Will self tan work on vitiligo? Yes, because fake tan products interact with protein in the top layer of skin and have nothing to do with melanin, or the lack thereof. So yes, self-tanner works on white spots (1).
What is the best fake tan to cover vitiligo? Scroll down to see in-depth reviews of the best self tanners for vitiligo.
If you’d like to learn about this condition, keep reading here.
What is vitiligo?
According to medical experts like Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, the white patches of vitiligo show up at any location on the body. Both men and women of all skin colors can develop this condition, and it usually starts appearing between the ages of ten and thirty.
Sadly, no one has yet determined what causes it. All they know so far is that melanocytes, the pigment-forming cells, are destroyed in the affected skin. That means there’s no melanin, so that part of the body cannot tan (2).
On the bright side, there are treatments that can slow the progression of the white spots. Phototherapy, topical steroids, and certain dietary supplements are the current treatments. You can learn more by consulting with a dermatologist.
In the meantime, if vitiligo is getting you down, remember that you are not alone. Michael Jackson might be the most famous celebrity to deal with vitiligo. There is also a top model, Winnie Harlow, with white patches on her face, and actors like Holly Marie Combs or Amitabh Bacchan (whose vitiligo affects his hair as well) (3).
What can you do for vitiligo at home?
Obviously, makeup can hide vitiligo, but it requires daily application and maybe touchups throughout the day. On the other hand, self tanner can make the skin match your natural color or give you a vacation tan. Moreover, it doesn’t require constant maintenance. A fake tan lasts around a week before you need another application.
How to use self tanner for vitiligo
First, it’s essential to choose the right color of self tanner that matches your skin tone. If you’re not sure where to start, try a popular brand like St. Tropez. The color is natural-looking for most people.
Otherwise, professional tanning salons can make a custom blend for you. For example, maybe you’d like the Mediterranean look that comes from using fake bake with hints of violet.
Second, you need to prepare your skin by exfoliating and moisturizing. Dry skin does not self-tan evenly and it fades faster. Try these steps:
- Shave the night before or in the morning of the day you use the self tanning product. This gives the hair follicles time to close so that the pores don’t go darker.
- Exfoliate thoroughly with a scrub or loofah, paying special attention to kneecaps, ankles, knuckles, and elbows. Please don’t rub your skin raw. If you use a chemical exfoliant like a body wash with glycolic acid, start at least a week ahead of time so the dead skin has time to shed.
- Keep your skin hydrated with a non-greasy lotion, not body oil. (Oil may keep the self tanner from absorbing.) Apply extra to knees, elbows, knuckles, and ankles – wherever the skin is extra-dry and might soak up too much product and go too dark.
- Let the moisturizer absorb completely.
- Wear gloves or a mitt to apply the tanning mousse (or use bare hands if it’s a lotion, then wash your hands). Work in sections and save knees, ankles, etc. for last, sweeping over them with whatever’s left on the mitt or gloves.
- Remember to do your face and blend the leftover into the hairline.
- Let the skin dry before dressing.
- Wait the appropriate amount of time for the self tanner to darken the skin, then shower and moisturize.
- Reapply the next day to darken the tan, or wait a week to repeat the process.
Pro tip: put on self tanner at bedtime and you’ll wake up bronzed. Also, apply lotion each day to maintain the tan and help it fade naturally.
The downside of self-tanning and vitiligo
It’s easy to forget that the beautiful bronze is not a base tan and won’t protect you from sunburn. Please remember to use sunscreen and protective clothing.
Now, here are the best sunless tanning products for vitiligo:
|The best self tanners for vitiligo||Why we love them|
|St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse||
|St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist||
|MINETAN BODY.SKIN 1 Hour Express Dark Self Tanner||
|Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion||
|Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Bundle||
|Skinerals Self Tanner Sunless Bronzer Californium||
Best Self Tanners for Vitiligo in 2023
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse
Why is St Tropez recommended for vitiligo? This popular brand of sunless tanning products is pretty much foolproof to use. It doesn’t turn orange and the color lasts for a week or longer before it fades evenly.
Furthermore, it’s not sticky or stinky like some sunless tanners are. The lightweight mousse absorbs quickly and actually smells pretty good. Of course, you might notice a slight scent on your skin later, but that’s the DHA doing its job. DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, is the safe and effective chemical that turns the skin brown the same way that a sliced apple goes brown when left out in the air.
The vegan formula can be customized to give you a light, medium, or dark tan depending on how long you leave it before you shower. But don’t be full by the initial bronze because that’s just the color guide to help you see where you’ve applied it. It will wash off but your tan will continue to deepen for hours after the application.
- Customizable tan: light, medium, or dark
- Doesn’t go orange, lasts about a week, fades evenly
- Pleasant fragrance, no strong odor
- Dries quickly
- Mousse is easiest to apply with a mitt or gloves
St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
If you’re hesitant to use regular self-tanning mousse for lotion on your face, you have another option. Spritz this mist after cleansing and moisturizing and you’ll develop a healthy glow over the next few hours. Spray again the next day, and you’ll deepen the color.
