Bottled sunshine – Non-toxic tanning products

Our Beauty Writer Elfreda McGowan is here today with everything you need to know about using tanning products after cancer. You don’t have to rule them out of your life! She’s got all the info on the safest products to use and the best methods to apply them too.

At this time of year, there’s nothing like the dreary Irish weather to make you look and feel tired and pale inside and out. A golden glow is a sure fire way to put the grey days behind you. If like me, you love a tan, but you’re going through cancer treatment or trying to make healthier choices afterwards, fear not! There are some marvellous self tanners on the market that are not only non-toxic, but also do their job really well. With a little bit of preparation and practice, you will look like you’re just back from California, even if the furthest you’ve been is your local supermarket.

I asked my oncologist and nurses for their views on tanning products and none seemed particularly bothered about using them or indeed had much to say about them at all. The only guidance they gave was not to use any tanning products during radiotherapy around the site being radiated, and as far as chemicals being transferred through the skin, to choose paraben-free, organic products where possible. They agreed tanning products were a better choice than UV rays.

So, where to start? Here’s my guide to achieving the best tan possible…


If you intend to remove hair from the areas you are tanning, I would do this a few days before you plan to tan; you need to let your skin recover, especially if you wax. 24 hours before you apply your tan, it is a good idea to exfoliate and polish your skin, concentrating on your elbows and knees. I love Voya products, available from their website and many stockists such as Avoca on Suffolk Street. I exfoliate using their Time to Shine Body Exfoliator, €30 for 200ml. It leaves your skin bright, fresh and free of dead skin cells. Afterwards I moisturise my skin using Softly Does It, €33 for 200ml. Your skin will be soft and supple and deeply hydrated.

Time to tan

On the morning of tanning, I usually shower with an oil-free body wash – it is important not to apply moisturiser right before you apply self tan as it will affect the result.

I start tanning my arms in circular motions from the shoulders down with a mitt, some people prefer to use their hands, but I find a mitt is best as it stops tan developing on your palms which is a real giveaway that your tan isn’t natural. Make sure to do front and back. You can use what’s left on the mitt to do your hands taking care around your fingers, just swap the mitt to do each hand.

Apply on your chest, back of shoulders and lower back, again in circular motions. If you can get someone to go over the hard to reach areas of your back, great! Failing that, there are back tanning tools you can get which make spreading tan over hard to reach areas much easier Cocoa Brown back applicator pictured above, €7.95 available on their website.

For your legs, start at the lower front of your leg and with large circular motions continue all the way up. Make sure to do front and back. For your feet, I use what’s left on the mitt, and start at the front of my feet, bring a little down the sides and blend it all in towards the ankle and around the back of the ankle. You can use a dry mitt or cloth to blend in around the ankle so the skin there doesn’t go too dark.

For my face and neck, I generally mix a little of my moisturiser with some self tan and apply it, taking care around my eyebrows and hair line. I use latex gloves to apply this, and usually use a piece of dry tissue to wipe around my hair line and eyebrows so they don’t take on too much tan.

My favourite tan to use is Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse in Medium, €43.26 for 150ml. Vita Liberata are based in Ireland, certified organic and this product looks so natural. I find it easy and streak-free to apply and it fades very evenly and naturally. I don’t find it lasts as long as is claimed, but it does last longer than other fake tans I’ve tried.

Some other certified organic tans I’ve tried and liked are…

Green People Self Tan Lotion, €17.59 for 150ml. It does contain DHA (the active ingredient in most tanners) but their DHA is derived from sugar. Green People also do a gradual tanner called Oy! Soft Glow Gradual Tan for €17.95, which I find great for my face and neck and which is also suitable for all skin types.

If you are a fan of oil-based tanners which offer really nice hydration, the best one I’ve tried is Tan Organic Self Tanning Oil, €25.53 for 100ml. It’s Irish, very nourishing and you don’t need a mitt to apply it – you can apply it directly with your hand and just use a wet wipe on your palms afterwards. How easy is that?!

After leaving the self tan on for the directed time, wash off and be sure to apply moisturiser daily to prolong the life of your tan.

So there you have it, sunshine in a bottle! The safe and sun-free way to release the golden skinned goddess within.

In June of 2017, Elfreda found out she had breast cancer, it was a terrible shock but she faced it head on! She has completed chemo and radiation and is still receiving the drug Herceptin until October 2018. Elfreda is a professionally trained make-up artist and beauty therapist, she has vast experience in makeup and beauty and broadened and refined her skills working in salons in Dublin and London. She has worked as a makeup artist for well known brands, most recently, Georgio Armani, and also works freelance, taking part in shoots, weddings and other special occasions. Her passion for all things make-up and beauty-related, and love of helping people feel good about themselves, has her very excited to be able to share her knowledge with the readers of Happy Magazine.

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