Having entered my teens in the early 2000’s- I’ve experienced my fair share of mortifying makeup and fashion choices as I grew up and matured. Tube tops? G-string straps sticking up over my ultra low-rise flared jeans? Frosted pink lipstick? Bleached blonde hair with untamed roots? Oh yeah- guilty as charged. I did it ALL– but perhaps one of the most cringe-worthy things I used to do in my early teens (and even in my early twenties when I was feeling optimistic and a little daring) were my foray with self-tanners.
Look, I’m pale. I’ve come to terms with my paleness. I’ve embraced it- and the last tan I pulled off, courtesy of falling asleep on the beach while unknowingly wearing expired sunscreen- came at the expense of severe sun poisoning and a week’s worth of agonizing pain as my burnt skin split and eventually healed.
Prior to that, I’d tried multiple self-tanners from numerous companies- almost all of which turned me into an orange, streaky mess. High end brands, drug store brands- it didn’t matter. It was always a disaster and I’d since resigned myself to the fact that I would be a pasty redhead for the coming years.
When a representative from the Ireland-based self-tanning brand, Cocoa Brown (by Marissa Carter), contacted me to see if I wanted to give sunless tanning one more try- I eventually relented and agreed. The company was kind enough to send me two full-sized bottles of their ‘1 Hour Tanning Mousse’ and ‘Gentle Bronze Gradual Tan Body Lotion’ to experiment with- as well as one of their soft double-sided tanning mitts (which also act as a skin buffer to ensure an even application all over.)
After doing the necessary pre-application-all-over-exfoliation routine in the shower using my grittiest sugar scrub- I got to work- starting with the 1-hour tanning mousse.
What I liked best about the tanning mousse, and what differentiated it from other self-tanners I’ve tried in the past was that it was tinted- which made the application process a little easier since I could keep track of where it was going and what areas needed a little more attention to avoid uneven tan lines. When applied with the tanning mitt, this mousse spread easily enough and didn’t make my skin feel greasy. It also didn’t transfer onto my clothes when I eventually threw on some baggy sweatpants and a t-shirt and waited for the product to work it’s magic.
The directions on the bottle of mousse state that it can be left on for hours, with a minimum of one hour- depending on how dark you want your tan to be- before you rinse it off. I opted to keep the mousse on for approximately ninety minutes before hopping in the shower- and was pleasantly surprised that my skin seemed to have an even, subtle and natural (not orange!) looking glow to it by the time I was done.
To those who are blessed with the ability to tan and tan well, it may not look like much- but to me- I was a bronzed goddess.
The “Gentle Bronze” body lotion, also tinted for an even application- is to be used between tanning mousse sessions to maintain and continually build color while hydrating the skin (think Jergens’ “Natural Glow” moisturizer.) I wisely chose to use this product for the first time just on my legs as to avoid messing up the subtle tan on my arms in case things went awry (my legs are easier to cover up in the winter in case of such a mishap.)
Unfortunately, the body lotion is where things got a little… orange. Sure, the lotion was pretty effortless to apply and it washed off of my hands without staining them- but my legs went from looking naturally sunkissed to looking a bit more spray-tan- and not in a good way.
As for longevity? Both the tanning mousse and the tanning lotion lasted approximately 2-4 days before the color gradually faded and my practically see-through skin re-emerged in all it’s pasty glory. If you’re looking for something that lasts a little longer- this may not be the self-tanning line for you- but I kind of liked that I had more control over my faux-tan. It was comforting in a way to be able to build it and/or let it fade as I saw fit.
ALSO: I know fragrance is important to a lot of people with products like these, since they tend to stay on your skin for a few days at a time and you don’t want to smell weird. I know for a fact that I’ve remarked in the past that 90% of self-tanners I’ve tried in my life have made my skin smell like cinnamon toast (don’t ask me why or how- it just does) which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but is still pretty unusual, regardless.
Well, Cocoa Brown’s tanning mousse and tanning lotion applies with an almost floral scent. It’s pretty nice, really- BUT– once it dries and your skin begins to tan- that same cinnamon toast fragrance slowly but surely reappears and it doesn’t go away until the product itself starts to fade. If you’re not into that- I recommend spritzing on a little more perfume to mask it.
So enjoying one out of two products isn’t a bad result (or two out of three products if you count the tanning mitt- which I actually really liked!)
When faced with eventually re-purchasing Cocoa Brown, I would definitely grab another bottle of the tanning mousse- but I’d have to skip over the body lotion. The mousse gave me complete control and a buildable, natural-looking glow without any hassle, whereas the lotion turned my legs a little too orange and “fake” looking for my liking. It might work well for those with naturally darker skin tones- but it just didn’t look right with mine.
If you’re pasty like me and looking for a little color without having to go crazy with your bronzer or subjecting yourself to the sun’s harmful rays- Cocoa Brown is worth checking out. I truly enjoyed my trial (and error) and I’m grateful the company reached out to me to give it a go!