I have a confession. Years ago, while living abroad in Dublin, I was a tanaholic. Starved for the sun and deficient in vitamin D, the Irish girls I met there would pay daily visits to their local tanning salons. Not only did they log the maximum time allotment each day in the tanning booth, but they also purchased packages that permitted unlimited "fake baking" trips each month. You know the saying, "When in Rome"...

I have since repented for my tanning sins and vowed never to set foot in another one of those cancer factories. But, what's a Florida girl living in New York to do? Whenever I need a pick-me-up from my wintry pallor (or need to prepare for a particularly revealing outfit), I reach for the self-tanner. It's a ritual that I love to hate, but self tanning is a necessary (sometimes smelly and sticky) evil in the battle of sun-kissed skin vs. aging. The latest addition to my sunless tanning arsenal is Xen-Tan Transform Gradual Self Tan.

What piqued my interest in Transform was its promise of a natural glow without a tacky feel. Oftentimes after I've slathered sunless tanning lotion all over my body and waited the requisite 20+ minutes in my birthday suit, the solution leaves an uncomfortably tangible presence on my skin. In the worst cases, this "presence" transfers onto my clothing or my bedding; in the best cases, it merely accumulates on my hands, elbows, and knees.

Transform is different. The color of Transform is white, like any other body lotion. Though the white tint might facilitate the blending process, it also might steer you towards a false sense of security that what you're rubbing in won't turn brown in a few hours (read: beware of streaks). I massaged the lotion in circular motions evenly over each body part and immediately washed my hands. From its saccharine aroma to its weightless texture, Transform seemed like a lovely departure from my other sunless tanning experiences.

Touting a paraben-free formula that is exceptional for its category, Transform is loaded with emollients such as caprylic/capric triglyceride, glycerin, shea butter, and silicone. A bevy of botanical extracts include aloe (soothing), green tea (anti-inflammatory), and ginko biloba (antioxidant). With such a commendable formula, I initially thought that Transform might effectively replace my regular body lotion, while at the same time giving my translucent skin tone a much-needed tropical boost. Unfortunately, you can't always trust first impressions.

After the first hour, a believable golden glow had developed on my once pasty skin. But that's around the same time I caught a whiff of the familiar chemical smell emanating from dihydroxyacetone, which has utterly spoiled prior sunless tanning products for me. The somewhat sickening odor persisted into the next day, making me want to tear off my clothes and hop in the shower. (As a sidenote, I have the olfactory capabilities of a canine, so a normal person probably won't be as sensitive to the scent.)

Though far from innocuous in the fragrance department, Transform does its job- temporarily, at least. After a second scrubbing in the shower, my short-lived tan pretty much washed down the drain. But the nice thing about Transform is that the thicker you apply it, the deeper your tan will be. In contrast to that other lotion with tanning benefits, Jergen's Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer (which made my legs look and smell just plain dirty), Transform imparts a rich buttery golden glow. With a thorough application and a few spritzes of perfume, I will be ready to Transform again when swimsuit season finally arrives.


Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerine, Dihydroxyacetone, Trimethylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer, Cylclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Steareth-21, Tocopherol Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Green Tea Leaf Extract, Milk Thistle Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Metabisulfate, Lactic Acid, Fragrance, Octadecyl Di-t-butyl-4-hydroxyhydrocinnamate