Review: I Tried Vancouver-Based Saltyface’s “Tanning Water,” Here’s How It Went

Using self-tanner can be risky—here's all the facts on Saltyface.

When it comes to social and environmental issues, I’m all for radical change. When it comes to my own appearance, not so much. So as I gently rubbed Saltyface‘s “tanning water” and “tanning foam” all over my face and body (well, almost all over—I’ll get to that) and got into bed, I said a small prayer that I wasn’t writing the first chapter of a self-tan nightmare story.

But, as my unfiltered before and after pics show, the Vancouver-based company’s tanning products really work—but not in an orange, artificial, or problematic (although some folks believe the fake tanning industry is inherently racist, and it’s definitely worth doing the research) way, at least in my opinion. Here’s a complete overview of my experience using Saltyface.

Full disclosure: Saltyface gifted me the tanning set, so I had nothing to lose by trying it out (except, I suppose, the will to be seen in public in event of disaster).

Why I wanted to use self-tanner

The short version is: I prefer the way I look with my summer tan. I think I look healthier and happier in the summer, and I wanted to get that glow on a little early. I also was curious about how well it worked, and especially eager to try a local brand.

I definitely didn’t want to seek out a skin tone that isn’t natural to me, and truth be told, I spent quite a bit of time Googling “Is self-tanning racist” (it definitely can be!) and “Is it ok for mixed race people to self-tan” (my dad—ethically Japanese—really has the market cornered on racial ambiguity thanks to his year-round colour) and, in a moment of panic, “Is self-tan bad for you” (the answer, really, is that nothing is worse for your skin than the actual sun, so it’s not like me seeking out a natural tan would be better).

Saltyface markets their products as “your summer tan, year-round,” which really was what I was going for—not tanning beyond my natural skin tone.

Another important thing: according to Saltyface, their products only last 2-3 days: they’re meant to be incorporated into your skincare routine regularly, or used strategically for events or days you want to look particularly glowy. I reasoned that if I did have some kind of catastrophe, it would be over soon enough.

How I applied the self-tanner

Tutorial time. Saltyface recommends moisturizing prior to using the self-tanner—like, right before—which seemed weird to me (what if the tanner reacted weird with my Body Shop lotion) but I did as I was told. I have olive-toned skin and used the “light to medium” products—they also have “medium to dark.”

After moisturizing, I used Saltyface’s tanning foam on my body and tanning water on my face. The kit comes with a brush that you can use for application. I used the brush on my face but opted to just use my hands when I applied the tanning foam to my body—I had too much real estate to cover and was getting impatient.

Saltyface’s tanning products work gradually, so you can either wash them off in a couple of hours or leave them on until your next shower, depending on how much of a tan you want. I decided to cover myself in the tanner and then go straight to bed (full send). The tanning oil and water had almost no scent at all, and a little goes a long way—I used less than 10 pumps of the stuff on my whole body, and the bottle still looks brand new—good to know, since the set is $138.

Self tanner vs. bedsheets and pyjamas

I trusted Saltyface’s promise that the tan would not transfer to clothes and sheets, and… it did not. Hallelujah. Even as the tan got darker on my body, my cotton sheets and pjs stayed clean.

A gradual tan throughout the day

I applied the tanner at 11 p.m. at night, and it was at around 10 a.m. the next morning that I realized I had not put it on my hands. Note to anyone using self tanner: don’t forget your hands. Saltyface recommends using the tanning brush to buff out the product around your wrists, but I had just washed my hands like normal, leaving a humiliating line (pics to come).

24 hours post-application, the tan was at it’s “darkest”—which is to say, I had an even glow that looked, in my opinion, perfectly natural. Here are a few before and after photos to demonstrate the difference.

Before (left) and after. This could also be a tutorial on how to take a totally natural full-body pic when you don’t have a full-length mirror.
Another before and after.

Looks pretty subtle, right? Taking pictures was tricky because different lighting makes skin tones look wildly different. For example, in the above pics it’s not obvious that I forgot to do my hands.

Then there’s this one.

When it came to coverage, I thought that the tanning water and foam did an excellent job—it wasn’t streaky or uneven at all, a real win considering I used my hands to apply it instead of the recommended brush. Any issues I found when it came to coverage were all my own fault (for example, I could have done a better job around my lips and hairline, and of course, hands). I did notice that the tan seemed to be slightly more saturated in areas where I had scarring from acne, despite moisturizing beforehand, so that’s something to keep in mind—it makes sense that the tanner would behave differently for different types of skin, even on the same face.

How long the self-tanner lasted

Remember when I said that Saltyface claims the tan lasts 2-3 days? Mine hung on for much, much longer—it took about 10 days for it to fade entirely, which if you ask me is a good thing (more bang for your buck) though I do wish I had gone back and fixed my hands. This is likely due to the fact that I am not a daily showerer—certainly the product would fade faster if I was scrubbing it away.

The verdict: Is Saltyface’s self-tanner worth it?

For a subtle, summer-y glow, absolutely. To anyone looking to use this product for a certain event, I’d definitely recommend doing a test run a few weeks before to make sure you know how to apply it properly (hands included). You can judge for yourself from my pictures, but I think that the “sunless tan” looked very natural, and I has happy with how long it lasted. I didn’t ruin my sheets or my pyjamas. I didn’t look like an old Cheeto. I think I looked glowier and healthier and happier and would definitely use it again.

Originally published May 2022