I’ve always been a pale person. In summertime my skin tone fluctuates between ‘boiled lobster at Ocean Basket’, pink and translucent. For the greater part of my 20s, this hasn’t bothered me. Pale has become trendy too (shout out to my girl Bella Hadid) and I get to smugly tell people that I’ll age really well.

High school was a different story. The year was 2006 and Paris Hilton was the Von Dutch-wearing goddess that everyone aspired to be. My bullies liked to joke that I blended into our school’s white walls. It was with this in mind that I dutifully applied a variety of self tan lotions on to my legs every Sunday night to the sound of the Carte Blanche theme song. It went okay for a while, until a guy asked me if my tan was real.

‘Of course! I’ve just been spending a lot of time in the sun,’ I replied, flipping my hair in an offended manner.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Did the sun drip onto your foot?’

I looked down to my feet, where very visible fake tan droplets had formed. That was my last encounter with the fake bake life, until exactly one week ago.

It was a combination of encounters that led to me booking an appointment for a tan. One was the discovery of photographer Henrik Purienne’s Instagram account, a man who proclaims tan-lines as the sexiest thing ever and who snaps bronzed models in dreamy ’70s settings. The other was a run-in with my fabulous friend Maybe Corpaci, who had just had a tan done and looked like she had just stepped off of the cover of Tan Goddess Magazine. She gave me the details for Vita Liberata Luxury tan, and I swiftly booked an appointment.

Here are my key take-aways from my tan experience:

  1. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate

Before my appointment Mylene, who would be applying the tan, mailed me some pre-tan instructions. She stressed the importance of exfoliating, as this creates a smooth skin surface for the tan. She told me not to use an oil-based exfoliator, as this creates a barrier on the skin. (I used water and some bicarb mixed into a paste) I was also instructed not to moisturise at all before the tan, as this too would create a barrier. I’m fine with leaving the house with no make-up on, but I will admit that not moisturising my face and body that morning felt extremely weird.

  1. The tan will be darker than you first anticipate

While covering my paper g-string clad bod with a fine layer of tanning mist, Mylene warned me that the tan would come out dark and patchy at first. This would only last while it set on my skin (about 6 to 8 hours) after which a shower would wash off all of the excess product, leaving me with the actual tan colour. I left the tanning studio and headed back to the office, worried about the patchy spots on my knees, but more concerned about the fact that I had been asked to avoid perspiring. If you were alive and breathing last week in Cape Town, you will remember that it was 35 degrees out. The mere thought of not perspiring had already caused me to perspire.

  1. Don’t freak out

Guys, I freaked out. Perhaps its because I’m only used to seeing my skin resembling milk and brie cheese, but as the hours went by and my skin became darker and darker, I began to panic. Remember the episode of Friends when Ross gets the spray tan? That’s who I started to resemble.

‘You’ll be fine, you just need to shower,’ said Juana, beauty director / soothing voice of knowledge and reason. I wasn’t so sure. My upper lip, which tends to perspire, had a white moustache-like patch on it. The real clincher and blow to my ego came when my boyfriend arrived home that evening. He screamed and ran away. Yes, physically ran away.


  1. It won’t stain everything

Thanks to modern technology a lot of tanning concerns aren’t relevant any more.

As my white linens proved, the tan mixture won’t stain everything you come into contact with. After my shower (as predicted by Mylene) a more realistic and babely shade of tan appeared, with not a patch in sight. Another bonus? Absolutely no smell or tell-tale odour.

  1. Hydrate

The key to keeping your tan for as long as possible is to moisturise, preferably with a lotion that doesn’t contains alcohol. Meltdown aside, I’m really pleased with my tan. I feel toned and healthy (a myth sold to us by advertising, but I’m into it none the less). I wear tons of white and, with a bit of make-up and good lighting, I look like the budget version of a Sports Illustrated model.