I did not expect that my biggest confidence boost in recent memory would come from me standing completely naked, save for a shower cap, in my bathroom before a complete stranger. Mainly because I don't often find myself completely naked in front of strangers, but also because the lighting in my bathroom sort of sucks. It all happened in sort of a whirlwind—I'd been emailing with Bramble Trionfo and asked her to remind me, “Who does your spray tans again?” A weekend at the beach was coming up, and I'm all too aware of how white I am. I figured it'd be something of a public service if I took preemptive measures to shield passersby from my fluorescence.
I'd barely come to terms with the fact that I had actively looked into getting a spray tan, but two days after my initial inquiry, there was Audrey Spina, purveyor of Brooklyn's Sweetheart Tan—widely considered to be the best spray tan in the city—in my apartment with her mobile tan sprayer (looks a little like a vacuum cleaner). She walked into my bathroom and instructed me to take off my dress and hop over the lip of my tub, not much chitchat or anything else. Just business. “You can leave a thong on if you'd like—just nothing lace or the tan line will look crazy?” she told me. I thought about it for a moment. What was my opinion on tan lines? I couldn't remember the last time I'd had one. Seeing that I could prevent it this one time, I slipped my underwear down my legs, hung my dress up, and stepped into the shower. Audrey had seen it all before anyway.
She sprayed me down with a darker shade than I'd expected. On her menu, the color is called “The Supermodel' for its violet undertones that fade perfectly without skewing red or yellow. The whole shebang took maybe seven minutes. First I faced her, then I turned sideways and did some interesting arm poses; she did my back after that, and she finished with my face “close your eyes calmly and hold your breath'). Afterward, I used the sprayer without the tan application attachment to blow myself dry. I was instructed not to touch a drop of water for the next eight hours—so I didn't do the dishes or anything. And that was that.
This wasn't the first time I'd considered a spray tan. A few years back, I remember seeing a Facebook photo of friend-of-a-friend who appeared uncharacteristically—but beautifully—bronze in the face of the flash. Man, why can't I look like that? I wondered, just before realizing that in the comment section she confirmed the color was, in fact, faux. I can look like that, was the next thought. And it only took me six or so years to actually bite the bullet. A steady diet of St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse has been tiding me over, but there's only so much a girl can do alone with a tanning mitt.
Not that one needs to be tan to look good. Being the lightest color on the spectrum has its own perks—like occasionally being called p orcelain, or other very flattering and delicate-sounding shade names. And, in general, I like my skin tone. Sure, I glow in the dark, but nothing beats that look of admiration you get from your dermatologist when she realizes that, in addition to wearing ample sunscreen, you simply don't go outside when you can help it.
But I have to imagine that perennially pale people who try out a fake tan feel a bit like how Emily Weiss felt when she went platinum blonde. Not only is it something new, but it's something that's simply not going to happen on its own, making the whole experience feel just a tad out-of-body. While tan, people asked me where I'd spent the weekend, assuming I'd been on vacation recently. I looked well-rested for the first time in six months. I didn't put on any makeup in the morning—not even mascara (this was only partially because my concealer and my foundation no longer matched my face). Even without the compliments, I felt great in my own skin. Like a well-adjusted VSCO filter that followed me around wherever I went. A good deal of this confidence is due to Audrey's handiwork. She truly is a master—no streaks, and the fading was extremely realistic. Because you're never just one color, my arms and legs were appropriately shaded in accordance.
Beyond the simple pleasures of the tan, I became completely obsessed with making it last (not that the tan was cost-prohibitive—in fact, I'm considering subbing these in for the more-than-occasional blowouts I've been indulging in). Audrey sprayed me on a Monday night and my intention was to have the color last me (with integrity) not only to that Thursday (my birthday), but on through the weekend. Mainly, this required showering as little as possible. “People shower too often, anyway?” Audrey said to me, saying I'd like my tan and my skin more if I took every other day off. “Humans haven't been showering daily for all that long, in the grand scheme of things—and skin hasn't caught up yet?” Of course, do what you need to do in terms of hygiene. Washing my face every day is non-negotiable, which inevitably results in a faster fade. To supplement any loss of color, I added Dr. Hauschka's Translucent Bronzing Tint to my moisturizer (currently Bionic Anti-Aging Cream by Sunday Riley, which is nice and light for summer). Also, coral lipstick—because that really does look better if you're tan.
The removal was the hard part. Initially, I was going to let it fade on its own, but once you find streaks, there's really no looking back. It took me 20 minutes in the shower with a loofah (first I tried a physical scrub, but to no avail) plus another 15 minutes dry-brushing with a dark towel to get enough off to feel un-sprayed. Then, there was the emotional toll. No, I didn't get a real tan while I was at the beach that weekend, as per usual—but that's OK. I never really cared for the beach anyway. And now with Audrey, I don't need it.
Photographed by Tom Newton. Emily is wearing a top by Equipment. Know what looks great with that tan? Shimmery body oil.