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Paraben free self-tanning – does it work?

The safest and smartest way to maintain a healthy, bronze glow all year round is by using a self-tanner. And if you insist on using more natural ingredients in your skin care routine, there are now a variety of great self-tanners that are paraben-free.

There are more paraben-free products hitting our shelves, following the consumer move away from this nasty but common chemical which is often used as a preservative. It’s easy to see why women are starting to demand more paraben-free cosmetics. Studies have shown a possible link between parabens in cosmetics and breast cancer. Parabens have also been shown to increase skin aging when reacting with UVB (shortwave rays of light). So for areas you intend to expose to the sun, paraben-free products are the better choice.

We road tested five products to see if taking the parabens out, made any difference to the product performance.


Sukin – Sunless Bronzing Gel

This is a new product from Sukin – a brand that offers natural, Australian made skin care. Not only is the product paraben free, it also eliminates other nasties such as mineral oils, SLS/SLES, propylene glycol and fragrance. This gel bronzer glides on smoothly and evenly, making it very easy to apply. A big plus is the total lack of self-tanning odour. It’s a great colour for those with fair skin and gradually darkens with each application. We felt confident enough to use it all over, including the face, and the effect was exactly what we wanted – a golden and healthy glow. Priced at around $18 for 200ml and available from pharmacies and health food stores. Visit:


Moo Goo – How Now Brown Cow

This is a moisturising cream with added natural ingredients for self tanning; the product applies and works like a body moisturiser. It’s manufactured in Australia by Moo Goo, and is inspired by natural and dairy based ingredients. Another great product for women with fair skin as the colour builds gradually with each application. The self-tanning scent is minimal and the creamy but not too rich texture is really lovely to apply. It also includes purified green tea extract, a well-known anti-aging ingredient. Priced at $22.50 (200ml) and available at pharmacies and health food stores. Visit:


Dr Dennis Gross – Alpha Beta Glow Pads

Self-tanning wipes are an alternative to lotions, crèmes and gels. Like a facial cleansing wipe, they are pre-soaked textured towels and are very easy to apply. This power product includes anti-aging ingredients, hydroxyl acid and skin exfoliants. A high-performance product at a high-performance price, at $68 for eight body towels and $45 for 20 face towels. We used two body towels and one face towel per application. While the colour was good, there was a distinct self-tan smell and it was quite tricky to remove the product from the hands afterwards. While this product is paraben-free, it does contain several other chemicals. Available at Mecca Cosmetica.


Ti Cosmetics – The Bronzer

The Bronzer by Ti Cosmetics was created by young Melbourne woman Tijana Desancic who needed a formulation that didn’t irritate her sensitive skin. The product is popular with more olive-skinned women and has a cult following among strippers (apparently it does not easily rub-off on clothes). This is definitely a product for women who want a dark tan. It applies well and is not streaky if you are careful and exfoliate well beforehand. Priced at $18 (200ml), it is available at Discount Chemist Warehouse.


Santorini Sun – Lotion and Crème 

Another product perfect for those with darker skin. The lotion is rather difficult to apply evenly and is fairly unforgiving if you’re not careful; many streaks. It also claims a high percentage of organic ingredients. If you’re fair skinned, definitely try the crème formula for more natural results. Priced at $29.95 (250ml) and available from selected pharmacies or online at

If you want to see if your self-tanner includes parabens, look for the words paraben, methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben. And if you want to read more about parabens and other nasty chemicals to avoid, geneticist and broadcaster Dr David Suzuki has published a “Dirty Dozen” list that includes all the peer-reviewed articles he has used to form his conclusions. Here is the link to his webpage:

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