We're going to be completely honest here: At first glance we very skeptical that St. Tropez's Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion would work given its unusual application method…but after a week of using it, we were converted! Not only is it less prone to streaking than your typical self-tanning body lotion, it offers other traits that give it an edge over the competition. As impressed as we were with this product, it unfortunately has a couple things holding it back from our top honors, but before we delve into all of that let's cover how it works…
To review a self-tanner, you really have to put it through the paces to determine whether it can live up to its claims and so we did just that. The directions state to shower as normal, then shut off the water and "generously apply the product in circular motions with your hands to wet skin to create an even coverage." Doing so produces a silky lather that glides over skin and makes the formula less prone to streaking (and applying while still wet means the product doesn't grab on to dry patches of skin).
Once you've slathered yourself with the lotion, wash the palms of your hands to avoid undesired staining, and per the instructions, wait three minutes before rinsing the product off your body. If you find standing in the shower for that amount of time boring, we found it helpful to save our hair conditioner step for that time, and/or you can hop out of the shower and brush your teeth. At the end of three minutes, rinse with warm water (no soap), and then gently pat yourself dry with a towel. No more waiting after that, you can get dressed and go!
The result? A light tan with initial use and gradually deeper color with successive applications—all thanks to the self-tanning agent, dihydroxyacetone. This isn't intended for someone who desires deeply bronzed skin in just one application, but rather it caters to those who like the idea of building smooth, even color gradually. We found the ideal color developed after the third or fourth time using Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion—those with fair skin may prefer experimenting with less frequent application, while those with deeper color more.
One of the unique advantages this formula has over other self-tanners was that shaving your legs right before application didn't present a problem. With some self-tanners, you can end up with tiny dots of darker color that accumulate in the follicles of the shaved hairs, but through several rounds of testing Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion, not once did we experience that result. One potential issue might be if you have sensitive skin, the combination of shaving your legs and immediately following up with this highly fragrant formula could present cause some noticeable irritation. While we didn't experience visible irritation, those with sensitive skin should proceed carefully.
Speaking of the fragrance, this has a sort of a soapy-floral scent that lingers on skin after you rinse off. We wish that weren't the case because highly fragrant formulas have the potential to damage skin in a number of ways (see More Info). With occasional-use in body formulas such as this, it's a little less concerning, but still not great news for the health of skin. We're guessing St. Tropez included fragrance to mask the typical smell that self-tanners can have as they interact with skin, which on its own can be a bit off-putting for some.
As far as the other ingredients go, the inclusion of sweet almond oil is a nice, moisturizing touch and we did notice that our skin felt softer than usual after showering.
What are the downsides? Although Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion is less prone to streaking than most self-tanners—it's still not completely foolproof. The first time one of staffers used it, they ended up with a couple of streaks on their feet, perhaps from some of the product spilling during initial application. That's user error, which could happen with any self-tanning formula, but it's a good lesson to give your feet and heels an extra rinse at the end.
The bigger issue is how quickly we went through this product. By the sixth time of using Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion, the squeeze tube was nearly empty! Applying generously to wet skin—a necessary step to get the results it promises—means you end up using more product than you would if you were applying it to dry skin. That skews this product toward the pricier side for consistent use, but that's not a deal-breaker for everyone. (For such smooth-looking results, you may find the price justified.)
In the end, Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion's unique qualities and smooth, tan color surprised us in a good way—but due to its lingering fragrance and how quickly you go through the bottle it fell just short of our highest honor.
Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
St. Tropez At-a-Glance
Strengths: Good body wash and body scrub; well-formulated Skin Illuminator; some intriguing tools to make self-tanner application easier.
Weaknesses: Expensive, and the self-tanning products are not superior to those that cost a lot less; almost all of the self-tanning and bronzing products contain fragrance chemicals that cause irritation, which hurts your skin's ability to heal and act younger.
St. Tropez (pronounced "Saint Tro-pay") claims first and foremost to be all about getting a safe, sexy tan from self-tanners, but loading up your skin with fragrance that causes irritation runs a close second!
It isn't often that we rate self-tanning products poorly; after all, the vast majority of them use the same one or two ingredients (dihydroxyacetone and/or erythrulose) to turn your skin tan. And, most of them are formulated in pleasant, although basic, lotion, cream, gel, or liquid (aerosol) bases to make application smooth. Generally, the formulations of self-tanning products are a minor detail; much more important is your technique in applying it.
We rate almost all of St. Tropez's self-tanning options poorly because they contain numerous fragrance chemicals known to cause irritation. Examples of such ingredients are eugenol, citral, linalool, and limonene.
If a leave-on product contains only one or two of these fragrance chemicals and only low amounts, it's not a deal-breaker for your skin, but when several of them are present, even in low amounts, the combination can add up to an incredibly irritating product that hurts your skin.
What kind of hurt? Daily, chronic irritation from the litany of fragrance chemicals in these St. Tropez products can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135 and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22.)
Given that this group of products is unusually expensive and that it puts your skin at risk of irritation: Why bother? Besides, there are hundreds of self-tanners and bronzers that do not contain these problematic ingredients—so you can enjoy a sunless tan knowing that you're continuing to take the best possible care of your skin!
For more information about St. Tropez, call (800) 366-6383 or visit www.sttropeztan.com.
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