Tanning sans the sun

“I WAS IN Florida for a week,” my friend moaned over a recent dinner. “And you look better than I do!” At the restaurant, my friend did look tired and pale (like everybody who went to Florida this winter; I feel for you). But there I was, looking and feeling healthy and bronzed, as if I had just come back from a week in Barbados.

What I actually had been doing was spending almost every hour of every day in February inside my house. I didn’t even have to leave my house to look like I had gone away to a tropical destination.

Thanks to a mobile spray tanning company, in less than 20 minutes I looked like I had just come home from a relaxing vacay. The company’s motto is appropriate: “We’ll Bring the Sun to You.”

Nicole Hyatt founded the company three and a half years ago, and business has been so good that there are now Tan on the Run franchises all over the country.

“I used to go to go get mists in a place in Yorkville. But you couldn’t wear your bra afterwards because it would streak, and I kind of looked orange. So I would be walking around braless and orange, and I thought, ‘There must be a better way,’” Hyatt says.

Also, as a single mother, she wanted a job where she could spend more time with her son. So, after training in California and trying “nearly a dozen” solutions, she came up with the perfect colour for a fake tan. Now she makes her own solution and can customize a tan for your skin tone.

I admit I was worried about getting a fake tan. This was before I found out she had done Lady Gaga, Fergie and Leona Lewis, to name a few celebrities. If Hyatt was good enough for Lady Gaga, she was certainly good enough for me.

I definitely didn’t want to look like Lindsay Lohan, or any other number of celebrities who, I’m sorry, do look orange.

“Please,” I beg Hyatt. “Let’s do the lightest colour. I don’t want to look orange.”

“Don’t worry. That’s everyone’s first question. They always tell me they don’t want to look orange.”

Hyatt arrives with a tent contraption and her airbrush machine, which fits in a gym bag. She can set up anywhere in your house on a hard floor — no carpet — so we head to the living room. She is ready to go in less than five minutes.

I’ve already prepared: exfoliated my skin, shaved my legs, didn’t apply moisturizer or deodorant, removed all my jewellery.

“I do a lot of housewives,” Hyatt says. “I find that people would rather not leave their homes to do this. They’re more comfortable.”

Mostly, women will either get entirely naked or wear just bikini bottoms. “I see naked people all day long,” she laughs.

The solution Hyatt uses for the spray tan is organic and includes anti-aging ingredients as well as aloe and vitamin E to nourish and hydrate the skin. The solution does not stain (I put clothes back on immediately) and is supposedly odourless, which ends up being not entirely true. But it is a nice odor, kind of like air freshener.

Now, I don’t have to go on about the harmful effects of tanning, because we all know them, so I won’t.Not that real sun being bad for your skin is the only reason to get a spray tan.

“Having colour makes you look better and healthier.We only have, like, what, two months to get sun in Canada a year anyway?” says Hyatt.

In fact, her busiest times of the year are right before March and Christmas when people are heading on vacation. “You don’t want to go on vacation and go on the beach and look white and pasty. Same with the summer,” she says.

On numerous occasions, she’s been called to hotel rooms for people who have a stopover in Toronto before heading to a tropical destination.

“Quite frankly,” she says, “when you get a spray-on tan, it also looks like you’ve dropped 10 pounds. Instead of hours at the gym, you can get a tan,” she laughs.

Hyatt also can spray to contour definition on body parts. “Usually where you can flex I can contour, so it makes your muscles looked more defined.” (Bonus!)

Tanning parties are becoming very trendy. “A group of six women will get together and they’ll each take their turn. It’s a lot of fun. At first, some of the women are shy, but by the end they’re all walking around topless and laughing.Their husbands aren’t allowed to be around.” (And, yes, there are usually cocktails involved.)

But, for Hyatt, it’s not all tan and games. Though I find her very thorough (I’m told to stand in certain positions so she can spray every inch of my body, from my knuckles, to the back of my neck, to my underarms), a client once fumed that she wanted her toes “darker.”

“I told her that it takes eight hours for the full effect to set in, but she kept demanding that I made sure her feet and toes were extra dark,” she laughs. Also, her age limit is 16 (with parents permission), but she has received calls from mothers who want to tan their daughters as young as eight years old. (That whole Toddlers & Tiaras show has really messed with some parents’ minds!).

Hyatt also has a special spray tan for brides, which has absolutely no dye, so a bride can put on a wedding dress without worry the same day.

The air spray is cool on my body but feels nice. I’m not to swim, bath or exercise for six to eight hours. To keep my tan as long as possible, I should moisturize twice a day.

The tan should last between seven and 10 days.

“I have women who do it once a week and have for three years,”she says.

For $60, it’s worth it. No hassle at the airport, no flying, and I do look like I’ve gone to a beach for a week without leaving my house at all.


Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO