GOING FOR BRONZE
A pale-skin-worshipper’s first spray tan has interesting results
It’s 1 p. m. on a cold, grey day and I’m on the subway, relieved to be underground where the sun doesn’t shine. ( This wi l l become relevant in a minute. ) Reflected in the train window is someone unfamiliar, someone who looks just like me but has a warm glow radiating from her face, as if she’s turned on the “pretty” Snap filter while lounging on a beach in her abundant spare time. I have just come from my first-ever spray tan. I am not okay.
It’s not the spray tan’s fault. Sophie Evans, British “skin finishing expert” for ritzy tan-in-abottle brand St. Tropez, did a spectacular job making me feel comfortable about the process and even contoured on a more toned figure and chiselled face. When I raised concerns about my blotchy skin, she told me “gold takes away all redness, you’ll love it,” with a twinkle in her eye. Really, I know it looks glamorous; it’s just that I’m having a small existential crisis.
I thought I was a lot more “chill” than this, but as the warm- penny smell of DHA (the chemical used to turn skin brown) wafts from under my coat collar, I start to question everything I stand for. Though I was a sun worshipper in my misguided youth, my skin has barely seen the light of day in almost a decade, since I first read about how harmful UV rays can be in a very strongly worded article. Faster than you can say “but Botox,” I decided sun-induced wrinkles and skin- cell damage were enemy number one, and sunscreen became my lifeblood. I was so sure that being uniquely pasty among my friends and family was proof of the purest form of common sense that the mere indication of a tan, even though it’s not real, rattles me to my smug core. There, on the subway, I wondered: Did I just compromise my skincare morals? Take the sun damage gateway drug?
I spend the immediate aftermath firing off frantic, dismayed text messages about needing to scour off the bronze to everyone in possession of a phone. “You never feel uncomfortable when your face is chalk-white from that awful sunscreen, so do not worry about this,” my mother replies, apparently holding nothing back. She’s always liked to remind me how lucky I am to have my father’s olive complexion over her milky Irish one. My dad, whom I resemble so strongly that his own father once confused us in a picture, tends to his tan like an antiques dealer maintains prized Art Deco pieces, but with coconut- scented, Hawaiian Tropic SPF-4-fuelled trips down South instead of lacquer. There’s a threshold for the number of times someone can be compared to their parent before they crack: Keeping my skin perfectly pasty dimmed the resemblance and saved me from having to come up with witty retorts to people pointing it out.
It soon becomes clear that this is a deeply personal concern. For the rest of the day, no one I encounter shares my emotional earthquake over my transformation from macadamia nut to acorn. Comments include “Looks nice!” Still, when I finally get home that night, I give my epidermis the Lady Macbeth scrubdown. Within a week, I regret acting rashly and not giving the spray tan a chance. If this were a rom- com, I would not have the audience’s support. So I sheepishly dip into a bottle of “very light” self-tanner at home, chasing that slightly blurred, less ruddy complexion and justback-from-the- beach effect. No one notices but me, which is all the tan I can handle. A little colour every now and then, with no damage and my skincare morals left intact—I’d say that’s worth its weight in gold.