I consider myself somewhat of a self-tanning connoisseur. Why? Because I used to Irish dance. If you've never had the pleasure of marvelling competitive Irish dancing, think: dance moms, Riverdance and beauty pageants combined. This meant that fake tan was a huge part of it. If you cast your mind back to 15 years ago, most at-home fake tan was one shade: orange (that'd turn slightly green on application).
Mousses, tanning waters, gradual, and instant tans—you name it, I've tried it. So when formulations started getting considerably better, I was always itching to buy them. Then when I became a beauty editor, I was first in line to trial newbies on the market. Need the best fake tan for pale skin? Yep, I've got lots of recommendations.
One of the brand's at the forefront of this innovation is Isle of Paradise (the brand's tanning drops are legendary) and its Express Mousse is honestly one of the best self tan products I've ever used. I'm convinced it could turn even those fake tan-fearing people into a lover of the stuff.
It's one of the easiest formulas to apply, truly take just an hour to develop (many tans fail to live up to this claim) and leaves a beautiful golden tan without a streak in sight.
Don't believe me? Here's the application process and some before and afters.
Isle of Paradise Express Mousse application process
Per founder and tanning legend Jules Von Hep's advice, application is all in the prep.
I start with a scrub the night before using Bare By Vogue's Express Tan Removal Gel. I like this exfoliator because it doesn't dry my skin out and it doesn't contain harsh exfoliating beads (many of them are a bit too much for my sensitive skin). Oh, and it's gold and shimmery, which is always fun.
If you have really stubborn left over tan, I recommend something a little stronger like Rose & Caramel Purity Excel 60 Second Self Tan Removing Scrub.
Then I moisturise (this is the key step). I find that Naturium's Bio-Lipid Body Lotion works perfectly for this. I apply lotion to my chest (focusing around my collar bones where tan can go a little patchy), elbows, knees, ankles and feet and hands and wrists.
Using a mitt that has a thumb too, I start at my legs and work upwards. I apply the tan to my legs (missing my feet, we'll come back to them), working up towards my torso, arms (avoiding my hands), chest. I use quick upward strokes to get the tan on and then I blend using circular motions. I spend five minutes convincing my boyfriend to do my back. Since this tan has a colour guide, check in the mirror to make sure you haven't missed any obvious patches.
For my feet and hands, once they're all nice and moisturised, I pump tan out into my mitt but instead of using the mitt to apply, I take a stiff stippling make-up brush and buff it into my hands and feet. With my hands I make sure to bend my fingers and go into between each finger to give a natural look. Less is more here; it's easier to build and add more tan than take it away.
Now, the face. I actually use this tan on my face too, as I don't find that it clogs pores - although that won't suit everyone's skin. For example, if you're particularly blemish-prone you might want to stick to tanning drops in moisturiser. I approach tan on my face the same as I do hands and feet. First I apply a generous amount of moisturiser and buff tan into my face. I then use a towel to brush over my hairline and eyebrows to avoid any tan clinging to my hairs.
It sounds like a lot of effort but once you get technique down, it's a quick five minute job.
Isle of Paradise Express Mousse results
I leave the tan on anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on how dark I want it be and how long I want it to last. For the photos here, I left the tan on for 2.5 hours. It's definitely not the worst for transfer but since it has a colour guide, it does transfer a little. I just leave it to dry for a few minutes and then wear old PJs whilst it develops. The tan comes straight out in the wash so don't worry about getting any on your clothes. I'd recommend not sleeping in this one though because as it's an express tan it's not meant to be left on that long and may transfer to bedsheets.
What I love about this Express Mousse is that it seems to continue to develop after washing it off. At first, I thought I wasn't as glowy as I typically like to be, but then the next day when I woke up I was visibly a lot more tanned than I was when I first washed off the colour guide.
I've seen a few reviews note that it doesn't go as dark as people wish. I think the thing to remember here is that it's 30 minutes develop time, which is no time at all when it comes to tan so to get any colour after 30 minutes is quite a feat. This isn't supposed to give a deep dark shade but rather a streak-free glow, which is exactly what it delivers. If you want added depth, put another layer on the next day.
Another plus about this tan is the wear time and the fact it doesn't go patchy - have no fear of tiger bread skin. Dry patchy tan is almost part-and-parcel of tanning at home, but I've not experienced this once with this product and I've applied it about 20 times.
The Isle of Paradise Express Mousse is by far the most natural-looking tan I've used and is one I've been recommending to everyone, including those who are total tan beginners and it's not yet disappointed.