In my opinion, it’s about time, too.
Let’s address something straight away: women of colour are able to fake tan and should do so proudly if they choose to do so. However, the history of tanning for women of colour has been complex for multiple reasons.
Women of colour have been made to feel less than and secondary to people with fairer skin tones – something that is felt especially keenly in the beauty industry. Because of this, we’ve had to find unprecedented love, appreciation, care and acceptance for our skin: treatments or techniques that change this (artificial tanning, for example) have been associated with dissatisfaction.
Identifying with tanning products can seem like a pushback against the years of self-love and self-acceptance that women of colour can journey through with their skin. But women of colour can participate in the world of self-tanning and it’s up to us, alongside brands, to address and change the misconception and break the stigmas.
By changing these misconceptions – with visibility and awareness on social media, as well as innovative formulas – women of colour are able to tan as well, something I think is incredible to witness.
“A key benefit to self-tanning for women of colour is that it can assist in addressing key skin concerns like hyperpigmentation which is also known as uneven skin tone,” explains medical and cosmetic doctor Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe. “The darkening effect of the self-tan can help to minimise the appearance of uneven areas of skin. It can also provide an amazing glow to the skin – perfect for an event and summer.”
On TikTok, videos of Black and brown women celebrating using fake tan have gone viral. “I have always been curious about tanning to help with my hyperpigmentation,” shares TikTok creator Imani Kayeke. “It has helped my skin tone look more even and given me such a natural glow that makes me feel confident and beautiful.”
Elvira Styles, a presenter and creator, echoes this: “I love my melanated skin and will take any opportunity to achieve a darker skin tone. Tanning for me adds an extra glow and chances a bronze complexion. Plus, it makes me feel good!”
Thankfully, tanning formulas have come a long way, meaning those with brown and Black skin tones can appreciate the benefits of a tan. “A higher strength of DHA (dihydroxyacetone; the natural, colourless sugar compound that causes the skin to darken upon contact with it) is key to look for in formulas and to maximise results of skin of colour,” says Nicola Matthews, founder of Sienna X.
“Opting for a darker tanning solution such as an express gel, dark or extra dark will help to even skin tone and draw out the rich red pigment in the skin resulting in a beautiful bronzed iridescent skin finish. These formulas carry a higher percentage of DHA, meaning that the tanning result will be a deeper, richer colour, enhancing their natural skin tone,” explains Michaella Bolder, skincare and tanning expert.
As celebrity tanning expert Amanda Harrington reminds us: “it’s about adding warmth, emphasising and enriching what you already have and giving you a glow.”
8 best fake tanning formulas for darker skin tones
The best way to apply tan and avoid streaks? Follow founder and expert James Read’s tips, “exfoliate, wax and shave (24-38 hours before applying self-tan). After you have tanned, moisturise daily to help prolong it.”
Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam
“I found that Bondi Sands are one of the only brands that carry tans deep enough and varied enough for colour correction on all skin tones,” shares skin expert Alicia Lartey.
Sienna X Q10 Self Tan Tinted Mousse
To remain in control of your desired result – leave it on for one hour for a skin-evening glow or up to four hours for a deeper, high-intensity finish.
Hawaiian Tropic Self Tan Water Dark
Formulated with aloe vera and vitamin E, this will keep skin moisturised and hydrated while the mist evenly dries on the skin for an even glow.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Gel
A firm favourite by tan expert Michaella Bolder, this streak-free gel helps to illuminate the complexion for an undeniable glow without the efforts of a heavy-duty fake tan.
Tan Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion
For those wanting to dip their toe in at the shallow end, this gradual moisturising tan by Tan Luxe is a seamless way for a golden glow, with the conditioning benefits and no room for application error.
James Read Sleep Mask Overnight Self-Tan Gel
For a tan application that leaves no stains on the bedsheets, try this overnight gel infused with black rose oil to hydrate and condition skin.
Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam
This lightweight foam formula infuses vitamin C, coconut and mandarin oils that deeply hydrate skin. The best bit? The mango and guava scent is heaven.
Vita Liberata Body Blur
While not a tan by description, this wash-off body make-up is equally divine. Bronze skin and blur any imperfections with this creamy formula.
Main image: Getty