There’s no problem wearing this tanning mist with makeup. Just keep your skin dry for at least four hours after using it.
Moreover, the mist is fragrant with no self tan odor and it won’t streak or rub off. Three to five pumps will cover the entire face (but don’t forget your neck if you didn’t use any product there).
Reviewers say that it gives them a beautiful bronze that disguises dark circles and acne. The non-comedogenic formula is paraben-free, too.
- Lightweight, fragrant self-tanning mist that develops color in four to eight hours
- Paraben-free, clean beauty
- No self-tanning odor, no streaking, it won’t rub off
- Can be worn with makeup
- Avoid sweating, showering, or swimming for at least four hours after application
MINETAN BODY.SKIN 1-Hour Express Dark Self Tanner
This is a professional self-tanning product made by one of the top spray tan brands. Choose from a variety of shades for practically every skin tone, including neutral, universal, olive, reddish, and yellow. Each one features vitamin E, coconut oil, and avocado oil to condition the skin and protect against premature aging.
When it says “one-hour express tan”, it doesn’t mean that you’ll look bronzed in an hour. What it means is that if you wait an hour after applying it, then shower, you’ll develop color a few hours later. However, if you wait longer before washing, the tan will be darker.
One reviewer with vitiligo found that discount brands like L’Oreal left her with an orangeish hue although her skin is naturally olive. When she switched to Minetan, the color blended perfectly with her natural skin tone.
Although it’s a little pricey, the formula is vegan, cruelty-free, and contains no parabens.
- Salon-grade self-tanning product
- Only needs to be worn for an hour to develop color
- Available in different shades to match practically every skin tone
- Paraben-free, cruelty-free, and vegan
- Not cheap
Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion
Chemicals make us nervous, so we were happy about this natural sunless tanning lotion. It’s made with organic aloe and botanicals, plus it has no artificial fragrance, phthalates, or parabens. Feel free to use it all over your body and face (unless you have an allergy to any of the plant-based ingredients). Nevertheless, the brand also makes a face self tanner lotion for acne-prone complexions.
There are two versions: one for light to medium skin, and one for medium to dark. The moisturizing lotion doesn’t develop color quite as quickly as a sunless tanning mousse. It’s more of a gradual deepening tan as you apply it day after day.
Reviewers say the coconut and vanilla-scented lotion is white and doesn’t stain clothing or sheets. (The aroma comes from vanilla fruit extract and natural ingredients). The only downside is that it takes a little time to absorb because it’s a lotion after all, not a mousse. Also, there will be a small amount of self-tanning odor once the DHA starts to interact with the skin.
- Natural sunless tanning lotion with botanicals for healthy skin
- No artificial perfumes, parabens, or phthalates
- Available in two versions, light to medium and medium to dark
- Develops a gradual tan, conditions the skin
- Not as fast-absorbing as mousse
- Slight self-tanning odor
Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Bundle
Get everything you need in one go. This kit comes with self-tanning foam and two applicators: a tanning mitt and a kabuki brush. Select from medium, dark, or ultra dark tanning options.
So, the accessories are nice, but what you might love more is how fast the self tanner works. You’ll start to develop color within two hours!
What’s more, it’s designed to blur uneven pigmentation and give the skin a healthy, smooth appearance with a golden glow. It even smells nice like mango and guava.
- Starts developing color within two hours
- Available in medium, dark, or ultra dark
- Kit includes applicator mitt and kabuki brush
- Pleasant tropical fruit fragrance
- Not the least expensive option
Skinerals Self Tanner Sunless Bronzer Californium
We understand if you’re on a budget and want to give Jergens Natural Glow for vitiligo a try. Unfortunately, we’ve heard lots of complaints about it turning fair skin orange. Worse, the last time we checked the label, it contained parabens.
Instead, go with a trusted self-tanning mousse like this one. It can be used on both the face and body as it’s non-comedogenic and can be worn under makeup.
The formula contains no parabens or aerosols, plus it’s cruelty-free. Each bottle is good for up to eight full-body applications, and each application lasts between four to seven days.
- Paraben-free, non-aerosol formula
- Perfect for lightly bronzing fair skin
- Safe for the face and body
- Easier to apply with gloves or a mitt
Self tanner disguises the white patches caused by vitiligo and cuts down on time spent applying makeup. It’s a safe way to enjoy a natural-looking tan with a healthy glow.
We hope our reviews of the best sunless tanners helped you find what you need today. If so, feel free to tell us about the product you chose in the comments below.
1. https://www.skincancer.org/blog/sunless-tanning-explained Fake it to Make it: Sunless Tanning Explained, by Ali Venosa, published August 29, 2017
2. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/vitiligo-common-cause-loss-skin-pigment Vitiligo and Loss of Skin Color, by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, published August 17, 2020
3. https://vrfoundation.org/famous Famous Vitiligans