Spray tanning: a good alternative to Ďrealí tanning?

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I used to set a lot of store by my healthy tan, but a couple of scares made me think again. But I still like the colour of my skin, and didnít want to give that up. Spray tanning enabled me to keep that without the risk Ė or worry.

As someone with olive skin, tanning is important to me. I donít mean that in any kind of ethnic or cultural identity way: the simple fact is that if I donít have a tan, my skin ends up a kind of greenish hue. I end up looking ill all the time. Pasty skin isnít a good look for anyone, in my opinion, but for me itís even worse. So I used to spend lots of time under the sun and in sunbeds; now, Iíve found itís just as easy to go for spray tanning.

It was when I was 18 that I realised that Iíd need to be more careful about my skin. I was trying on some new clothes in a department store, and the bright lights were pretty unforgiving. It didnít help that the top I was trying out was a bright white, either: it threw my skin colour into perspective. That was the point at which I decided to try out a sunbed for the first time. It was autumn, and I knew I wouldnít be seeing any real sun for the next six months or so (and if it was sunny, the temperatures werenít going to be anything like high enough to start showing bare skin). Spray tanning wasnít a big thing at the time, and I donít know whether I would have considered it even if I had known about it.

It took a few years of summer sun and winter sunbeds to convert me to spray tanning. The first indication that things had to change was after one summer holiday. Iíd overdone it in the sun, ended up with heatstroke and had to spend a couple of days in my room, drinking cool water and doing not much else Ė hardly the kind of holiday I wanted to repeat. Plus, although Iíd often come back with mild sunburn, I was getting tired of the sore, itchy feeling Iíd have under my clothes. A particularly bad case of sunburn made me realise that actually, not taking care of your skin could be pretty miserable. After that, at least I made a special effort with the sunblock.

A year later I was referred to a dermatologist about a mole that had changed colour. It turned out to be benign (she removed it anyway, since it was unsightly), but at that point I decided that nothing was worth the worry it had caused me for the preceding month. That was when I first tried spray tanning, which I figured had to be totally safe as far as skin cancer was concerned. Spray tanning is offered in many of the same places that Iíd been going to for their sunbeds, but unlike sunbeds, it involves no UV light Ė meaning thereís no chance of melanoma.

That was a real relief for me. I started to cover up more in the sun, or wear sunblock when I was more exposed. Thatís particularly important with spray tanning, since it doesnít actually give you any sun protection itself. The process lasts a week or two, so Iíd need the odd top up through the winter, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. Not having Ďtannedí skin isnít an option for me, since green skin really doesnít suit me. But having decided after my health scare that skin cancer really wasnít my style either, spray tanning seemed to offer the perfect solution: just the same appearance, with none of the burning or long-term damage.

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