I have to be honest, the link between a deeper skin tone and being beautiful is something I have always internalized, especially at the start of warm weather when my winter skin looks particularly pale. But, for me, browning myself in the natural sun is no longer an option. Even knowing the similar dangers with indoor tanning, I briefly considered going to a tanning salon thinking of Faith Evans and her pursuit. My editor for this story shut me down. “Just go get a spray tan!” she said.
My first though was wait...but Black girls don’t do spray tans!
When I think of spray tans, I think of Baywatch babes in an unnatural hue that doesn’t quite look authentic and leaves behind a trail of residue. I think of our hallowed Commander in Chief.
I don’t have any friends or family members who have ever tried self-tanners or spray tanners and I knew zero about it.
Coincidentally, I got an offer to try spray tanning just a few days later. And the next thing I know, I’m wearing paper panties and absolutely nothing else, with my hands above my head making weight-lifting contestant poses. Gete, an aesthetician with Vita Liberata, stood a few inches away pointing a spray gun toward me, ready to cover me in head-to-toe glow.
The application involves an icy-cold, airy spray covering your entire body on both sides and then your face, chest and back. It’s not necessarily what I would call comfortable. It feels like stripping down after a day at the beach to rinse off the sand at a chilly public shower.
But, the whole process is fast and if you get a quick drying spray tan like Vita Liberata, you should be able to get dressed immediately. The color will deepen over the next few hours, settle in and then last for up to five days.
What I learned about spray tanning:
1. Do your homework.
Just like nail and hair salons, read the reviews closely and don’t choose based on cheap prices. You get what you pay for. This is a product you’re applying to your entire body! Ask the salon about the alcohol content in their product. Pretty much all spray tans have some alcohol. Just find out how much. You want the least amount possible.
2. Even the quick-dry formulas aren’t miraculous.
For my first spray tan, I was told to wear something dark in color and loose-fitting even though it dries fast. I was absolutely dry in what felt like no time. 10 minutes after I was done, I was out in the streets of Manhattan off to have dinner with friends and run errands. However! I should have just headed home and chilled out for real. I was walking around with heavy shopping bags and my purse. I was jostling for space on the subway and in general I was all over the place. When I got home, my tan was uneven in some spaces because I was sweating, doing way too much after my tan application. Stay put for a few hours!
3. Don’t freak out if you look like Donald Trump at first.
The next morning after my spray tan, I looked in the mirror and clapped my hand over my mouth. I was really tan — at least five shades darker than my normal shade. The color was smooth and natural. But it was jarring to not look like myself. Over the day, it evened out, though it was still more intense than I expected. Make sure you discuss your expectations before you get started. You can even bring photos of your suntanned self as a reference. Again, just like a hair or nail appointment, make your expectations clear.
4. Get some baby wipes.
Vita Liberata specializes in a process that is mess-free, but come on, you're basically wearing body makeup. It was better than horror stories I have seen with more traditional processes, but still expect to need to wipe out random areas. I had to deal with my hands and feet especially for a few days. Thankfully, the color didn’t transfer.
5. Prepare for Double Takes
A spray tan is similar — once again — to a new hairstyle. People will notice. I ran into my ex a few days after my spray tan and he complimented me — but he wasn’t sure why he was complimenting me. (Which is the best.) Some of my friends said the same thing. I had a cute look going on but they couldn't quite put their finger on what it was. Don’t get too used to it, though. After all that work on application, cleaning up and maintaining, a typical spray tan only lasts about a week.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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