Saturday, 18 June 2011

Product Review: Victoria's Secret Instant Self Tan Lotion

Full disclosure: I am an absolute self tanner junkie. I mean obscenelyjunkie. The more tan I am, the better I feel about myself and though I've completely boycotted tanning beds and the sun for 3 years, my tanorexia has still proven incurable. Now there are a lot of girls that like to add a little color, and have a few tubes of things in their bathroom. My impetus for shilling for the Victoria's Secret Instant Self Tan Lotion with tint is that I like many practicing tanorexics would give almost anything to get that VS Angel Glow. So even though I try to resist marketing, I was weak in the knees for the idea of using the products they use.

I run a constant rotation of about 5-10 different products at a time, often buying two tubes of my favorites when they're on sale. My skin exfoliates itself at an extremely rapid rate, to all those who constantly scrub and AHA in order to increase their skin cell turnover, that might seem like an epic miracle to be faced with, but to someone who insists on being tan at all times, it's an epic hassle. I usually get a new layer every 4-5 days, instead of the 28 day average. Therefore my tan doesn't gradually fade into oblivion, it comes off in rough, thick patches that make it look like I have vitiligo, so I am constantly obsessing about my skin. See self tanner reacts with proteins present in our skin to change the color of the upper layers only, leading to it fading as soon as new skin comes in. Most people see a tan fade within a week to two weeks, that's how long it takes to see a visible new layer of skin reaching the top. If I don't exfoliate and reapply my self tanner every single day, I start to get the patches by the next morning and within days they're obscenely noticeable.

So you can imagine I go through a ton of self tanner trying to maintain my color, and I like to be dark too. My natural foundation shade is a MAC NC15, the classic ultra white girl shade. When I get my tan right, I wind up an NW40. That's where I prefer to be at all times, looking as dark as I can. This is how I've managed to try dozens upon dozens of products, and I'm always looking for a deal considering how large the self tanner portion of my budget is. On top of it, I also have very dry sensitive skin, especially on my legs where I get tons and tons of ingrowns the second that any irritation happens.  

Before I go on to the truly obscene ingredient list I want to include a less detailed review for those who look ahead and see a long list of incomprehensible words. The product in question is a tinted gel, with a slightly creamy consistency. I find that self tanners that have a tint guide and blend well while drying quickly are almost beginner proof, so if you don't suffer from particularly dry skin, this is a great first step into the world of self tanner. It's not really hydrating, but does smooth a little bit. My skin is too dry for me to proclaim it a holy grail, but I love how little of it you need to cover a lot of skin, which is great for my budget. The color turns out a very realistic bronze and I get no streaks unless I mess up a bit. With careful application, this can make anyone look amazingly bronze.

During my ingredient breakdown, I hit them hard for the overuse of fragrance. Being a sensitive skinned girl, I've long felt hopeless about all the over fragranced products that dominate the market, but I've found I can get away with using many of them as long as the fragrance isn't too strong. If like me, you are sensitive skinned, give this a sniff before you buy. It has a mild scent, which meant that all the irritating perfumes on the ingredient list weren't present in very high amounts and I was unlikely to react badly. I'm still too afraid to apply it to freshly shaved legs, but I will alter this post when I do. If you are lucky enough not to suffer from sensitive skin, apply away, you will probably love this product. And it has particular value for girls who are breakout prone on the face or body, because any acne causing ingredient is next to non-existent on the ingredient list, you can feel safe applying this, knowing that it won't exacerbate the issue. It really has a super light spreadable feel. As a former cystic acne sufferer, my heart goes out to anyone who has to deal with it and I will always be alerting you to products that you may want to try.

