What's It Like to Get a St. Tropez Spray Tan?

Behind the scenes at my very first spray tan.
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Simone Olivero
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Behind the scenes at my very first spray tan.

When I think of fake tans, I think Jersey Shore.

Jersey Shore cast

Don't we all? In my case, it's because my previous self-tanner experiences left me very Jersey Shore-esque, with a too-dark, too-orange colour, telltale streakiness and a bad case of carrot fingers. Needless to say, I learned to embrace being pale. If I'm going to get some colour, I prefer the real thing—with a side order of vitamin D.

But lately, I've been hearing that celebrities who aren't named Snooki, J-Woww or Pauly D also do faux tanning. As Michelle mentioned here, Sienna Miller, Kelly Osbourne and Amy Poehler regularly tan before walking the red carpet. For the most recent Golden Globe Awards, Margot Robbie, Anna Gunn and Laura Dern all had custom St. Tropez tans to get subtly sun-kissed.

Margot Robbie, Golden Globe Awards, 2014, St. Tropez tan
Anna Gunn, Golden Globe Awards 2014, St. Tropez tan
Laura Dern, Golden Globe Awards 2014, St. Tropez tan

They don't look Jersey Shore at all. So when the opportunity came up to test-drive a professional St. Tropez spray tan myself, I figured, why not give it a shot? If it's good enough for the red carpet, it should be good enough for me.

Before I headed to the salon, I spoke with UK-based tanning guru Sophie Evans, who works with St. Tropez as a skin-finishing expert. (That's what they call it. "Skin finishing.")

Sophie Evans, St. Tropez skin finishing expert

She quickly brushed aside my fears of turning orange. “The tan will work off your individual skin tone and body chemistry, giving you your own unique glow that is never orange, never streaky, always natural-looking and unique to you." The St. Tropez formulas are designed to only go as dark as you could naturally get from the sun, and as I later found out, any orange tinge is counteracted by a green pigment (more on that in a second...).

Sophie also ran through the ingredients with me, noting that the spray tan is paraben-free, non-toxic and formulated with aloe vera and raspberry extract to keep skin hydrated as it fades.

Before the treatment, I followed her instructions to prep my skin by exfoliating in the days leading up to my appointment. The day of, I avoided wearing any fragranced products (like perfume or deodorant), because they interfere with the tan's ability to set in. I headed to Toronto’s AXI the Spa in Yorkville, where I met with Mary, who was in charge of my treatment.

One thing to note if you're new to spray-tanning: be prepared to get naked. I spent over an hour wearing nothing but a pair of pretty unflattering, oversized disposable panties.

Disposable panties

If you're a spa regular, this probably isn't a biggie, but I'll admit that I felt pretty ridiculous standing around topless wearing just those and a shower cap on my head!

The treatment started with a full-body exfoliation, where they pretty much scrubbed my body raw from head to toe. All was forgiven when I felt my feet the next day—so soft! There's a shower in the treatment room, so you go there to rinse off.

Then, I got into another pair of disposables and headed into the extraction unit, which is basically an open shower stall with a really strong (and really loud) fan at the back that sucks out the spray, so that you don't inhale it. Mary put a bit of lotion on my knees, elbows, hands and feet (to prevent it from over-absorbing there) before she coated me thoroughly with two layers of spray, working from top to bottom.

Sophie was right; there is nothing orange about the product. I was actually a little freaked out when I saw it at first, because it was GREEN! Mary assured me that it was to counteract any orange, and would give me more of a bronzed look than the usual orangey-brown. Despite being in the extractor, I definitely felt like I was inhaling the stuff, but at least it smelled nice and not like chemicals, which is what I expected.

The spraying process itself was pretty quick. Sophie had told me it would only take 60 seconds to dry, so I wouldn't have to worry about sitting around all day waiting for the stuff to soak in. That may have been an underestimate, as I ended up rotating in front of a fan for closer to 12 minutes before Mary gave me the okay to go put my clothes on. Even then, my skin still felt tacky, and she warned that I should avoid wearing anything tight (like a bra), or putting on any lotions or perfumes for the next eight hours while the tan set in. Both recommended sleeping with it on, so I didn't have my shower until later the next morning.

Here's what my skin looked like before the treatment:

St. Tropez spray tan before

And after:

St. Tropez spray tan after

The bottom line

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the results. There was definitely no orange, and I felt like I had a naturally golden, sun-kissed look. I even had a few people ask me over the next few days if I had been away recently. The tan gradually fades over two to 10 days.

Would I do it again? I'm not sure. Spending half a day being sticky and braless was kind of annoying, and the price point (about $100) was a little high for me to justify. Most likely, I'll be sticking to the natural, vitamin D kind of sun (under a thick layer of SPF, of course). But it was nice to see a little colour on my body at this time of year, and it was definitely cheaper than a trip to Jamaica!

Where to try it

The St. Tropez Spray Tan Treatment is available at select salons and spas across Canada, including AXI the Spa in Toronto. (See here for U.S. locations, here for U.K. locations and here for rest of the world.)

St. Tropez also makes a selection of tanning products for home use:

Have your say

Do you ever faux tan or do you prefer being pale?
Ever tried a spray tan?
Which are your favourite self-tanners for using at home?