This quarter, I made a discovery that led me to adopt a weekly routine that I never would have previously seen myself keeping up with: Spray tanning is a godsend.
As a high schooler, stalking the upperclassmen prom photos on Facebook with my friends was one of our favorite activities of the year. It was like fashion policing celebrity fashion choices in People and Us. Next to unnecessarily over-the-top prom dresses, one of the biggest no-nos that we often identified was when someone had an obvious spray tan. I was so scared to look orange on prom day that I told myself I would never get one.
That is, until this year. I had a few days to kill before my friends repopulated campus and classes began before Spring Quarter. One day, I took a walk around Evanston in hopes of stumbling upon something to do. As I turned the corner at Le Peep, I saw a hot pink and neon green sign: “L.A. Tan.” It glowed in my peripheral vision and suddenly looked like the promised land – palm tree logo and all.
What better time to get a spray tan than right at the end of spring break? For all anyone knew, I could have spent a week lounging on the beach and baking in the sun. It was the perfect, believable cover story. I tend to be impulsive, and the image I had of myself with that golden summer glow I used to get at the beach was enough to make me forget every negative thought I have ever had about spray tanning and propel me through that L.A. Tan glass door right away.
I viewed self-tanning as a fun activity to pass the time, but also as an opportunity to try something new in the self-care and beauty realm. Of course, self tanning is a personal choice and not at all necessary. I feel very comfortable in my own skin as it is, but I wanted to temporarily play with my appearance in the same way people decide to dye their hair a fun color or wear a funky piece of jewelry. As spray tanning is a much safer and less permanent option for your skin than tanning beds, I decided that it was worth a try.
When I entered the tanning shop, there was a bronzed woman behind the desk who I told this was going to be my first spray tanning experience. She immediately asked if I had recently exfoliated. I hadn’t. Apparently, it’s important to exfoliate your skin before a spray tan to remove the dead skin cells prior to the treatment. She then looked at my outfit – leggings and a sweatshirt – and told me that it’s crucial to wear loose clothing to a spray tanning appointment. Also, no makeup allowed. I wanted this to be the perfect experience and I had no plans that day, so I literally walked back to my dorm to shower, exfoliate, take off my makeup and put on a classic groutfit.
When I got back, I got undressed … all undressed, which was pretty freeing. I was ready to get my tan on. At L.A. Tan, the spraying is done by a machine with an Amazon Alexa-esque voice that tells you what to do. The whole experience reminded me of that one episode of Friends, “The One With Ross’s Tan,” when he didn’t follow the instructions correctly and comically turned a bright hue of orange.
I pressed the start button, and the machine told me how to stand and then counted down from five. I heard the sound of air being blown out of a hole and before I knew it, I was being sprayed with artificial tan. I couldn’t help but laugh as I swayed from side to side with my eyes closed.
The tan was over after only one or two minutes. I braced myself and looked in the mirror, hoping not to look like Snooki. But I looked as golden brown as a perfect s’mores marshmallow. Although, at first, the tan was speckly on some parts of my body, that blended in with time. My face looked just like it did when I went to Punta Cana for a week. It appeared way more natural than I thought it would. I was very impressed.
Overall, my spray tan experience cost under $20, which pleasantly surprised me, and took under 10 minutes total. When I left the salon, I felt like a new woman. I walked around Evanston in my gray sweatpants and sweatshirt and honestly, felt like a tan boss. Throughout the day, the tan set in more and even got a little bit more golden and bronze.
I learned later that the tan only lasts for one week. Since I had a positive experience, I have been back three times since. So if you miss your summer glow, trying a spray tan might be a fun alternative. And if you see me on the street, just pretend it’s natural.