaks aside, the actual colour itself is brilliant. It gives a deep colour quickly and is a believable shade. It's a very bronze colour and is not orangey or yellow.


Best Ease of Application: St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse
Best Smelling: Xen-Tan Dark Lotion
Best Colour: He-Shi (despite the fear of streaks!) and Xen-Tan. I really like the tone of both.
Best Overall: Xen-Tan Dark Lotion and St. Tropez Mousse (yes I'm allowed pick two :D )



I'll just give a quick mention to the Xen-Tan Transform Luxe. This is a gradual tanner - so it's like a moisturiser which has an added tanning ingredient. It's great for applying between your main tan applications to keep the colour up and it also means you don't have to apply your main tan as often. This would also be great if you already have quite a deep natural tan and just want a bit of a boost or else if you're extremely fair and just want enough colour to take the pale edge off. It's also fantastic for hands and feet. It smells like Vanilla which is lovely and only a very tiny amount of a fake tan smell comes through after a while.