In a happily vainglorious attempt to pep up winter-white skin, Tim Willis undergoes the ordeal of a home spray-tan to reveal whether it's worth it or not
I stand in the bedroom, all but naked, my eyebrows prepped with barrier cream, my feet attached to sticky polythene ‘insoles’. Kate the beauty operative takes a step back and makes a quizzical sound. “Well,” she says, appraising my rather baggy briefs, “you should either wear the thong or nothing.”
I slip on a proffered garment, comprising two thin cords with a silver patch to hide my modesty. Out of a kitbag, Kate magics up a black plastic booth – a mini-wigwam with groundsheet attached – and we are ready to give my pallid grey corpse a light-tan re-spray.
It was another of those brilliant schemes that my friend Amanda Eliasch sometimes proposes to keep my 50-plus self in the land of the living. (Previous wheezes have included black hair dye and defiantly skinny jeans.) And, though narcissistic, it seems no more ludicrous than sunning oneself for the same effect.
There’s no vitamin E, it’s true; but no skin damage or cancer either. It’s as good a use of time as sipping daiquiris by the pool. And while a home visit makes the experience less ghastly, I imagine a salon-spray is no more grisly than a sports club sunbed. (Admit it, lads, most of us have given them a whirl on spurious health grounds.)
Beside, do the math. This home-spray session costs £75, which is the same as three or four salon sunbed visits, and gets you just as brown, or browner. Go for a cheaper salon-spray, then, and you’re quids-in.
Better yet, once your skin gets used to it, the longer the stain lasts (though as a newbie, I can only expect a week-long illusion).
This won’t hurt a bit…
Anyway, ushering me into the tepee, Kate produces a machine the size of a large hairdryer, making as much noise, and commands me through a brief series of stances. (Arms out, hands away from body and so on.) I shut my eyes and she sprays. The process takes less than five minutes, and I feel nothing. She gets me into the light, then back in the booth for a couple more touch-ups.
Now I must linger, drying like a Ronsealed fence. Says Kate: “Don’t touch yourself for two minutes, or you’ll smear,” which sounds smuttier than it should. I spend the time admiring myself in the mirror, and am pleased to report that I have neither turned orange nor walnut.
Amanda, who has been recently and fervently converted to the technique in California, thinks the tones of American products are a little more natural. But I wonder if A, the Pacific light is warmer than our watery London sunshine, and B, it depends on the colour of the ‘undercoat’ – that is, my tired old skin.
I am delighted with the results. Perhaps, if we hadn’t met for a fortnight, you would think that in the interval I’d had a long weekend skiing. But even if you saw me every day, you’d probably just think I was looking unaccountably well.
A bloom that fades
So what’s not to like? Well, I can’t speak for those who’ve had more coats than I, but my bloom didn’t just fade; under certain conditions, it rubbed off. Blowing my nose shortly after the treatment, I notice a light brown smudge on the tissue (though no pale patch on my nose).
Undressing the same night, my vest is a little grubby round the edges; and most noticeably, my legs have reverted to their pre-spray condition, bar the odd discoloured patch on my calves and shins.
The moral? If you want a plug from a journalist, Kate, makes sure your product is foolproof. And if you, dear reader, are going in for spraying at my level, don’t wear brand-new, figure-clenching denim jeans.
So next time, unless there’s a rage for harem pants, I think I’ll just wrap a towel around and have myself done from the waist up.
After all, only those who know me extremely well are likely to see my legs before summer. By then, I can always claim to have been doing some topless gardening. And I won’t need to wear another thong.