I was nervous the first time I walked into a tanning salon. I stepped up to the front desk where the perfectly tanned girl smiled at me and said, “last name?” Of course, I wouldn’t be in their system since I had never been there before. I explained that I had never been tanning before, let alone to this salon. I could see the surprise on her face as she asked me what kind of package I was interested in. I had no idea. She informed me they were selling discounted packages. I bought a month of unlimited tanning at level 4 (which she assured me was the very best level). Grand Total: 96 and change (silently I wondered what the price would be without the discount). Not cheap. The next question, “did I want a booth or a bed?” I didn’t know. I told her to pick for me. This was getting embarrassing. People were waiting in line behind me. Perfectly tanned people much younger than myself that knew exactly what kind of bed and what kind of package they wanted. What came so naturally and obvious to them, was totally new and foreign to me. The last question really threw me for a loop. What bulb wattage did I want. Again, I had to ask what she meant. She chuckled, embarrassed for me, and said something about the higher number of bulbs being better. I picked the higher number.
After picking the length of time I would start at and letting me know which number booth I would be in, she informed me that supposedly I was ready to enter the world of fake tanning and begin. I knew entering the booth would no doubt bring about a whole new set of questions. As I walked away, she called after me, “to turn it on press the blue button!” I got in the cage-like, very dark booth and immediately panicked. I searched around for the light and finally found it. There were a number of different dials and buttons along the wall, but none of them were blue. I also quickly realized I didn’t have protective eyewear, which I read online was a necessity for fake tanning. As much as I wanted to be self-sufficient and figure out how to do this on my own and as much as I wanted to avoid getting out of the booth and asking the poor front desk girl another embarrassing question, I knew I had no choice but to do so. My vision was important to me, and if I did in fact need protective eyewear I would have to buy some, not to mention, I couldn’t figure out how to turn the booth on. I hopped out of the booth and tried to make light of the fact that I felt like a complete idiot and asked her, “am I supposed to buy some sort of eye protection? Oh and where is that blue button you mentioned?” She informed me that I didn’t really need protective eyewear, but I was welcome to buy some disposable ones if I wanted, and pointed out where the blue button was. I laughed nervously, thanked her, and went back into the booth. I got undressed, turned the fan on (which is extremely loud), and pressed the blue button (I tried to avoid touching any other dials). The room immediately flooded with the blue-like, very sci-fi-ish, UV bulb light. I stepped into the caged section (which if you are claustrophobic, takes some getting used to) and closed the heavy door. I panicked again as it started to get hot very quickly. I told myself I could open the door at any time and step out and this helped to calm my nerves. Soon enough, the 5 minutes were up and the lights turned off. I had made it through my first fake ‘n bake experience. The front desk girl smiled and told me to have a good night as I left the salon.
You may be wondering why I felt so silly not knowing how to fake tan. For starters, I live in New Jersey, the fake tanning capital of the world (anyone who has seen the Jersey Shore knows that). And in New Jersey, I am not exaggerating when I say EVERYONE knows how to fake ‘n bake. I did not grow up in this state, or even this country and when you live in a tropical climate (which I did for half my life) you don’t need to worry about getting a tan. You just naturally have one all the time. As much as I appreciate New Jersey, my skin has never grown accustomed to the winter weather.
I am no fool, a little clueless when it comes to the fake tanning process maybe, but not stupid. I know the risks of fake tanning (and of real tanning for that matter) which is perhaps some of the reason why I have avoided it for so long. However, I will be getting married in a month and I cannot be translucent. I also can’t afford to be orange (which is why spray was out of the question). But I have to say after the wedding, that will be the last of the fake tanning for me. Now that I have gone a few more times, I’ve actually grown to like it and I see how it could be addictive (I’m liking the new color of my skin and I actually have grown to find the booth fairly relaxing). But for me, I still prefer the real, warm sunshine as opposed to man-made, blue light. Perhaps someday I will live somewhere tropical again, where the entire issue of being tan will become a moot point. After this month, I’ll leave the fake tanning to the snooki’s of the world :).
For those of you who have never been fake tanning, I offer you some tidbits I’ve learned:
– you will need a tan accelerator lotion of some sort
– you should buy this lotion online (It’s not worth spending the $80 in the salon)
– moisturize moisturize moisturize!
– you probably should buy the protective eyewear (she was right, not necessary, but just to be safe, I suggest you buy it)
-gradually and slowly increase the amount of time you stay in the booth (5 min, 6 min, and so on)
– Tan naked to avoid tanlines
– Buy a higher level package, the lower levels may be cheaper, but generally don’t work and are a ripoff
-I still know nothing about the watts/bulbs, but go with the higher one if you want to tan faster.
*I am not a tanning expert by any means. These are just a few fun facts that seem to have worked for me in the month I have been tanning. Please don’t take me too seriously, because I certainly don’t!