(Trial Run)

This Primer-Meets-Self Tanner Is Reviving My Dull Complexion

It’s entirely worth the $40 price tag.

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In our series Trial Run, TZR editors and writers put the buzziest new beauty products to the test and share their honest reviews. This week, our beauty writer is testing the new Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer.

If you’re on the hunt for a brightening primer that also provides a subtle sun-kissed glow, you’re in luck: last month, Ole Henriksen released its Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer, an extension of the brand's fan-favorite Banana Bright Face Primer. Much like the 2019 iteration, the new launch is a moisturizing primer that provides an all-day hold for makeup while also brightening the skin with ingredients like vitamin C (which can also lighten dark spots over time). The buttery yellow banana powder-inspired pigments help illuminate lackluster skin before makeup application.

But the most intriguing part of this primer is that it’s also a sunless tanner thanks to the added DHA in the formula. That means that while it helps hold your makeup in place throughout the day it will also give you a subtle faux glow in just a few days — or so it claims.

It has been super rainy and dark in NYC and speaking candidly, I thrive in the sun. I’ve been checking my weather app daily to see when I’d finally be able to bask in the sun’s glory and get a bit of my tan on (with loads of SPF, of course). When I found out that this primer could give my pale winter skin a glow sans the sun, I knew I had to give it a try.

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Fast Facts

  • Price: $40
  • Best for: Gradually tanning the skin, brightening the complexion, and improving the look and feel of makeup.
  • Your rating: 4.5/5
  • Clean/Cruelty-Free? Yes
  • What we like: It gives my skin a radiant glow thanks to the self-tanner and vitamin C.
  • What we don't like: It has a citrusy scent that I love, but it *can* be too much for those who are sensitive to fragrance.

My Skin

My post-winter skin is nothing to write home about. I have a Mediterranean complexion, which naturally lends itself to an olive tone, but with months of cold, virtually sunless days behind me, I see that my shockingly pale skin is quite sallow, almost gray. In addition to this, my skin is fairly dry in my cheeks, while the pores around my nose and forehead become more noticeable under makeup as the years go by.

Isabella's skin before using the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face PrimerIsabella Sarlija

The Science Behind The Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer

The primer contains sunless tanner dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is the tanning agent in most sunless tanning products. It also has hydrating ingredients like glycerin to plump the skin before makeup application, and vitamin C to brighten the complexion over time. The results are a natural-looking sun-kissed glow that develops on the skin while you wear makeup during your day-to-day life.

Isabella Sarlija

My First Impression

When comparing this product to other primers on the market, its surprisingly lightweight and easy to spread, as opposed to either a chalky or an ointment-like feel. It soaks into my skin immediately and has a beautiful citrusy scent that energizes me in the morning. I don’t find that it smells like citrus throughout the day, though, since this scent dissipates quickly. I also enjoy the airtight pump applicator since it keeps the product bacteria-free down to the last drop.

Since the sunless tanner gradually adds color to the skin, I don’t notice that my hands looked orange after application. Of course, I still wash my hands after applying this product — but that habit has to do more with my self-tanner trauma (more on that soon). If you’re *really* opposed to using a self-tanner with your bare hands, I recommend using a foundation brush to spread this product onto your skin.

Isabella Sarlija

How The Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer Performs IRL

The last time I wore sunless tanner was before my high school prom and it was horrible. I used a drugstore formula and spent that entire evening meticulously spreading orange goop from the top of my forehead all the way down to my toes. After waiting in a jumping jack-stance for 10 minutes to let the product soak in, I washed the self-tanner off and went to prom with orange knuckles and patchy, murky streaks all along my legs.

So, when I was tasked with testing out a self-tanning *face* primer, I knew I had to consult the pros for their tips and tricks. Kate Synnott, makeup artist and beauty creative director for RÓEN recommends first washing the skin completely and removing any makeup. She states, “Second step would be to exfoliate to remove any dead skin or dryness. This step is important as tan will set into the dry areas on the skin and make it look patchy.” Lori Taylor Davis, global pro lead artist at Smashbox Cosmetics also recommends using a hydrating toner after exfoliating to boost water content in the skin. She says, “The idea is to create a smooth, hydrating complexion that self-tanner can turn into a natural sun-kissed glow. Apply a hydrating, oil-free moisturizer evenly. [Waiting] about 10 minutes to absorb can help to ensure that self-tanner is applied evenly across the skin.”

After following the pros’ tips and finishing off my pre-self-tanner routine with a chemical sunscreen, I applied two pumps of the Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer to my face, neck, décolletage, and ears before finishing off with a tinted moisturizer.

The Results From The Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer

The sunless tanning aspect of this product is so gradual that I almost don’t notice the color I’d developed until looking at before and after photos. Plus, it’s as easy as applying a normal primer and doesn’t leave me stressed out about appearing orange or streaky. Rather, it gives my complexion a soft, subtle tint — you would never know I was using a tanning product.

Isabella's skin before using the OleHenriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face PrimerIsabella Sarlija
Isabella's bare skin after using the OleHenriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer for three days.Isabella Sarlija

As far as a glow from vitamin C goes, I *think* it’s working. I definitely have a glass-like look to my skin, but I cannot tell if it is from the moisturizing agents, tint (tan skin always makes me look dewy), or the vitamin C. Regardless, I enjoy the idea of having an antioxidant in my primer to further help protect my skin from free radicals, especially during the warm summer months.

Isabella wearing the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer under makeup. Isabella Sarlija

In addition to the beautiful glow and tan that give life to my complexion, this primer moisturizes my skin very well and keeps it well moisturized throughout the day. Plus, after patting this primer into my pores, my tinted moisturizer goes on flawlessly and stays on my skin all day.

Isabella's makeup, intact, after wearing the primer under makeup for nine hours.Isabella Sarlija

Is The Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer Worth It?

If you are looking for an all-in-one product to boost your glow, hydrate the skin, and protect against free radicals, all while acting as a solid base for all-day makeup wear, I highly recommend giving the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer a whirl.

OK, shelling out $40 for a face primer seems like a bit of a reach. But hear me out:

This primer is moisturizing and adds a beautiful dewy bounce to my skin that doesn’t pill under my makeup (even when I apply it after my full skin care routine, which contains SPF). The gradual tan I got from this primer is perfect — it is neither too orange, nor too murky, but rather builds a tan off my natural skin tone, making my complexion look naturally sun-kissed. And this primer contains vitamin C, which only evens the skin tone further for a glass-like glow while protecting the skin against free radical damage with its antioxidant properties.

If you’re looking to up the ante on your glow this summer while keeping your makeup intact all day long, this product really is a no-brainer.

Product Specifications

Product name: Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Face Primer

Ingredient Highlights: Self-tanner (DHA), vitamin C (ethyl ascorbic acid), banana powder-inspired pigments, sugar-derived tanning booster, vitamin E, squalane

Size: 30 mL/1.0 fl. oz.

Suitable For: All skin tones.

BDG product reviews and recommendations are written and conducted by writers and editors with expertise in their fields. Testers often have specific experience with the situation or product at hand, and/or their review or recommendation is provided in consultation with experts. You can learn more about our standards here.

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