I am descended from a long line of blue eyed, fair skinned europeans. Some of us have black hair, some of us blond, I myself am a dusky auburn, but one thing none of us have, is the ability to get a tan. I spent my youth baking in the sun, coconut scented oil on my body, and hair drenched with Sun-In. All I got for my hours laying prone on a towel, were more freckles, and orange bangs. Since my first trip to the dermatologist for a nerve-wracking freckle check, I wish I could say I never tanned again; with skin cancer in my family I knew the risks I took every time I exposed myself to the sun. Still I used tanning beds every now and then, before a vacation, or a special event. All that got me was a sunburn, increased fine lines and wrinkles, and an unpleasant smell that lingered on my skin for a good 48 hours. It didn’t matter what method I chose, I could only ‘pinken’, never ‘golden’.
You might think the obvious solution was a self tanner lotion, but I have extremely sensitive skin, and every tanner I tried gave me hives, a rash, or horrendous streaks due to a mid-application burning itch that sent me running for the shower. It didn’t seem fair that every summer I would be the last one to give up my jeans; I thought maxi dresses were the antidote, until my boyfriend let me know that he needed a break from my “muumuus”. As I got older, my skin liked the sun less and less. I spent weekends in Palm Springs with heat rash, and sun poisoning if I even attempted to lay out. I could get a little color on my arms from just walking around outside, and I could use a bronzing powder (Josie Maran makes my current sensitive skin-safe favorite) for my face, but I never had tan legs. At every summer wedding, graduation party, and 4th of July BBQ, I looked longingly at the bronzed limbs of the other guests, wishing I had a solution that would give a little coverup to my burgeoning varicose veins, the red spider veins sneaking their way around my thighs, and that lovely layer of cookie guilt that lumped around under my butt. And then I found it. The solution to my tan-envy, without a rash or an itch to be found. No stink, no streak, nothing but golden bronze perfection, all brought to me by the goddess of Tan LA, a blond perky genius named Shannon.
Spray tans were nothing I wanted to fool with, summers of Sun-In had let me know that tangerine wasn’t my color, I had no idea of the pure excellence of the custom airbrush tan, but the tan is only as good as the airbrusher. At Tan LA in Thousand Oaks, there is a magical being named Shannon, who has a fantastic smile and kind heart, and she took pity on my sad tale of skin allergies and summer desperation, and so we embarked on a path to bronze beauty. The first visit, Shannon mixed her magic concoction, leaving out the bronzer that irritated my skin, and only airbrushed my legs. It took about 6 hours for the color to appear, but once it did, I immediately bought 6 new pairs of summer shorts. Suddenly my legs looked longer, thinner, and smoother, thanks to Shannon’s application- she uses the airbrush machine in such a way that carves out your inner thighs, lengthens your calves, and she makes sure your heels and hands get babywiped so you have no tell-tale signs of the secret source of your sun-kissed glow.
Our next phase was legs, arms, and face. I wore boy short underwear and a spaghetti string tank top, and again, Shannon custom blended a very light natural color with no bronzer, and just for a second let the solution mist on my face and décolletage, the usual allergy target zone. That afternoon I closely watched for a rash to appear, and all I got for my keen observation skills was the joy of watching myself transform into someone who could wear a summer dress and sandals, and for once, would not look like an arctic monkey. I understand for some, pale is chic, and I completely understand all the fears of sun damage and skin cancer. I do not leave the house without spf 30 on my face, and I no longer lay in the sun in the hopes of that back-from-the-beach bronze. But as my mother always said, tan fat looks better than pale fat, and having that smooth coat of bronze certainly does seem to give a little shelter to the effects Father Time has had on my body.
Shannon and I completed our final stage of “Operation: Airbrush Tan” last summer, and I wore my bikini with pride. No hives, no streaks, no stinky residue, I looked as relaxed as I felt; I did not look like I had spent 15 minutes in a small room getting squirted with Jersey Shore orange paint, I looked like the tawny-limbed goddesses I had seen cavorting on the beaches of Brazil, when I had spent that vacation covered in sarongs. While an airbush tan is not as cheap as a tanning bed, or a machine activated spray tan, for me, I needed the assurance of a custom blend of colors, and a personal process. Shannon at Tan LA Thousand Oaks has changed my life, I can wear cocktail dresses in the winter, I can wear shorts in the summer, I can enjoy my vacations doing other things besides baking on a beach, though I do enjoy a good book under the umbrella. Most important, I feel comfortable and confident in whatever I wear and whatever I do, and to me, that’s worth more that any magic in a bottle, though I have to say, those bottles of Shannon’s might contain some magic for you too.
For the L.A. Folk:
Tan LA has 3 locations, Shannon is at the Thousand Oaks location. Ladies, it’s worth the drive. http://tanla.la/ Thousand Oaks location: 805 373 5335
Michelle Brookhurst is a former teen actress (Can’t Hardly Wait, Charmed, Foxfire), turned celebrity stylist (clients include George Lopez and Baron Davis) turned writer. She has written a television series based on her life called “Certain Something”, and is currently based in Los Angeles.