I am a child of the early 2000s. Which means that when I was a tween, having a deep California-girl tan, even in winter, was practically a requirement. However, back in 2004, I was not a California girl. I lived in the suburbs of Baltimore, and during the school year, my Eastern European genes kept my complexion ghostly pale. My mother forbade me from exposing my flesh to the angry UV rays of a tanning bed (my thanks to her are much delayed). So instead, I did what many tweens with protective moms who’d watched one too many episodes of The Simple Life did—I hitched a ride to my local drugstore, and I bought a $9 self-tanning kit.
What ensued will probably sound familiar if you were a teen in that era: sticky, orange, hopelessly splotchy skin. It didn’t help that I failed to shave or exfoliate beforehand. It probably helped even less that my Keratosis pilaris (a common skin condition that causes little bumps made of dead cell buildup) was in full effect at that age. The tanner clung to each tiny hardened follicle, creating dark brown flecks up and down my limbs, like mud splatter. Self-tanner may have worked for other girls, but it did not work for me.
Luckily, the early and mid-2000s ended, and with them so did the need to look like you lived on a tropical island. Still, even now, sometimes occasions come up that simply require a bronzy glow: weddings, beach vacations. My skill with at-home tanner scarcely improved. But I haven’t had much luck with professional airbrush tanning either. Somehow, no matter how well I prep my skin, the tan fades into something patchy and embarrassing, almost dirty-looking. Until recently, I’d all but resigned to a life of pallid skin.
But, it just so happened that an offer to experience a house call from spray tanning company Spray di Solé crossed my desk the very week before I was slated for a weekend in Las Vegas. Spray di Solé founder, Svetlana Feller, is Kate Hudson’s personal airbrush tanner. I figured if someone as naturally fair as Kate put her stamp of approval on a spray tanning service, that had to mean something. Plus, one simply cannot spend the weekend poolside in Vegas with a complexion as pale as I mine. I was still skeptical, but the timing just seemed too perfect. I told the folks at Spray di Solé to sign me up. The following night, Feller would arrive at my house, set up a portable tent, and spray tan me right in my dining room. The results would be amazing, they pinky-promised.
I told you I was pale. I'd be lying if I failed to mention that another reason why I shy away from airbrush tanning is that I'm slightly embarrassed of my complexion. You have to be naked before your airbrush tanner, after all. In bright lighting, so they can see what they're doing. And while they're always very polite, I've had airbrush tanners make comments about how fair I am. The 12-year-old inside me still cringes at this a little.
But what comforted me about Spray di Solé was that they were happy to come to me. They'll make house calls for anyone who lives in L.A. Then at least you get to be naked on your own turf.
In Spray di Solé's Studio City salon, an airbrush tan costs $65. I assumed a house call, from the brand's founder no less, would go for five times as much. But Spray di Solé starts its mobile service pricing at $125, which struck me as quite reasonable. After all, you're paying for someone to bring a tent and airbrush machine to your home, set it up, provide you with a top-notch tanning job, then pack up and leave within 15 minutes as if they'd never been there. You couldn't get a high-quality makeup artist to make a house call for $125. Oh, how easy it is to justify big beauty purchase to ourselves.
Feller arrived at my house after work on a Thursday with a small suitcase, sporting a gorgeous spray tan of her own. Promising, I thought, as I led to her to my dining room (the space in my house with the best lighting) to unpack. Within five minutes of arrival, her pop-up tent was perched next to my dining table.
Feller's charming, personable demeanor helped me feel right at home (as did the fact that I was, quite literally, right at home). As we chatted cheerily about my upcoming Vegas trip, I stripped down, popped on a shower cap, and stepped into the tent.
Normally the person giving you your spray tan is just a messenger, an employee of the salon. But having developed her spray tanning formula herself, Feller knows exactly how to wield it to produce the best, most natural results. The product (which is alcohol-free and has very little odor) comes out of her machine in an incredibly fine mist. And Feller is meticulous about coating the skin evenly. She blends it in afterward with a roller tool, focused specifically on areas that tend to blotch, like the elbows and knees. Then, she carefully dries every square inch of skin so there's no room for streaking.
For me, what set Feller's process apart from other services was that she seemed to treat airbrush tanning as an art. While my goal was simply to look a few shades darker in a swimsuit, Feller explained that she has several clients with concerns like varicose veins, cellulite, and discoloration, all of which she can camouflage beautifully with her product and skill. She is also able to custom-contour the body, creating muscle definition and enhancing angles, so you look 10 pounds thinner without lifting a finger. I had her gently contour my collar bones, a quick trick for looking instantly slimmer.
Before Feller packed up, she had me check her work in a full-length mirror to make sure I was happy with the coverage. She told me to shower in the morning and expect my color to last for about a week, the standard duration. I did a quick spin in my bedroom (did I mention how much I loved that this all happened in my own home?). I must admit, as much as I tell myself that I'm happy with my natural complexion, there is something fun about having a pretty, airbrushed glow.
I gave Feller a nod of approval, and within two minutes, her pop-up tent was back in her bag, and she was on her way.
Overall, it's clear to me why Kate regards Spray di Solé her airbrush tanner of choice. Like many of us, she's a pale girl with fake tan anxiety. Spray di Solé caters to our concerns.
If you live in L.A., I encourage you to give the brand a try. Otherwise, you can snag a DIY version with Spray di Solé's starter kit. The liquid tanner is formulated with all-natural, organic ingredients like aloe, jojoba, and Vitamin E. I'm partial to this DHA-free bronzer kit, which contains a kabuki brush to help with even application (essential if you're self-tanner–challenged like I am).
Summer's still in full swing, so I might be due for another play date with Spray di Solé. After all, it's what Kate Hudson would do.
Curious about DIY sunless tanners? Check out our list of the best new products for achieving a faux glow at home.