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Greenwashing | Famous Dave’s Tan

Famous Dave's Tan

Greenwashing | Famous Dave’s Tan

If the completely fickle British weather allows, summertime is skirt weather: the only time of the year the skin above my knees sees any daylight whatsoever, so this is when I like to whip out the fake tan! Unlike my lucky olive-skinned sister, I have pasty pale skin. The type of pale skin that is almost translucent and makes me feel like I am a jelly fish. And the very same pasty pale skin which down-right refuses to tan naturally and people ask me if I’m unwell. To achieve summer bronzed skin, and make myself look a bit more human, I have been reaching for Famous Dave’s Tan – a fragrance-free self tan which I picked up last year.

Famous Dave's Tan - an example of greenwashing! #tan #summer #beautyFamous Dave’s Tan

So as I mentioned, I bought these two self-tan products last summer just as I just began to become more aware of green and natural beauty. At the time of purchase, I hadn’t thoroughly researched the ingredients so this has been interesting for me to look at: to help decide if I would recommend this brand and re-purchase from them. The two products I tried are Famous Dave’s Spray Tan in ‘light to medium’ and Famous Dave’s Fair Skin & Face Light Self-Tanning Lotion. In my university days I had a bit of a thing for fake tan (cringe) so I have tried and tested my fair share of tanning lotions!

Famous Dave’s is an American brand which market themselves as using natural ingredients. Since last year, the UK stockists I purchased from have re-branded to For All My Eternity.


Famous Dave’s Spray Tan: unlike my old pre-green favourite, Garnier Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Self-Tanning Body Mist, from my university days; Famous Dave’s spray tan isn’t an aerosol. This is good as aerosols obviously aren’t brilliant for inhaling the stuff and choking in your bathroom. So as the spray nozzle alone can’t give you an even coat, I use a tanning mitt and disposable gloves to help apply the tan. Method 1 is spraying directly onto skin from a short range then rubbing in; and method 2 is spraying said tanning mitt first, then applying to the skin. Method 2 seems to be the least messy but I use a bit of both.

The consistency of the tan is fairly watery which is OK but on reflection I think I would prefer a mousse, gel or a darker lotion. A few times I managed to get it all over the bathroom floor but if you’re careful applying it, this shouldn’t really happen. Using the mitt and gloves as I mentioned should give an even application. I also use coconut oil as a barrier cream since it tends to come out really dark on my knees, ankles, elbows and belly button (haha!).

Famous Dave’s Fair Skin & Face Light Self-Tanning Lotion: this one is very easy to apply, and actually a lot less fuss than the spray. I don’t even use a tanning mitt as I find most of the product ends up getting absorbed in the spongey mitt rather than on my skin. It doesn’t tan the skin straight away and it’s not tinted at all (it’s a white lotion) so you can’t see where you have applied it which is a little annoying, also not handy if you need an instant tan.

A rather brown arm!Results & Longevity

Famous Dave’s Spray Tan: I’d recommend having a lukewarm shower rather than using very hot water the day after applying the tan as I have noticed hot water seems to cause a lot more of the tan to rinse off. When this happens, it’s the legs which end up with not much tan  – the one place you probably want it most – whilst also leaving your knees and ankles brown, and your chicken drumsticks almost white. If this does happen I tend to put on an application of Skin & Face Light Self-Tanning Lotion just to my legs to bring the colour back. Also make sure to lightly massage the skin whilst in the shower to help rinse the excess tan evenly using a gentle soap to prevent too much tan washing off. I really like Dr Bronners soap bars for this. I’ve had streaks on my legs before when I haven’t massaged or used a soap that wasn’t gentle!

As for longevity, it lasts rather well except the legs. I could leave it for a week before topping up again but usually need to work on the legs for a second application the day after the first, and then again at about day 4.

Famous Dave’s Fair Skin & Face Light Self-Tanning Lotion: this lotion is a bit too light for me as I find it just doesn’t last as long as the spray. It is buildable to a degree but the colour after one application is not much of a tan and definitely does not make my legs skirt-ready. Instead I find it handy to use in conjunction with the spray – it’s quite good on places like the tops of the feet, wrists and face.

Biscuit Smell?

I’ve never really thought fake tan smells of biscuits but I do understand it has quite a distinct scent.  Although Famous Dave claim to have “stayed away from perfumes, floral, and powdery scents” both Famous Dave tan products do smell something similar to the typical tan smell as evidenced by my brother who always dramatically asks me why I smell weird (he says it makes me smell like Almond Oats & More). The spray especially smells more like a normal fake tan. Actually basically the exact same.

