The self-tan pong test: As Fern Britton reveals her husband loathes the smell, our verdict on the so-called scent free spray tans
07:14 GMT, 8 October 2012
See! See! It’s not just me! cried thousands of men across the country after a Radio Times interview with TV presenter Fern Britton, one of the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.
She revealed that the fake tan she wears for the show had caused ructions with her husband, celebrity chef Phil Vickery.
‘The biggest row Phil and I had was when I first put on fake tan,’ she said.
'We didn't speak for four days!' Strictly Come Dancing's Fern Britton says her use of fake tan for the show led to a row with her husband Phil Vickery (far right)
‘He is sensitive to smells and can’t stand it. We didn’t speak for four days. I have convinced him it’s an essential part of the Strictly experience — he will be sleeping in the spare room on spray tan days.’
Once inhaled you’ll never forget that strange, lingering fragrance. Some people describe it as akin to digestive biscuits, for others it’s more like curry or old socks.
If you’ve ever used fake tan, you’ll know that if you can smell it an hour after applying, the chances are that your bedroom will stink the next morning. So, why the stench
While dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the ingredient that reacts with proteins in the top layer of skin to create colour, has no scent, it is the chemical reaction that produces the distinctive fake-tan funk.
Ultimately, if you want a faux glow, you have to put up with the pong — like wanting chocolate without the calories, it can’t be done.
Or can it Several beauty firms claim they have created tans that don’t smell.
To find out how some of them measured up, we asked a panel of testers to try the so-called scent-free self-tans . . .
Fake Bake Flawless Liquid
Our tester raved about the delicate coconut fragrance. The next morning there was no noticeable smell unless you put your nose to the skin and inhaled deeply and, after a shower, no aroma at all. The crucial test No complaints from the husband. And, despite a liquid consistency, no streaks. 5/5
UTan Dark Tan Mousse in Brazilian Bronze
This new range claims to be odour-free, but our tester found that when you apply it, there are vague floral notes and maybe a whiff of washing-up liquid. However, after sleeping in the tan, the bedsheets had a slight biscuit fragrance. Fortunately, skin smelt fresh after a shower, even if the colour isn’t quite as dark as the Brazilian Bronze tag might suggest. 4/5
Fake Bake Flawless Liquid. 20, fakebake.co.uk
UTan Dark Tan Mousse in Brazilian Bronze. 25.50, ultimo.co.uk
Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Natural Self Tan Dry Body Mist. 11.69, Boots
Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Natural Self Tan Dry Body Mist
A hint of apricot concealed the underlying smell of fake tan after sleeping in it. Our tester’s boyfriend likened the smell to furniture polish. It would have been nice to have been able to use it without showering, given that its selling point is its quick results. There were no streaks, though feet looked a bit dark. 2/5
St Moritz Instant Mousse
4.99, 01484 401129
In the bottle this self-tan formulation has a chemical pong vaguely reminiscent of swimming pools.
But once on the skin, there’s a faint sweet bouquet that is noticeable only if you get up close for a sniff. The next morning, even though the smell had vanished entirely after a shower, there was a definite biscuity whiff to the bedroom. Still, for the price and the flawless end result, it held its own against products that cost four times as much. 3/5
L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Golden Mousse
This mousse came with a heavy whiff of cheap aftershave to it. However, once applied, the distinctive self-tan smell emerged and was even stronger the morning after. Though fainter after showering, it still smelled like dirty socks. On the plus side, the golden glow it gave was similar to the guide colour, so there were no nasty surprises. 1/5
St Moritz Instant Mousse. 4.99, 01484 401129
James Read Liquid Tan. 24.50, jamesreadtan.com
He-Shi Express Liquid Tan. 20, he-shi.eu
James Read Liquid Tan
It’s very liquid so you do really need a mitt to apply but testers compared the clean fragrance of this lotion to the fresh cucumber fragrance found in some beauty products and – even better – there wasn’t a trace of scent after application. The following morning, while the cucumber scent was in evidence again, there was no noticeable whiff of anything beyond that and it looked very natural. Very impressive. 5/5
He-Shi Express Liquid Tan
With none of the heavy fragrance that you can sometimes find in fake tans, this lotion had a clean smell. If you sniffed really hard you could discern an extremely faint note of tanning lotion but, once you’d actually applied it, it was practically odourless. Our tester picked up a slight essence the following morning, but after showering there was no lingering smell of anything and only a few streaks where she hadn’t taken care applying around the ankles. 4/5
St Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse
There’s a sharp, light floral scent on application, but this soon disappears as the product dries. St Tropez was the first fake tan to include ‘Aromaguard technology’, where neutralising molecules react with the smelly molecules. The manufacturer claims the unpleasant aroma is reduced by 70 per cent, but the unmistakeable fake tan smell is still noticeable the next morning and even after a shower. Our tester – a long-time St Tropez devotee – agreed the new technology has improved the overall fragrance, but it’s not perfect yet. The tan, however, is still excellent – even and dark with no streaks. 3/5
St Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse. 33, st-tropez.com
Xen-Tan Dark Lotion Absolute Luxe. 39.99, xen-tan.co.uk
Beautylab Peptide Tanning Lotion. 20, beautylabshop.com
Xen-Tan Dark Lotion Absolute Luxe
This product boasts a time-release agent so the DHA is gradually applied to the skin, as well as a mineral-based odour-absorbing system called Scent Secure. Together these help to make the smell less likely to develop. The vanilla notes can become a bit sickly once it’s all over your body, particularly if you’re not a fan of sweet flavours. There was a faint tang the next morning, but after showering, the smell was virtually non-existent and the colour was dark, as billed, and consistent. 3/5
Beautylab Peptide Tanning Lotion
This cream has a light, fresh citrusy smell which lingers on the skin doing a pretty good job of disguising the usual fake tan stench. A few hours later the digestive biscuit odour had started to work its way through and was noticeable the next morning as well, but it vanished after a quick shower, leaving a tan that was generally good if a little orangey in parts. 3/5
Famous Dave’s Tanning Mousse
Our tester’s summer staple thanks to its natural, even finish. But, on the scent front, although generally pleasant and light, there is a distinctive fake tan smell underlying it, which is noticeable on the skin after application. Our tester was aware of the odd whiff during the day – though faint and inoffensive – and was aware of it in bed at night. Post-shower, no lingering smell remained. 2/5
Lancome Flash Bronzer
Initially smells soapy with an underlying note of coffee. On application, that coffee note soon fades leaving you with the soapy smell that doesn’t do a great job of covering up the reek of fake tan. A shower got rid of most of the stench but, given the price, our tester felt that the initial luxurious fragrance should really have lasted longer and done a better job of concealing the fake tan smell. The colour wasn’t as dark as other tans and had slight orange undertones. 1/5