October 2007

In Case You Were Wondering...But Were Too Afraid to Ask!

Author: Lindsey Hawkins

Fall is here, and soon enough, the cold weather will be too. Our season of basking in the sun and soaking up the rays is abruptly coming to an end. And though there are far more important topics to ponder, perhaps you are wondering about those UV-free spray tans.

In case you were wondering…
Who started the tanning obsession anyway? According to Copernicus, the sun was the center of our universe, and some of the most fashionable people today still agree—so much so, there is a reality TV show based on the lives of people who work at Hollywood tanning salons. (Yes, I’ve watched it. I openly admit to being a reality TV junky.)

It’s funny and somewhat ironic that what used to be considered an obvious sign of poverty and hard labor is now a symbol of beauty, and if you spray it on, a symbol of wealth.

It can be argued that the obsession that has built a billion-dollar industry based on creams, lotions and booths, all started back in the 1920s when women became liberated and clothing designers came up with the notion that less is more.

Wearing bloomers and petticoats that were impossible to swim in became a thing of the past. For the next six decades, lifestyles and western culture changed rapidly. Swimming became a sport for both men and women. Women began unveiling their sexuality and designers discovered the bikini. Having a tan year round no longer stereotyped a person as peasantry; it became a status symbol for those who could afford to travel south for the winter.

By the ’70s, people tried everything from slathering Crisco shortening on their skin to lying in synthetic sun booths in order to achieve a look that society branded as healthy, sexy and athletic. It wasn’t until the ’80s that the epidemic known as skin cancer became a rapidly growing reality.

But the suntan prevailed. New products promising UVA and UVB protection kept the industry going, despite the fact that new medical information came out every day, linking sunbathing and malignant melanoma—a deadly skin cancer.

You would think in a society where youth and looks are a way of life, the population would reconsider the importance of being tan just based on the fact that it causes premature aging. But the superficial reality is that being in the sun, at the pool, at the beach and looking good in the attire worn in these locations, has resulted in the want for a fabulous tan.

I, like others, love being tan, and I know what sun damage is. Now there is an alternative. God bless J-Lo for popularizing DHA, dihydroxyacetone, the UV-free sunless, spray-on tan. It can be an expensive addiction, but a healthy one. An average of $35 for a tan that fades in two weeks or less can add up. If you keep it up year round, you’re looking at spending a little less than a thousand dollars a year on a tan. On the flip side, you could lose your life if you don’t protect yourself from avoidable UV rays.

Here’s what you were too afraid to ask…
I have tried the self tanner lotions people, and I have olive skin tone. This equation, for me, equaled orange skin, orange-brown elbows, knees, fingers, and toes—a “tan” that took about two weeks to fade while I hid under jeans and turtlenecks.

Four years ago, while in college, I tried the spray tan when it was first available and affordable to the layman. That spray tan process entailed sitting on a towel at my best friend’s apartment for eight hours while a thick, sticky uneven goo soaked into my pores, then scrubbing the top layer off, only to find more orange and orange-brown skin. I skipped class for a week. I had pride and shame and a hot guy in three classes. I vowed never to do it again.

Now that I have an adult day job, I can honestly say I don’t really get out in the sun that often—and I live on the island. Because I love being tan and I think it makes me look thinner, I decided to break my vow a month ago and try a UV-free alternative again.

I had heard that the process had changed but expected the worst. I booked an appointment at the Sanctuary European Day Spa and met Kristen, my fabulously British spray tan professional.

First, if you have lotion or anything else greasy on your skin, you have to shower or the product will streak. I was told prior to the appointment to exfoliate and not put anything on my skin, but I forgot.

Next, you can choose to wear the spa panty and/or bra, or you can go in the buff. I like the tanning bed look and chose the buff. But either way, you will be comfortable, because the spa attire covers all that is sacred.

I stood on a towel, facing the wall in the spray room in the position people take when they are getting frisked by the police. (No, I have never been frisked.) This is when the air brush machine was turned on, and Kristen sprayed me with the Healthy Tan product. The product blows out in a very light mist, completely different from four years ago. It still smells like self-tanner (not the best odor), and I kept breathing it in. But the FDA approved it as non-toxic and non-carcinogenic, so no worries.

When she was finished, I stood in front of a fan and read an interior design magazine for fifteen minutes while it dried—not eight hours like four years ago. On the advice of the professionals, I did not get my face done. (I bought a bronzer.)

I paid $31, after using my Celebrate Hilton Head discount, and was told not to shower or get wet until the morning. I was not orange; there were no streaks or dark spots; and I was stunned. I actually went out that night and friends asked if I laid out that day. The only down side was that the product was still mildly sticky. Come to find out, it is made from sugarcane.

My tan lasted almost two weeks, but I already had a light base tan. I was told that the product looks better on a base tan—I assume because it is a less dramatic transformation. My fair-skinned friend, Melissa, tried it and had great results. She was a little orange around the wrist the first day, and then it was gone. Hence, ladies and gentlemen, lights and darks, spray tan actually looks good.

After everything I have tried, I am so glad there is a safe way to get a tan. I really can’t afford to do it all the time, and I love the beach. So, I have decided to spray tan when I can during the winter. During the summer, I will try to apply SPF 15 every two hours. I will try.

For more information, contact your favorite spa or try the Sanctuary European Day Spa at 843-842-5999.

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