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5 reasons why I decided to give up fake tan

words by Esther Reynolds-Verco

Illustration by Twylamae

I first discovered fake tan in year 9 when everyone started rocking up to school with bronzed skin and higher skirts. I begged my mum to let me get a bottle of Le Tan Gradual Tan (because I wasn’t game enough to try the real stuff) and after some reluctance, she gave in.

Every couple of days, I applied the formula, masking my ridiculously pale skin and taking on a new identity. It was empowering for any teenager. And this routine lasted for quite a few years, right up until I graduated high school and became a full-time, stressed-out uni student. It was then that I decided to break the habit, and here’s why.

1. The glowing orange complexion come morning

No matter what brand of fake tan I lathered on, it still left me looking more orange (and blotchy) than normal. I got into the habit of knowing that I would be disappointed with the result; much like when you go to the hairdressers. You expect to walk out a new you, with a fresh cut, shiny hair and a gorgeous balayage for your upcoming trip. But instead, you walk out with a blunt cut that’s been done on an angle, and a ‘balayage’ which looks like you’re trying to be a Justin Timberlake groupie from back in 2000. And yes, I am talking from personal experience.

So, what’s the point of doing it if you know you’re going to hate the end result? From pasty white to golden brown – it’s probably not going to happen people.

2. And what about the stains?

Most people – myself included – apply fake tan at night to give it time to process before the morning. But the next day, I’d always find my sheets covered in fake tan stains, which I would then have to sleep in for the rest of the week until I washed my sheets on the weekend. And there’s something about sleeping in orange filth. I don’t love it. But it wasn’t just my bed. I had to be careful not to walk too close to anything – walls, furniture, my brother – in case the tan rubbed off. I was constantly being told to grab a towel before I sat anywhere in the house, like I hadn’t showered in a week.

3. Then comes the foundation debacle

How naturally tanned people keep up with their forever-changing skin colour I’ll never know. They must just have 15 foundations on the go at all times. Unfortunately, I wasn’t clued in on this the first time I tried the fake tanning business and trust me, porcelain foundation with a sunkissed glow – not good. But honestly, even if I had known, there’s no way 15-year-old me could have afforded more than one foundation at a time. One was a struggle.

4. It also smells horrible

The smell follows you everywhere you go, and you can’t help but hate it. Sometimes I venture to the tanning section of a beauty store and find a brand I haven’t seen before. I’m always far too optimistic and think ‘oh, maybe this one’s different!’ But it’s always the same awful, lingering smell. And all the reasons why I hate fake tanning come back to me, and I immediately put the bottle down and find a new lipstick to waste my money on instead.

5. I’m (time) poor

Aside from the fact it doesn’t look or smell good (that should really be enough to put you off) who honestly has the time? I’m ghostly white.  So if I want a tan, I’d have to fake tan my entire body, and use the proper stuff – not the gradual tan. How is that even possible without missing patches? And it would also take aaaages to do. Believe it or not, I’m not just sitting around waiting for something to do – I’m busy! And yes, I have heard of a tanning salon, but no that’s not an option because I’ve only just completed my Uni degree: I’m poor.

So finally, I decided it was a no from me. I haven’t been tanned for about three years now and I feel good. I’ve learnt which colours to dress in – it’s a no to anything nude or light pink – and I’ve gone back to my old ways of avoiding the sun for more than five minutes at a time. But all in all, it’s a relief to not have to think about it!

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