Spray Tanning Real-Talk For The Uninitiated

Contemplating your first spray tan? Here's what happened during and after my first-ever session.

My anti-tanning stance stems mostly from my sister. Naturally she's very pale with freckles, but, thanks to tanning, spray tanning, and bronzing, she's a totally different color than she should be.

Recently she started working at a tanning salon, and though both my parents went for spray tans and loved it, I refused to even entertain the idea. I knew nothing about the "procedure" and was happy to keep it that way. Besides, isn't a nice tan supposed to be the result of spending time outdoors or a taking long beach vacation?

Problem is, I haven't been spending a lot of time outdoors this summer. In fact, this is the palest I've ever been.

When Saul's Beauty Shop offered me a complimentary spray tan for a shoot with Bicyclette, I almost turned it down. I really didn't want to end up bright orange, but I was curious (and kind of pale) so I booked an appointment and told myself I could always exfoliate the orange away if the worst happened.

There wasn't much I could do to prepare for the tan, but I went in freshly exfoliated and without any lotion, just like this handy info form instructed.

When it was time to tan, I was led into a room with a shower, a machine that looked like a scary vacuum, and disposable underwear. My tanner, Eliss, said that I could spray tan totally naked, but that a thong line was good for comparison. Then she left the room and I stripped down to absolutely nothing, stuck some little nose plugs in, and hid my hair under a cap. Naked, confused, and a little terrified, I waited.

Eliss returned and demonstrated a series of yoga-esque positions that I’d have to assume for an even tan. Then we decided on a medium-dark formula and agreed to spray my face, which you can opt against. With all of that sorted, I stepped into the shower and closed my eyes.

The spray itself was less cold and unpleasant than I'd expected, sort of like a soft mist floating over my body. The smell was a bit strange, but also quite tropical. (The product is sugar based!) I had a tough time remembering each position, but Eliss silently walked me through it while the machine whirred in the background.

I stepped out of the shower and stood in front of a fan for about 10 minutes before putting my clothing back on. Eliss made sure I was happy with my color before leaving the room. She explained that the skin absorbs the product within 10 minutes of application, and that although it may darken a little throughout the day of application, it would level out to that initial color.

By the time I got home, I'd already darkened a few shades. I couldn't shower for at least six hours so I nervously waited. When I was finally able to rinse, I grabbed some products I thought might be helpful: Whish Exfoliating Body Wash, a tropical-scented alpha-hydroxy product for post-tanning (natural and faux), and my Library of Flowers Shower Gel in True Vanilla (which I've gushed about before) to give my skin some extra TLC.

I found the tan was fairly even, but product had gathered around my bikini area and under my butt cheeks. I got to work with the exfoliator and a damp cloth to try and blend out the uneven areas, then lathered up with my shower gel. Quite a bit of brown went down the drain, and I was a little worried I'd end up pre-tan pale.

To my surprise, the tan was perfectly natural and soft. I got compliments everywhere I went for the next week. At first I was ashamed to admit my tan wasn't "real," but when I weighed the health benefits (look, ma, no UV rays!), I was excited to have a safe alternative to sunbathing.

It's been over two weeks now, and though I still have a tan, the tan lines have definitely faded. I don't have the beauty budget to make this a regular thing, but I'd totally try it again as a special treat.

Have you ever tried spray tanning? If not, what's holding you back?