Trauma in the Tanning Salon

*I wrote this blog a couple of years ago during my attempted spray tan during spring break. I decided to cross post the blog here after several requests. Since my experience, I have yet to attempt the spray tan death chamber again.

I wanted to get a professional spray tan ever since I heard the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders only use the fake stuff. Then every season of Dancing with the Stars, the host always jokes about the gallons of spray tan they go through for the show. Satisfied with the dark healthy tan that a spray tan provided these people, I decided I wanted to get one too!

This morning I excitedly drove myself over to the tanning salon that had been recommended as the best place in town to get a spray tan. As I drove, I mentally went through my wardrobe trying to decide which outfit would expose enough skin to show my new dark look. My excitement somewhat faded into intimidation as I entered the tanning salon because I was afraid my ivory skin would be super pale in comparison to all the dark women who inhabit the place. Okay, I admit to call my skin ivory at the moment is really flattering myself, my skin is actually a version of pale known as “just got out of the hospital pasty.” I wonder if that comes in a wall paint color? Good name for a color, huh?

I was relieved when I walked in and saw the girl standing in front of me in line was whiter than me! Her skin came from the color variety “just got out of the hospital after being in ICU pasty.” I don’t think that paint color is available in most major retail stores yet. As I stood in line, I looked at all the girls running in and out of the tanning booths and realized this was kind of fun (can you tell I am such a tanning salon first timer???). All of the girls did not look over tanned and most look like they were approaching the tanning process in a healthy manner. I have been against cancer coffin tanning in the past because I wanted to protect my skin from wrinkles and cancer but maybe, I thought to myself, a few times would not hurt. I told myself I need to lighten up and not worry so much – these girls weren’t worried.

I had almost decided to start tanning beyond the self-tanner when in to the salon comes two walking advertisements on why NOT to tan! As they walked behind the counter, I realized the man and woman were the owners. The woman had wrinkles deep enough to hide small children in them and she wore a sun visor. Why was she even bothering to wear a sun visor now? It was obviously too late to worry about sun exposure! The man (I assume to be her husband) also had a deep, dark tan as well as scars where skin cancer had been cut off. I realized this over tanned couple had to be in their 50s but had the skin of really wrinkled 90-year-olds. I panicked for them – if they have still 40 more years to go before 90, how bad is their skin going to get???

Really the appearance of them was not good for their business. They really should hide in the back room to avoid scaring customers. I mean it is the equivalent of a cigarette ad having models with oxygen tanks instead of beautiful people partying on the beach.

After I signed a liability release form for real tanning not spray, (I guess I had to have one on file if I ever wanted to lie in the wrinkle box) the attendant walked me down the hall. She explained how to stand with my arms like a hanging scarecrow and legs spread apart like a starfish. She gave me a shower cap and told me to slather my hands and feet with white heavy cream. Before she left, she explained that the jets would spray me left to right on the front then I would turn around and they would do my back. Simple enough, right?

She left and I slathered my hands and feet in white cream as I tried to not think about how many girls had used the same tub of white cream before me. I hope they were all clean! I open the door to the shower type stall and get slightly nervous. The stall is black and has air holes at the top which makes me feel claustrophobic. Friends have told me to close my eyes and hold my breath. I knew to expect a cold mist that would last a few seconds. I noticed I was too short for the top jet to do my face. Oh well.

I locate the glowing green “ON” button and position myself for the spray as I had been instructed. I closed my eyes and took a breath then pushed the green button. Nothing happened. I cautiously opened my eyes and looked at the button – still glowing. I position myself and pushed the button again. Nothing. “Great,” I thought, “I am not going to get my ultra dark tan today – the machine is broken!” Well my desire for my dark exotic look gave me an extra surge of determination and I started jamming away at that annoying green button. I tried to turn it, I held it down, and I poked excessively at it all while totally forgetting to keep myself position like a demented scarecrow. Then I heard a low roar start so I hurry to my position, close my eyes, and hold my breath.

The spray came on with a freezing blast that made me lose my breath and forget to keep my mouth shut. I then opened my eyes to see what was going on. BIG MISTAKE! Brown thick looking gas was filling my little stall now looking more like a gas chamber because it was taking all of my air! What about those air holes??? I started to panic and by then I was running around that little stall trying to find a place to breathe. Yeah instead of looking like a scare crow I am sure I looked like a frighten baby bird because I kept flapping my arms around as I ran around that stall trying to keep the tanning mist down so I could breathe.

Finally, I needed air so I grabbed the stall door open and gasped for air but nooooo – the mist had started to fill the room! The machine stopped which was my signal to turn if I had been standing as originally instructed. I braved up and closed the door trying to salvage half of this tanning experience. I started with my back to the jets and planned on turning around once I got use to it. The jets started again and that brown mist filled my gas chamber again. I couldn’t hold my breath long enough so I opened the door again and stuck my head out for air but only got a mouthful of tanning solution. The tanning spray stopped and I realized my back had been thoroughly sprayed but my front side was almost perfectly dry – uh oh.

Uh oh was right – I stepped out of the stall to face a mirror where I was still pale on the front but now had very dark brown liquid dripping down my back. Underneath the drips I could see a pretty brown color but it did not compliment my pale front side. I did not want to be multicolored! So I grabbed a towel and immediately started rubbing away (what not to do). Then put on my clothes and ran out of the salon to my car without looking at anyone. I had to get home and shower (again what not to do) to get a normal color again. As I was driving home, I noticed a nice brown color on my arm in the form of a splotch. Great, I first went through the torture chamber and now I look like I have some strange skin disease with brown splotches.

I got home and exfoliated a great deal – now I am pale with irritated skin but good news – not splotchy! If I have scared you about the traumas of spray tanning then you shouldn’t be going anyway. Spray tanning is not for those who like to breathe! I am sticking to the bottle from now on or maybe buy one of those airbrush things. Really though why can’t pale just be in?

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