The Sciency-Bit: DHA Health Concerns

It has been suggested in research that dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is cause for concern with spray tans. An article in The Telegraph reported that DHA could potentially mutate DNA after absorption into the bloodstream from inhalation in the lungs. They quoted Dr Lynn Goldman, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University; “What we’re concerned about is not so much that reaction that creates the tanning, but reactions that may occur deeper down with living cells that might then change DNA, causing a mutation and what the possible impacts of that might be. I’d be very concerned for the potential of lung cancer“. Another article from The Telegraph found that the regular use of sunless tanning products could contain “skin irritants and chemicals linked to allergies, diabetes, obesity and fertility problems”. They also noted that the ingredients can become a cocktail of chemicals including “hormone-disrupting compounds – which can harm babies – as well as carcinogens including formaldehyde and nitrosamines”.

While I have noticed there is a lot less ‘mist’ produced by Famous Dave’s nozzle than my old Ambre Solaire favourite and tanning booths, there is still a risk of inhalation and I would recommend opting for the mousse or lotion rather than the spray. According to Famous Dave’s, “all DHA used in our self tanners are 100% Vegetarian and Ecocert Approved”, though other sources stress that it is better to avoid DHA altogether. Famous Dave’s also cite that their products contain a blend of natural ingredients. Let’s see for ourselves…


Famous Dave’s Spray Tan: Aqua, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), Ethoxydiglycol, Propylene Glycol, Glycerine, Polyquaternium-4, Erythrulose, Polysorbate 20, DMDM Hydantoin, Aloe Barbendensis (Aloe Vera), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Retinyl Palmitate, Panthenol, CI 16035, CI 19140, CI 42090.

Famous Dave’s Fair Skin & Face Light Self Tanning Lotion: Aqua, Propylene, Glycol, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), Ceteryl Alcohol, Stereath-20, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera), NaPCA, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

In English

  • Ethoxydiglycol has moderate concern with its association with organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) as recorded by the EWG.
  • Propylene Glycol is a form of mineral oil according to Natural News.
  • Polyquaternium-4 is a cellulosic (derived from natural cellulose) polymer. (Source)
  • Erythrulose is a ketone sugar commonly found in raspberries. It is also a key active ingredient for natural self-tanners. (Source)
  • Polysorbate 20 is a surfactant and emulsifier with high contamination concerns. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product which is a known carcinogenic. (Source)
  • DMDM Hydantoin is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser preservative. EWG gave it a rating of 7: “people exposed to such formaldehyde-releasing ingredients may develop a formaldehyde allergy or an allergy to the ingredient”.
  • Retinyl Palmitate has a rating of 9(!!) on EWG with issues including it being a known human reproductive toxicant.
  • Stereath-20 is a synthetic polymer composed of PEG (polyethylene glycol) and stearyl alcohol. EWG has rated it 3 with some contamination concerns and toxicity.
  • NaPCA aka sodium PCA (pyrrolidone carboxylic acid) is a natural component of skin that is also a very good water-binding agent. (Source)
  • Methylparaben obviously is a paraben. There is strong evidence that it is a human endocrine disruptor – read more at EWG.
  • Propylparaben is another paraben with a rating of 7 on EWG. Not good.

According to the new rebranded site for Famous Dave’s, For All My Eternity, all their products are paraben-free and “made with only the finest natural and organic ingredients”, however in their website FAQs they state that the formulations have stayed the same since the switch. They haven’t listed the ingredients online either so I would be wary to purchase any of their products.

Final Verdict – Not a Safe Fake Tan!

When I bought this last year as a green beauty newbie, I really didn’t think to check the ingredients myself so unfortunately I completely fell for the ‘natural’ marketing. Interestingly I could not find the ingredients list anywhere online for either of these original Famous Dave’s products and had to physically consult the back of the bottle. I think it’s pretty obvious this is not a brand I recommend neither will I be re-purchasing! I will definitely be looking for a DHA-free, aloe vera-free and paraben-free alternative in a lotion form… And this time I will read the ingredients list before buying 🙂

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  • Hi Sophie,

    I was interested to see how green this was, as I’ve never gone in for fake tanning products but know they’re a lot safer than tanning in the sun if you want that beautiful glow. It’s nice to have the ingredients dissected and see your final result! Hopefully you can find something more green soon.

    Besma (Curiously Conscious)

    • Thank you Besma yes it’s a bit of a necessity if you don’t tan at all and don’t want white legs when wearing a summer dress 🙂 I hope so too, I’ve seen a few which might be a better option but not many without aloe!

  • Nooo! They have parabens :O and propylene glycol :o. Not good! I thought they were natural too, it’s a shame.

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