1. Water (Aqua): This is the highest concentrated ingredient in almost every single cosmetic. Although we may dislike feeling like our products are watered down, or the fact that highly aqueous formulations require a lot more preservatives, it's an undeniable fact that it creates a lot more lubricity, spreadability and lightness on the skin, while lowering the cost of production for companies, which in most cases makes them lower the cost for the consumer.
2. Propylene Glycol: Is a mild humectant and spreading enhancer, which makes products feel great on skin, thins out the texture of thick products and helps enhance the emulsifying properties of other ingredients. It's been highly villified along with silicones, parabens, SLS and many other common ingredients as a potential health hazard, however, catering to the scare mongerers at the EWG and the like is not part of my MO, so I won't be discussing the ridiculous supposed "controversies" surrounding this ingredient.
3. Cyclomethicone: Similar to its use in hair products and cosmetics, cyclomethicone serves as a vehicle for other ingredients, helping spread and deliver them into the top layers of the skin and then evaporating. This has great value in a self tanner, because it can help blend the DHA, emollients and other ingredients into the skin and then evaporate, leading to quick blending and drying time, which are the keys to avoiding streaks. Almost every truly fantastic self tanning product on the market has a high concentration of this.
4. Dihydroxyacetone: This is what stains the skin, it's a fairly simple sugar which reacts with the proteins in the skin, leading to a darker tint on any surface it's applied to after a few hours. The stinky and orange DHA formulations of the past are really ancient compared to the new version, which leave much more realistic color and much less of that strange smell. This one in particular provided a beautiful, believable, beachy bronze on my skin that really did make me look more like one of the Angels.
5. Dipropylene Glycol: Is used as a solvent for fragrance ingredients, which helps them mix well in the mixture. This is part of why this self tanner smells good, rather than funky. In addition it has extremely low toxicity and irritancy ratings, making it a great option for application to skin.
6. Cyclopentasiloxane: A water thin silicone, which has a volatility similar to cyclomethicone, meaning it too will evaporate. That smooth, buttery feeling on the skin is the result of this particular ingredient.
7. Cyclohexasiloxane: Almost identical properties to the cyclopentasiloxane.
8. Fragrance (Parfum): The biggest part of covering up that tell-tale self tanner smell. The scent of this particular product is like a buttered coconut, but fairly light. Although this is a high concentration of fragrance, it's not obscenely high. I have yet to try it on my freshly shaved legs (the ultimate test of irritation potential because almost anything can irritate them) but I had no adverse effects applying it to freshly exfoliated skin on my face, neck, chest and arms.
9. Alcohol Denat: This isn't a particularly high concentration, thankfully, because alcohol is incredibly drying and irritating to even fairly normal skin types. It's usually used to enhance the light feel and absorbency of products, though I really wish it wasn't used as commonly as it is. However, this is a pretty negligible amount, so in this particular product it's unlikely to cause much of an issue.
10. PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone: Also called Dimethicone Copoloyl, it's used usually as an emulsifying agent, which prevents the different type of molecules in the product from separating and enhances the smooth consistency of the lotion.
11. Sodium Chloride: Good old common table salt. This is used to enhance thicken the product, because when mixed with water, a more paste-like texture emerges.
12. Aloe Barbadensis Leaf extract: It's time to get fluffy. A little bit of aloe is added to almost any product to spruce up the ingredient list, but unless it's one of the top five, its soothing and humectant properties won't be felt.
13. Cocos Nucifera (coconut oil): Likely imparts some of that coconutty smell and off course it's very hydrating, but at this level, it's next to nil.
14. Persea Gratissima (avocado oil): Like coconut oil, it's very very moisturizing to skin, but only in high concentrations. At this level, it's just window dressing.
15. Hydrolyzed silk: Always looks good on an ingredient list, because who wouldn't want silky skin? In high concentrations it aids in moisture retention due to its hygroscopic properties, but unfortunately, this is a small concentration.
16. Ascorbic acid: Chemical name for Vitamin C. Used as an antioxidant, but is far more effective in higher concentrations.
17. Pearl Powder: One of those buzz ingredients which Chinese women have supposedly used for centuries to lighten their very ironic in a self tanning product. This was added in to increase appeal for consumers that don't know enough about ingredients to understand the humor. There's not enough of it in here to lighten skin, and even if there was, its lightening power is dubious.
