When and wear

Of all the things that have captured my curiosity — death, religion, online shopping — self tanner takes the top spot. I’ve never been more fascinated by the product and the people who use it.
When I did the routine “Google” for tanning, the first hit I got was “the process of making leather,” I needed to read no more. Tanning is like dating the bad boy, or going blonde. It’s irresistible at the time, ends in regret and is impossible to gauge when enough is enough. So why do we bake when we know it’s so bad?
The sun is the center of the solar system, and come summer or come winter, the earth and all its beauty regimes literally revolve around it. It’s hard to imagine there was a time when pale skin was a luxury of society’s upper echelons, and tanned skin was the upshot of the working life. Many sought chalk to pale their pigmentations, and by the mid 10th century arsenic (a notoriously toxic chemical element) became the favoured “skin whitener.” Nowadays, many people log more turbo bed minutes than Air Miles — Fabutans are as frequent as bus stops, air brushing is more common than the cold and there are more creams to color your skin than to harness its natural hue. It’s apparent that the “bronze age” is the new golden age — the russett tint has not only become the trademark of youth and beauty, but the right glow has been said to be as important to an outfit as the purse, pumps or party hair.
Fault fashion for the terracotta trendsetting. Coco Chanel influenced the first movement to the dark side in the 20’s when she brought her tan to America after vacationing in the south of France. By the ‘70s, generations began the great bake, and eventually would find themselves neck deep in melanoma.
While the glass beach is quickly becoming the Y2K10 passé equivalent to smoking, five to 75 year olds have found ways to cut down on the cancer and still satisfy their cravings for a good old, oxymoronic healthy-glow. Dermatologists are pushing sunless tanners, and the industry reportedly pulled in 200 million in 2008, a number that is expected to proliferate. The catch? Tubular tans don’t guarantee a streak-free shine, and too many applications guarantees the artificial tangerine gleam of a Chippendales dancer. Celebrity makeup artist Brett Freedman is disheartened that “sunless tanaholics just don’t know when to stop spraying, smearing and bronzing.”
I decided, as any good investigator would, to get my feet wet, and invest a little time to test the waters, and more specifically, the lotions. I embarked on a battle of the bronzers. My feet didn’t get wet, but my hands sure did, and I spent Saturday staining my legs to match my ambition. I needed to know, how these “tan in a tube” types worked. I found out the hard way.
I went to the drugstore and to no surprise, found an isle full of 20-somethings, devoted to faking it. Everything from tubes, to tubs, to bottles, to mitts, to wipes, to aerosol cans, all vying to hydrate more, streak less, last longer, dry quicker, tint darker, apply easier and smell better than their neighbours. Turn the average 150mL Miami miracle over, and the directions are more protracting than building an IKEA living room plan. Shower first, cleanse thoroughly, exfoliate well, pull back your hair, wait two minutes, apply moisturizer, wait five minutes, rub in circular motions along the leg, over the knee, around the ankle, atop the foot, use sparingly, use weekly, wait 15 minutes, get dressed, wait 60-120 minutes to see the fruits, or streaks, of your labour — wait 24-48 hours before showering again.
I sheepishly toted L’Oreal Sublime Bronze (medium — $15) and Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer (medium — $7) to the till. The difference: the L’Oreal was an instant-tanner, and the Jergen’s was a daily moisturizer that would give you a subtle development of colour.
After buttering my limbs, trying to use sparingly, rub cyclically, waiting five minutes, waiting 10 minutes, waiting two hours, exfoliating, not exfoliating, I too found myself victim to overuse, and worse, the tangerine stripes of a Tampa tween.
Jergens sunless gradual tanner is not for the impatient at heart (like myself). Anyone with any kind of self-discipline, probably would be able to abstain from faking it before summer, so to those who do find yourselves in the isle, this was a terrible choice. The lotion is white, which frustrated me, as I found myself lathering layers upon layers, to see no results. It wasn’t until several days in (as advertised) that I trained my eye to see a faint and unsatisfying carroty tinge. The smell of the lotion, while not as heinous as a few tops I popped and pressed to my nose before purchase in Shoppers, does linger for a few hours.
L’Oreal Sublime Bronze, was my kind of tanner (at first glance). The bottle was as bronze as I wish I could be some winter days. I was sold on the “won’t rub off, streak-free, quick dry” improved formula. The lotion is bronze-coloured with a hint of shimmer, so you can see just where you apply it. However, the smell was rubber-like, and migraine-inducing. I had to pop ibuprofen just to make it through the session. Results were fast, but not without discernible streaks. Yet, the lotion recommended purchasing the tanning “mitt” ($15), for application, and I used latex gloves.
While I have yet to try the spray and the wipes, I wouldn’t refuse in the future. Sunless tanners will certainly keep me, and hopefully many, from taking years off my face and life from baking on the beach or in UV coffins. My amateur application has sentenced me to oatmeal scrubs, lemon baths and infinite days more of pants before my legs can meet people and daylight again.