Spray tanning is one of those beauty trends I forgot about — like, up until a few months ago, I thought it was a relic from the Jersey Shore-dominated culture from a decade ago. Like, remember Tan Mom? Hard as I try, I will never forget. But as I’ve told you readers time and time again, I am on a conquest to be constantly glowing, whenever and however.
I met a South Asian friend of mine for drinks a few weeks ago and she managed to have the most glowy, shiny arms, even in a deeply overcast and rainy April — and when I asked what her secret was, she very easily told me, "Girl, it’s a spray tan."
Cue my face as the shocked-Pikachu meme. I could not believe it! The Black and Brown girlies are getting spray tans and no one told me?! But when I was clued into the Black + Brown Girls Spray Tan side of TikTok (where else?), let me tell you, it was over for me. This was my National Treasure and I didn’t even have to hang out with Nicolas Cage to get it. But according to tanning experts, the rise of Black women and women of color getting spray tans isn’t new, necessarily, it just hasn’t been talked about nearly as commonly as it is now. Which is a great thing — glowing skin does not need to be gatekept, and I will die on this hill.
So what’s causing this misconception? Honestly, a lack of imagination. “It blew my mind in the early days of my career that for some reason, tanning brands only communicated this wondrous beauty hack to just one type of person," Isle of Paradise founder, Jules Von Hep explained to me, "yet I was working with darker skin toned clients every single week."
Sun exposure boosts melanin — which is basically what a tan is — but being outside in the sun for too long isn’t good for you, and that’s where sunless tanners and spray tans come in, mimicking sun exposure to give you a more even, glowy skin tone. "On darker skin tones, after sunless tanner use, there is a reduction in any yellow, blue and ash undertones in the skin," says Von Hep. "Skin appears more uniform, just like after a vacation. For darker skin tones, it's not necessarily about a color change, like paler skin tone may see, but more of an added warmth and glow to the skin. It’s like magic."
I had dabbled here and there with sunless tanners when they first exploded onto the scene (in the Prehistoric Era), but had been put off by the labor and the smell, primarily. But that was a lifetime ago, and after learning that, apparently, I should be getting a spray tan ahead of my friend’s wedding in Mexico, I booked an appointment immediately. Given that this was my first time attempting a spray tan as an adult, I left this one to the professionals out of fear that I would wind up looking like a zebra. They asked me what my goals were — a healthy glow for my friend’s beachside wedding — and since it was my first professional experience, my tanning pro, St.Tropez Skin Finishing Expert & Celebrity Self Tanner, Sophie Evans, decided to start light and easy, and go from there. That’s the smart move, according to makeup artist, Tarryn Feldman. "It’s hard to know what color you’ll love, so I would always start with the lightest color and go up from there. Once you’re familiar, you can figure out what works for you."
To prep the night before, I exfoliated and shaved my legs. St. Tropez recommended that I remove all fragrances, lotions, and deodorant before my tanning appointment, too. They also suggested wearing or bringing loose-fitting clothing to change into afterwards, and I cannot recommend that higher — not only do you avoid possible stain issues, but also, you don’t want to be trapped in that kind of stickiness for the hours afterwards. Trust me on this one. Von Hep offers another tip that I’m going to apply the next time I go in for a session: "Moisturize your hands, elbows, knees, and feet prior to tan application — and immediately after application." I was offered a wipe to remove the tan from my feet, hands, and nails, but I definitely felt both dry and sticky for about an hour afterwards, and this tip seems like it would help alleviate that issue.
I got into that tanning booth/spaceship, posed in the little Lego Man poses to make sure the spray tan got into every single surface on my body, and emerged on the other side of the tan, waiting patiently to see when the results would set in.
And set in, they did. I looked like an Academy Award. I had never known what a Bronze Goddess actually was until this very day, but I knew that this was my new life. I have two eras: Amanda B.S.T. and Amanda P.S.T. (Before Spray Tan and Post Spray Tan.) Everything I loved about my skin was just one thousand times more enhanced. I didn’t have legs anymore, these are gams. My tan lasted a little over a week, and was likely boosted by a week in the sun. It was at its highest peak, most noticeable, around 3-4 days after the spray, and I noticed initial results the same night.
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And when I start doing it myself, I’m going to take it light and easy from the jump. "Whichever self-tanning format you choose —drops, water, mousse — the more self-tan you apply, the deeper the finish will be,” explains Von Hep. And if you’re wondering which shade to pick, Von Hep recommends using the same thought process you use when picking a foundation shade, and Feldman recommends finding a tanning product that goes with your skin’s undertones. If you’re nervous about the tan being too dark, Von Hep suggests moisturizing your whole body an hour before tan application, which will soften the end color and result.
But for real: If you’re a Black girl, a Brown girl, a woman of color, and you’ve been searching for that eternal glow — it might just be in a bottle, but not the bottle you’d typically reach for. Spray tans, welcome to the table, we’re so happy to see you.