18. Tyrosine: Right after the skin lightener is the tanning accelerant, this stuff has gained fame among tanorexics as the amino acid component of melanin that increases it, and melanin is what darkens the skin. However its value in a product is next to none, because simply applying it to skin doesn't necessarily mean it can automatically become part of the reactions that lead to darkening of skin. In blind testing, it has never been shown as effective. Although again, its label appeal is high.
19. Retinyl Palmitate: Chemical name for Vitamin A. In high levels, vitamin A actually increases tanning because it increases sun sensitivity. However, when used with sunscreens, it actually helps enhance their performance because it has potent antioxidant properties. Off course all of this only applies when the concentration is high.
20. Tocopherol: Chemical name for Vitamin E, which has long been known as a powerful moisturizer and antioxidant. But, and you know what's coming, say it with me "In high concentrations".
21. Tocopheryl Acetate: A slightly altered form of Vitamin E, but still similar properties.
22. Butylene Glycol: Is sometimes used as a solvent, but at this concentration it functions better as a preservative.
23. Polysorbate 20: Emulsifying, skin moisturizing and fragrance solubilizing are the main properties of this fruit sugar derivative.
24. Potassium Stearate: Thickener of lipid/oily components of products.
25. Methylparaben: The best of the best in terms of preservatives. I am epically pro-paraben for so many reasons that even in an hour of writing I couldn't even describe to you. The incredibly falsified and exagerated claims of the health risks of using them have no effect on my smile whenever I see one on an ingredient list.
26. DMDM Hydantoin: As a contrast to parabens, this formaldehyde releasing preservative has come back into vogue since parabens have become the thing to hate. At one time, all formaldehyde releasers were the harmful ingredient du jour, and it became extremely fashionable to eliminate them from products. Ironically enough, it really is a formaldehyde releaser, which really is a carcinogen. NOW we're more likely to get cancer from our cosmetics, but don't worry too much. The chance is still extremely low compared to so many other things.
27. Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate: Another preservative used instead of parabens which has a high chance of producing irritation and allergic reactions. It's legal maximum in a product is 0.1%. Luckily in this product it looks like there's even less of it.
28. Phenoxyethanol: And yet another preservative which is used to lessen the amount of paraben on an ingredient list, yet is more of an irritant.
29. Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone: Fragrance ingredient with particularly irritating properties.
30. Benzyl Alcohol: Used as a solvent, preservative and fragrance ingredient. Definitely more irritating than others.
31. Butylphenyl Methylpropional: Fragrance ingredient with high irritancy.
32. Citronellol: One of the most irritating fragrance compounds ever studied.
33. Coumarin: Another extremely irritating fragrance.
34. Limonene: I'm about to repeat myself......
35. Hydroxycitronellal: Similar to the last few. It's important to note that in highly sensitized skin, broken skin or on babies, even concentrations this low can produce a reaction. Most women will never notice the effect of it unless they suffer from another condition, which is why these few fragrance ingredients are still in practically every product on the market. However those of us with sensitive skin should know to play it safe.
36. Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde: There's a mouthful. But again, similar to the last few ingredients, it is a potent irritant added in to enhance fragrance.
37. Linalool: Going to be repeating myself again......
38. Caramel: Yes this is real sugary caramel that you can eat, but don't try to eat the rest of the stuff in this product. Besides its appeal on an ingredient label, it does provide a temporary cosmetic tint to skin, which has value in helping the user blend the product if they can see where its going. However for it to do that, high concentrations are needed.
39. Mica: The shimmery good stuff that helps a product have that luminescence so many of us love and so many others love to hate. The amount of shimmer in this product is really pretty subtle, so a lot of people wouldn't even notice it.
40. Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891): Commonly used as a sunscreen along with increasing the opacity and reflective properties of color cosmetics. However, don't think you will be protected from the sun with this product, at this concentration it just helps the micas and the iron oxides shine, reflect light and cover the skin a little bit better.
41. Yellow 6 (CI 15985): Exactly what it means, adds a yellow tint and combines with other colors to alter them.
42. Red 33 Lake (CI 17200): Exactly what it seems, a reddish pigment.
43. Iron Oxide (CI 77491): Another colorant to form the tint that we use as a color indicator.

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