It's only late April, but the temperatures in the Middle East are already on the rise. With the heat set to soar into the 40s, it's clear that our pool and beach days this season are winding down. Beaches and pools are more crowded than ever with everyone trying to squeeze out the last few bearable bronzing rays before the summer's sizzling temperatures makes a natural tan unfathomable. Rather than fight the crowds for prime-time tanning, I ditched the sunscreen and stripped out of my bathing suit for a sustainable summer spray-tan instead
Though spray tanning comes with far fewer health hazards than overdosing on tanning beds or roasting on the beach, it does pose one embarrassing cosmetic risk – a skin tone rivaling the tangerine glow of Donald Trump. And nothing gives away your spray-tan secret like showing up to a party a distinctive shade of Snooki.
But turning "oompa loompa" orange is not a foregone conclusion when it comes to a faux tan. What many seekers of sun-kissed skin don't realize is that the distinctive orange hue is usually the telltale sign of a shoddy automated machine. It turns out that stunning spray-tans are more art than science, with the best still done by hand.
However, this poses the problem of needed to strip down and play an awkward Aphrodite while a complete stranger mists you naked body with a sunny new topcoat.
As someone who has gotten every kind of waxing known to man-kind, I don't say this lightly. But I decided to suck it up for the sake of vanity, bared all for a spray-tan that impressed even my most skeptic colleagues. This wasn't my first spray tan-- but it definitely was my best-- and here's how to get the best faux-glow in Dubai for summer.
Before and After
Finding the best place in town
While I knew hand-sprayed was the way to go, I didn't know where to go. As with the answer to most of life's questions I simply asked Google. It was really simple. There were thousands of results for "best spray tan Dubai".
After poking around a bit, the most consistently positive reviews I found were for Bronzalicious Spray Tan, located in Dubai Marina. With only a Facebook page and no real website, I was hesitant to book an appointment, but the reviews were so overwhelmingly good, that I dialed the number listed for the owner Susanna and took one of her early bird appointments (25 AED less if you spray before 4pm!). On the phone, Susanna let me know that she uses only organic products, and that the liquid she uses is scent-free. As someone with sensitive skin and an aversion to spray tan smell, these were both hugely important for me.
Getting into the exclusive club of a high-end Summer hue doesn't come without some special requirements. Because I've sprayed before, I knew the drill: don't wear any lotions, makeup or deodorant to your appointment. Remove all jewelry. Get a mani, pedi, and shave before you go (everywhere…).
I arrived at a residential building in the Marina not sure what to expect. I had only even sprayed at a salon or spray-tanning studio before. However, the coziness of the surroundings and Susanna's friendly demeanor instantly put me at ease.
We looked through photos of her clients and she showed me photos of different shades of tan. She can combine colors and can make up to 50 shades, with either gold or brown undertones.
After taking a look at my untanned skin, she noted my natural tanning tone was brown, not gold (which is true) and suggested a shade for me for the most authentic look.
As I can barely match my clothes every morning, I deferred to the expert on color choice. She clearly knew what she was doing. I was really impressed with how much she could tell about my skin after only looking at me for a second, and so I felt better about letting her select the color and apply it.
Strip and Spray
And now this is where things get awkward.
While Susanna went into another room (not separated by a door from where I was standing), I was instructed to completely strip--except for the paper thong she handed me.
However, the thong offered so little coverage it only served to make me even more aware of how exposed I was. But after a deep breath I centered myself and remembered why I was here – I wanted to perfect tan and all that stood between me and sun-kissed skin was a few moments of awkwardness.
I bit the bullet. If I needed to strip down and don a thong in front of a stranger, then that's what I'd do. Thong on, bra (and everything else) off, I stood with my back facing Susanna while she sprayed me from some sort of Super-Soaker-like tanning gun.
I was instructed to stand in about 8 different poses, sometimes with my knees bent, or one arm up, or palms facing the floor, to make sure every nook and cranny was covered. I appreciate the attention to detail, and though the mist was chilly but not cold, I could see my skin becoming darker and darker, it became easier to forget that I was bending over naked in front of a stranger.
When Susanna finished spraying (the whole process took about 6 minutes) she led me back out into the main room to dry. This place is no-frills-- as often the best finds are-- and there's a standard fan in the room, propped next to a pool table covered in a plastic tarp, in front of which you're supposed to stand for ten minutes.
Susanna instructed me to turn and bend at different angles, and we chatted about where we were from, how we like Dubai, and the INCREDIBLE (I mean like, 88-floors-up-incredible) view of The Palm from her apartment. It's basically like playing Twister naked, and with someone to talk to while you "Cirque du Soleil" yourself into the correct positions.
I'm insanely tan, in a good way, and I have the exact same brown-undertone that I used to get as a kid after summers spent outdoors at camp. I waited for 7 or 8 hours after the tan before showering, as instructed, and I've moisturized twice a day to lock it in.
Overall, I'm really happy and impressed with the end results.
The best part is that unlike most spray-tans, the odor is really barely detectable. While we live in an age of over-priced organic products, Susana's eco-friendly approach was definitely worth it. She so strongly believed in the organic approach that she'd even spray-tanned her own pregnant daughter-- and proudly showed me pictures of her adorable grand-baby.
Alas, while my tan is finally fading in the days since I've been sprayed, it's doing so in a natural way-- not just washing off--which helps me look naturally sun-kissed, just like I wanted.
I'll definitely go back to Susanna again, and while the process has its awkward moments, it's certainly no worse than a Brazilian wax...