I’ll never forget my first time. Awkward, uncomfortable, exciting—it felt as if my whole life had been leading up to this point. Afterwards, I emerged as a newer, worldlier version of my previous self. How innocent, how naïve I had been! Suddenly, I felt so much more experienced, more comprehending of the world and all of its intricacies. By the way, I’m talking about my first spray tan.
Because I grew up the perpetually gloomy city of Seattle, being tan was of the utmost importance—mainly because it was so unachievable by natural means. My friends and I would bake in tanning beds (sigh) and eagerly emerge to see if we had achieved the fabled tan line we saw so frequently in our favorite reality show, Laguna Beach. When I came to Los Angeles for college, however, my desire for bronze goddess-like skin fell to the wayside, as I started to involve myself with scholarly activities (like learning how to spend hours in the library without actually doing anything). Plus, the sad truth is that driving around in Los Angeles takes so much time that you slowly develop a base tan just from sitting in traffic during rush hour.
When I got an invitation to receive a spray tan from Sophie Evans, St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert, I almost passed. But then I remembered that St. Tropez’s Bronzing Mousse ($32) was the first self-tanning product I ever used that I actually liked (no smell, even color … basically my savior during many a Seattle winter), and I thought to myself, “Why not strip in front of a stranger and get sprayed down?” I confirmed the appointment.
Keep reading for my unfiltered account of what happened next.
The morning of my appointment, I exfoliated as usual with my go-to Rituals Body Scrub ($25), feeling quite pleased with myself for knowing to do this before my appointment. Later, I realized I should have done this the night before, so I could apply lotion and allow it to fully sink in before the spray tan. Nevertheless, visions of golden skin danced through my mind as I drove to the hotel where the session would take place.
Sophie Evans was bubbly and British so I liked her immediately and didn’t feel as awkward as I thought I would getting naked in front of someone I’d just met. Evans explained my two options: the traditional St. Tropez spray tan, or the brand’s new breakthrough Self-Tan Express, which I could shower off in just one hour for a hint of glow, two hours for more color, and three hours for a deeper, golden color. As curious as I was about the Self-Tan Express, I chose the traditional spray tan because I was going directly to the office afterwards and wouldn’t have time to shower.
I stepped into the little booth and Evans directed me to stand in a bunch of yoga-esque positions as she sprayed and contoured me from head to toe. We chatted about how she got into tanning and my love for all things British as she got up close and personal with the backs of my upper thighs and underarms. The whole process took just a few minutes, and wasn’t nearly as smelly or terrible as I’d anticipated. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I was a bit surprised at just how dark I was, but shrugged it off, bid my lovely tanner adieu, and headed to the office.
Xavi Gordo for Elle Russia
“You look like you just got back from five months in Tahiti,” was the first thing my co-editor said to me when I got to my desk. I sensed a tinge of fear in her voice, but brushed it aside. I was more preoccupied with the fact that I had somehow left a spray tan stain on my favorite denim jacket—Evans promised everything would wash out, however, so I wasn’t too worried. I was a bit disappointed that the DHA smell was still fairly strong—I apologized to coworkers in the near vicinity for smelling like an overeager high-schooler.
A few hours later, I went to the bathroom—and that’s when the strange tone in my coworker’s voice suddenly made sense. I was very, very dark. I looked like I had spent five months in Tahiti, then laid out in the Caribbean for six weeks afterwards, then spent another day or two in Hawaii for good measure. I was slightly horrified (okay, very horrified). Since I had an event that night and had to pick up my friend on the way, I practically knocked her down when she opened the door and immediately jumped into her shower. There, I watched the water turn an inky brown shade as it ran down my body and whirled into drain. The whole experience was incredibly calming and cleansing.
I accidentally scheduled a mild facial two days later, which I was scared would leave my face looking blotchy—or worse, remove the color completely. Luckily, it did neither of those things; afterwards, my skin still had a glow and if anything, the color looked more even. The compliments started coming a few days later when I tried on jewelry and a girl told me the gold bangle I had on “looked great” against my skin tone. When I mentioned it was a spray tan, she was surprised, which in the beauty world, is always the ultimate compliment.
The orangey tone had disappeared after my first rinse, but after a few days, the tan fully developed into a natural, golden color. Because of it, my teeth looked whiter, my nails looked brighter, and my favorite orange-red lipstick popped against my skin. Plus, Evans’ contouring magic actually seemed to work—my arms looked more toned and there was a glimmer of possible definition in my ab area (which I knew for a fact was not of my own doing).
A week after my initial spray tan, I still have a nice, even glow and haven’t experienced any flaking or blotchy color (probably because I remembered to exfoliate gently a few days after—I did my research, after all). One thing I learned? In the future, I’ll be scheduling appointments in the evening so I can wash off any alarming color in the morning and avoid my coworkers’ disturbed looks.
I’m not saying I’m a full-blown spray tan addict, but I have been admiring my skin’s glowy tone and may or may not already be daydreaming about my next one …
Are you a spray tan addict? What was your first time like? Any tips or tricks for dealing with the smell and staining? Tell me below!