The Great Spray Tan Experiment

I have officially completed The Great Spray Tan Experiment! I spent quite a lot of time and energy worrying about my potential streaks/orange hue and as it turns out, I didn’t really have to worry about any of this because….I look ALMOST the same as I did four hours ago. A little tanner and healthier, but no orange zebra for me. Granted, the tan takes six hours to appear fully but I think it’s safe to say that I won’t become an Oompa Loompa in those two remaining two hours. I will say that I’m a little disappointed that I’m not darker BUT I’m also VERY relieved that I’m not orange and I’m not streaky at all. In fact, you can’t even tell I spray tanned. That was the effect I was going for.

I exfoliated with the Neutrogena Sugar Scrub I just bought (read my post about it here) last night and then again this morning. I also made sure to shave and moisturize this morning.  Yeah, I took this whole process pretty seriously. When I got to the tanning salon I was seriously NERVOUS. I am a vain idiot, I know. I had to wait about half an hour for a bed so I had plenty of time to let the nervousness build. My friend/co-worker went first and came out alive and happy so it made me feel a little bit better. Before I went in the bed I had to choose which level color I wanted to get painted. Literally. There were four levels. My first instinct was to go with level 1 because I am ghostly white. The girl who was working the desk told me that does basically nothing.

“Okay,” say I ,”Then I’ll go with level 2.”

“Well that doesn’t really do much either. You should go with level 3.”

I knew that my fairly tan co-worker went with level 3. I was pretty sure I should not be getting painted the same level as someone who had been on a cruise two months ago and was already fairly tan. I literally have not been in intense sunlight since last summer. I explained this to the girl.

“Level 3 isn’t that dark. You won’t get orange.”

The girl wasn’t really looking to comfort me or give me a great consultation. She had a line to deal with behind me. I had to rely on my own instincts. My instinct told me it was better to go too light than too dark when I had somewhere to be this weekend. If I was just spray tanning for the sake of spray tanning, then I’d go darker. If I looked like an orange zebra in front of my co-workers, who cares. But this was not the case. I decided to play it safe. I seriously could not get images like this out of my head:

“So we have to watch a video about what to do when we get in the booth, right?” I ask the girl.

“Oh, no you don’t. Someone will show you though.”


I am Bethenny Frankel-style neurotic and did some serious research online last night. EVERY website I went on told me you had to watch a how-to video before getting in the spray tan booth. But I needed to trust this teenage girl with my skin tone and so I did.

Finally it was my turn for the bed. Another equally young girl walked me back.

“So you’ve done this before, right?” She asks me.

“NO! NO!” I couldn’t say it fast enough. ” I have NEVER done this before and I CAN’T I repeat CANNOT be orange or streaky.”

The girl looks at me as if I am describing the alien colony living in my backyard.

“Okay, well don’t worry you won’t be.”

I know I am being crazy and odd but I’m scared this is going to be a hot mess. I get in the booth and another girl is cleaning it. The girl walking with me explains that you put this lotion on your feet and palms to prevent them from turning orange. She hands me a towel and shower cap, asks if I have questions, waits as I mumble something, and then leaves.


The girl cleaning the booth tells me it’s ready and she also leaves.


Almost instantly a calming, Kate Middleton-type voice begins talking to me. I realize it’s the spray tan machine. At least this thing is here to help me because clearly no one else is going to guide me through this new and scary process. Basically, in her robotic, British accent, she tells me to finish putting the lotion on, wait for the bed to heat up and get in. Once the bed has heated up she tells me to go ahead and get in. I do. Then we begin playing something reminiscent of Twister. There are four feet with numbers on them in the booth. They all are in different positions. She tells me to put my left foot on 1 and my right foot on 3.

“Spraying begins in 3, 2, 1,” She warns me. I barely have time to prepare before the spray tan solution begins hitting me. I expect it to feel liquidy and cold but it feels neither. It basically is like smelly air. It’s a little unpleasant but is over very quickly. I then get some time for the “Drying pro-cess” as the machine informs me.

I basically rotate my body around in a circle, per her instructions, as I get sprayed with this dry air aka tanning solution. I get time to dry in between. I am in a little capsule. The whole process takes about five minutes. Then warm air fills the capsule (it definitely felt like the end of a car wash) and I am told to stay in the booth until my skin is dry. I had no idea when exactly that was because I couldn’t tell if my skin was wet or just filmy from the solution. The whole thing left me feeling puzzled and overwhelmed. I have no idea why. It just did. I kept feeling like I was doing something wrong or like at any minute something bad was going to happen. Maybe this is what it’s like to do drugs. I don’t know and have no intention of finding out.

Afterwards, I slipped on some loose-fitting clothes (this is what all the websites told me to do) and sprinted to my car and raced home. I couldn’t get wet and couldn’t sweat for 4-6 hours (according to my research) and didn’t want to risk my spray tan by getting caught in the downpour that looked like it was coming my way. I blasted the AC in my car on the way home to avoid sweating. I told C I couldn’t unload the dishwasher because I couldn’t sweat. Okay, maybe that wasn’t necessary but he didn’t argue.  And now here I sit, in my pjs, trying to determine if I’m actually more tan, or if I’m just seeing what I want to see.

They told me to shower after six hours, but I want this thing to develop to the fullest extent. I honestly do see more color. I really do. I’m just not as bronzed as I expected. But I don’t regret my decision not to go one level up. I had NO idea how this was going to be. This could have been a disaster and I didn’t want to be a brown, streaky messy. Now I know for next time that my skin can probably handle one level darker (who woulda thunk).

I tried to take a picture of the booth for you to see but it was a small, cramped room so it didn’t really work. Here they are though, so take a look:

Inside the booth

And thus concludes The Great Spray Tan Experiment, friends. Updates to come tomorrow, once the tan has had the full amount of time to set. We shall see…

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