In case you missed my April 20th post on the science and history of self-tanners, and my quest to find "stink-free" self tanning products that don't dry my skin or turn it orange, here is the Cliff Note version of that earlier review.

Self-tanners don't actually tan your skin, they contain a substance (often a derivative of vegetables and/or sugars) which simply (and safely) turns the top layer of skin a "tan" color. The substance, Dehydroxyaceatone (DHA) is what also typically gives most self-tanning products an unpleasant "burned/acrid" odor, which some manufacturers try to address with a "cover-up" scent which typically makes things worse.  Another challenge in discovering a great self tanner is to find one that provides believable color across a variety of body parts.... tough to do because of the variation in skin thickness (which affects color outcome) between shins, thighs, faces, etc, plus the great variety in natural skin tones: pale white to deep olive. Lastly, finding a self tanner which includes an effective and appropriate moisturizer is important, because mixing DHA and certain moisturizing"oils" (mineral oil included) changes the PH and the color... an unpleasant surprise for anyone who naively applied their self tanner under or over another moisturizing cream containing oils.

So just in time for summer fun, I am adding the Xen-Tan line of self -tanning products to my very very short list of recommended self tanners. The Xen-Tan self tanning line is one that does an excellent job, smells great, and it appears that it might actually be GOOD for your skin.

For the last month I have been testing the Xen-Tan Deep Bronze (body) Tanner on my horrifically white legs, and the Xen-Tan Face Tanner on my neck, ears and face. Both products worked a bit differently than old-school self tanners because they contain some very sophisticated anti-aging ingredients.  The result is a great looking fake bake, plus an absolutely delightful scent, and healthy skin.

The Xen-Tan Deep Bronze "time release" tanner (5oz, $26) looks and smells exactly like milk chocolate pudding in the tube, but it vanishes nicely and quickly when applied. The scent is fantastic (if you like chocolate)...and while the product didn't transfer to my sheets or clothes, both did retain the chocolate scent for about 12 hours.  The body tanner gave me  a great even "tan"... it didn't streak or make my skin appear mottled, but I should mention that I carefully avoided my knee caps and was sure to smooth it in evenly when applying it around my ankle bones and the tops of my feet.  The color developed nicely over about three hours but was fairly light with just a single application. A second light coating the next day gave me the perfect amount of color without looking "muddy". My tan stayed "true" for about four days, then quickly disappeared, but the product left my skin feeling nicely hydrated, likely because of the Shea butter which is a great moisturizer, and I was especially pleased to find that there were no bad-for-you parabens in the product.

Interestingly, it is also the first self-tanner that I have seen which contains Silimarin: aka Milk Thistle (see Marta's most recent posting on Milk Thistle as a topical antioxidant and the potential for blocking free radicals and shielding the skin from UVB damage). The body tanning product also contains "aloe barbadenis" (which is reportedly a natural skin soother) and glycerin which attracts moisture to the skin and leaves it looking great. It also contains Green Tea, Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract, and Lactic acid (to exfoliate) and while those  are enviable ingredients, their addition most certainly contributes to the price. My 5 oz tube lasted me just over a month, but I was fairly liberal in my usage, and I did use two coats on consecutive days because I wanted a nice dark! "tan".& nbsp; Overall, when considering the price per ounce and the quality of the ingredients, and of course the "tan" appearance itself, this is an excellent product.

The Xen-Tan Face Tanner (2.7 oz, $19) contains similar ingredients albeit in slightly different percentages, but is without the dyes found in the body tanning product. It spreads slightly differently as well, and has a light bronze (vs. chocolate pudding) tint. In this case, I highly endorse the addition of the somewhat pricey ingredients mentioned above. That is because the Face Tanner can be used as often as daily, in place of your facial moisturizer and/or foundation, and those additional ingredients are great for your complexion and have anti-aging qualities.  I used the Face Tanner sparingly every other day for a month, and it gave me a natural looking and again streak free tan on my neck, ears and face. It also did so without pooling up (and darkening) in the tiny laugh lines that I don't mind having, but certainly don't want to emphasize.  Over all, the Xen-Tan Facial tanner is the best facial tanner I have ever tried, and while it is not the least expensive facial tanner you could find, one tube should last most of the summer. It is an excellent addition to my summer skin care regime.

One final note, regardless of which type of self tanner you are using or considering, you will want to know that a recent study (read the earlier post mentioned above for the details) done by Katinka Jung of the Gematria Test Lab in Berlin found that self-tanners actually significantly INCREASE the risk of sun-related free radical damage and skin cancer for about the first 48 hours following application, as compared to "untreated" skin. So the smart thing to do is to plan ahead and apply your self tanner a day (or ideally two) before heading to the beach (or any prolonged period of exposure) and be SURE to also apply a great physical sun block every day.

Ingredients: Deep Bronze tanner:

Water (aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Dihydroxyacetone, Glycerine, Trimenthylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer,Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Stearyl Alcohol, Steareth-21, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Tocopheryle Acetate, Ginko Biloba Extract, Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle) Extract, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Metabisulfite, Lactic Acid, Fragrance (Parfum), Octadecyl Di-t-butyl-4-hydroxhdrocinnamate, Carmel, Yellow 10, blue 1, Red 40.

Ingredients: Face Tanner:

Water (aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Glycerine, Dihydroxyacetone, Trimenthylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer,Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate,Stearyl Alcohol,  Steareth-21, Tocopheryle Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle) Extract, Ginko Biloba Extract, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Metabisulfite, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid  Fragrance (Parfum), Octadecyl Di-t-butyl-4-hydroxhdrocinnamate.