Get Your Tan On

Self-tanners are a great way to get bronzed, sans the harmful rays of the sun, but while the at-home products are effective and inexpensive, they are not goof-proof. At some point, many of us wake in horror to find streaks, missed spots and the dreaded brown-stained palms. Enter the professional airbrush tan. If you have never had one, it’s worth the splurge, but preparation is required before you glow like a bronzed god or goddess.

I called upon an industry leader, Pacific Tanning in Rocky Point (there’s also a location in Selden). Rachel Obenshine, the company’s spray-tan expert, gave me some preparation instructions. She advised me to shower and scrub with a non-oily exfoliant two days before tanning. She suggested I get any other services such as mani/pedis or waxing before my tan and told me to arrive in loose-fitting clothing. I had the option of getting sprayed topless, but I needed to wear some sort of bottom garment, like underwear or a bathing suit. “No moisturizer, perfumes, deodorant or makeup,” she added. “You need fresh, clean skin straight from the shower.”

When I arrived Rachel put me immediately at ease, despite the fact that within minutes she was going to get an up-close and very personal look at my rather pale body. She left the room, I undressed and when she reentered it was strictly business. She revved up the laser spray-tan machine and briefed me on what to expect. Skillfully spraying each body part, she chatted about the hundreds of spray tans she has done, and how clients seek her tanning expertise for proms, weddings, honeymoons, vacations or big dates. A first-time spray at Pacific Tanning is $30. The cost is then $55 per session, but they often run package specials. An at-home tanning party for five or more people is also an option.

The spray was cool, refreshing and tickled a bit. She instructed me to assume a few simple positions: “Face this way, lift this arm a little higher, swing your leg out a bit more.” It was fast and easy and she was very confident that I would love my tan after I showered. I was advised not to let any sprayed body part get wet for 6-8 hours so my skin could absorb the tanning solution. I walked out dramatically darker and was told the color would wash away after my first shower and reveal a beautiful tan. It did. I was left with a natural and radiant-looking bronze from head to toe, just as Rachel promised. I never could have achieved this sunkissed perfection on my own.

When I heard the Viana Hotel & Spa in Westbury offers the Chocolate Sun line for their spray tanning, I was immediately intrigued, because the brand’s self-tanners are top-notch and smell amazing.

“What’s better is there are no harsh chemicals in the Chocolate Sun solution. It is a completely organic tan made up of natural botanicals that are beneficial to your skin, unlike other tanning options,” said Stephanie Smith, director of Viana Spa. “The Chocolate Sun tan is hand airbrushed by a certified technician who pays attention to every detail and curve of your body to ensure that you leave the spa looking like you came back from a tropical vacation. No detail is overlooked.”

While the solutions used differ from place to place, the process can be very similar. For instance, Viana guests also receive proper instructions on how to prepare for their tanning session when they make an appointment. On the day of service, the spray-tan technician further explains the process and addresses questions and concerns. A tanning solution is then specifically chosen according to skin type and coloring.

The actual tanning process starts with an exfoliating solution guests are given to wipe down their entire body. The solution is also used to help set the tan. Clients go through a series of poses, guided by the technician, as the first coat of tanning solution is applied. They are then sprayed with compressed air to dry the first coat and a second coat is applied to ensure no spots have been missed. After examining for an even tan, the technician concludes the session by wiping the palms, fingernails, toenails, heels and the bottoms of the feet so there is no darkening on areas that will make the tan look anything but natural. Depending on how well it is maintained, the tan will last 7-10 days.

“To help the tan last longer, clients are advised to avoid any type of exfoliation, including shaving, waxing, using loofahs or washcloths during bathing, or even swimming in chlorinated pools,” Smith said. “It is beneficial to use a shower gel instead of soap, because soap is very drying to the skin and will strip the tan. It is also very important that the guest moisturizes every day.”

The tanning process at Viana is usually 30 minutes for $55. For an additional cost, they offer a package that includes a full-body exfoliating scrub to make it a more relaxing experience. This treatment usually lasts an hour.

Getting a professional spray tan takes some time and money, but if you follow instructions the results are virtually flawless. No worries about orange skin—with an experienced tanning technician, you will glisten with a natural sunkissed glow for about a week.