MAY 24 2016

Safe Self-tanning: Chocolate Sun

It’s finally summer! Nothing makes me happier than shedding the cold-weather layers and dressing for warm weather. I can start wearing the clothes I’ve been dreaming about all winter - tanks, shorts and breezy dresses. But given that I’m naturally quite pale, I need to get my tan on first. The sunless kind, of course.

Sunless tanning, aka self-tanner, is obviously the safest way to tan. But just like makeup and skincare, most self-tanning products contain potentially harmful ingredients. The active ingredient in self-tanners is DHA, which is naturally derived from beets or cane sugar. It’s a simple carb that reacts with the amino acids in the top layer of your skin to produce that nice tan color. The challenge is finding a self-tanner with natural DHA and no extra chemicals like dyes (the thing that makes it look brown topically), synthetic fragrance (to mask the strong chemical smell many self-tanners have), and synthetic preservatives.

In my search for the perfect, non-toxic tan, I’ve tried more self-tanning products than I can count and have finally found two favorites: Chocolate Sun and Vita Liberata. These are the ones I rely on to take me safely from pale to bronze. For my review of Vita Liberata self-tanners, click here.

Chocolate Sun

Founded in 2003 in Santa Monica by Susie Phillips, who drew on her extensive experience running sunless tanning studios across California. Phillips worked with a botanical chemist to handcraft her collection entirely of organic botanicals and herbs, pure essential oils and natural preservatives. Quality ingredients and small-batch manufacturing make the Chocolate Sun products feel like they came out of a luxurious, old world apothecary.

Why I love it:

  1. Doubles as a skin treatment. Chocolate Sun’s self-tan lotions, gels and atomizers contain a blend of coconut oil, almond oil and sunflower oil that leave your skin hydrated, nourished and gorgeously glow-y. Like a super-luxurious body lotion that also happens to give you a tan!
  2. Applies easily and evenly. It’s hard to make mistakes with this product because it feels so cosmetically elegant and applies so evenly. Comes in 3 shade options (light, medium and dark) and 3 formulas: a tinted gel for the face, an un-tinted lotion for face and body, and a tinted spray (“atomizer”) for face and body. I use the face and body lotion in the medium shade, called “Cocoa Glow”.
  3. Smells like cookies. The delicious mix of coconut, cocoa, almonds and vanilla makes you forget completely that it’s a self-tanner. Because it’s made entirely of organically grown, wildcrafted botanicals and herbs, you don’t get the unpleasant odor associated with chemically-laden mainstream self-tanners.
  4. Clean and eco-conscious. The Chocolate Sun products are free of mineral oils, dyes, lanolin, parabens, PABA, alcohol, petro-chemicals, sodium lauryl sulfate and formaldehyde. They’re vegan friendly, non-comedogenic and never tested on animals. Plus, the bottles are made from recycled materials and there are no boxes or outer plastic wrapping, so packaging is minimized.

8 fl oz (US $40.00)

Chocolate Sun is available at several online beauty retailers and from