Review: Xen Self-Tanner

I was curious about this product after watching a Pixiwoo review on self-tanners, where this item was picked as the top brand. The makeup artists who comprise Pixiwoo, sisters Sam and Nic Chapman, are well-regarded for their talents. This exposure has also given them access to some of the top brands. (One disclaimer: The duo appear to have a contractual relationship with certain makeup brands, namely Chanel. They may also have relationships with other brands that drive which products they promote.)

Whatever the potential relationship, the review was a strong endorsement of the Xen tanning line. Sam Chapman, a fair-skinned British woman, describes herself as pretty deficient with self-tanners and really emphasized that this is an area where paying up gets you a better product (Xen tanning line runs $32-$56 per bottle). Her particular shortcoming is in blending, which leads to streaking issues among lesser quality self-tanning products.

Physically, I am the opposite of the Chapmans: I'm Asian and naturally much darker than they are. Why would I have any interest in self-tanning? Because even a darker girl can feel pale in the winter months. When I come home from any warm-weather vacation, I'm in love with that natural bronze look I have. My skin can easily go about five shades darker during a week-long tropical vacation. It seems to want to eat the sun, which is a good and bad thing.

I pay attention to skin cancer warnings. After a scare earlier this year that resulted in a biopsy, I'm especially aware. The idea of a tropical vacation in a bottle appeals to me even more because of this.

Yesterday, I received the Xen order in the mail: I picked the Dark Lotion, which comes in an 8 flow ounce pump bottle. I applied the product a couple hours before bed last night, putting it strictly on my face and neck.

The immediate noticeable benefits of this product: No chemical smell that's typically associated with self-tanners. It smells to me like dark cherries, the real ones and with no cloying effect (although others describe it as vanilla scented). The other thing is how dark the product is: A very rich brown that is almost alarming on first pump. Even the L'Oreal Sublime Bronze product looks wimpy by comparison.

The Xen product goes on smoothly and has a gel-like quality. There was a slight appearance of streaking to the skin, but I deliberately left it as is to see if it would wash away the following morning. This was to test Chapman's claim that you can have virtually no skills with application and still get a streak-free finish.

When I washed it off this morning, it was streak-free, as Chapman promised. The effect isn't as dark as the initial product color would suggest. Upon reading some online reviews, even very fair-skinned women who used it said they didn't appear as dark as they'd hoped.

Still, the tan you get from it is believable: No Snooki or Oompa Loompa comparisons will follow; the undertone is olive and not orange. My guess is I'm about two shades darker with one application (Update: As the day progressed and I saw myself in natural lighting, I appeared much tanner than I'd originally assessed). The product promises the effect will last seven days (I'll let you know if it falls short).

I'd recommend this product to anyone who has application shortcomings and hates the self-tanner smell. Just keep your expectations realistic: You won't look baked, just lightly bronzed.

If you can learn to blend more and hold your nose a little, stick to the drugstore brands and save yourself about $30.


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