Whilst writing my last column, I was somewhat preoccupied by an emergency beauty issue for a week or so, experiencing dry, itchy red patches on my face and neck. I’m glad to say Dr Sam’s recommendations got rid of those pretty swiftly, and I’ve since been back to everyday, entirely frivolous beautifying occupations – like painting my nails electric blue (love, although it does make you look like a 14 year old schoolgirl as soon as it chips even a little bit), testing out parting my hair a different way, and…self tan.
Now that I'm a self-confessed factor 50 sunscreen evangelist, I've come round to the idea that self tanning is not simply a tier 3 beauty fascination (and a potentially expensive and messy one at that), but a smart health move. If I am feeling at optimal tan already when I go out in the sun, I'm less likely to be tempted to do that awful UV Russian roulette we all play too frequently: how long can you lie in the sun without protection on, without visibly burning, imagining somehow, in half an hour you’ll magically have a complexion like Gisele's.
Well, we’ve all learnt the hard way that doesn’t work. Which is why (I'm realising) there's no smarter idea than getting that tan before you set foot outside, then sitting in the shade with your factor 50, looking bronzed and chic rather than singed and sweaty.
I explained this to the boy, when last week he eyed me suspiciously moving the white bath mat into the next room and lining up a series of bottles along the side of the bath - self tan time. He looks bamboozled. "So let me get this straight - those are the creams you use to make sure you don't get any kind of sun tan, and these are the creams you use to make it look like you have one?". Yes! Exactly. Genius, isn't it?
He does raise a good point, though. Why am I so keen to have this elusive tan, that belies my blue eyes, fair hair and Northern European roots? On a practical note, it hides a multitude of sins, of course - cellulite, thread veins, bruises and scars are all a little less scary on a tanned leg. There's a more emotional level to our need for bronzing, though. For me, it makes me feel like I've just been on holiday, maybe I've walking out over sun-drenched sand dunes in France without a care in the world, even if I’m stuck on the circle line on the way into the office.
The downside? We’ve all seen some sticky self tan slip ups in the past. On the few occasions where I’ve dipped my toe (almost literally, judging by the end result) into the world of self tanning, my own personal disaster areas are usually the backs of my legs - victims of my misguided "what I can't see can't hurt me" approach in application.
So, with an Ibiza holiday fast approaching and knowing my skin is best kept out of the real sun these days, I decided to give it a go. Lancôme's Flash Bronzer, because, well, flash sounds fast and easy and a little bit glamorous, which really is the ideal combination of adjectives you want to associate with a self tanning experience, despite the messier reality. You can rest assured I put it to the test properly – true to form, I remembered I wanted to self tan my legs precisely twenty minutes before having to leave the house. In fact, I didn’t prepare for my self-tan experience remotely as Lancôme advised on the bottle. If only life worked in such a way that I was able to find time to exfoliate and moisturise my legs (as conscious efforts, not rushed, slathery panics in a gym changing room) in the days leading up to the self tan trial. Instead, as we all know, our weeks are more likely to be spent juggling a million projects at work, punctuated by emergency shopping trips to find a last minute present for someone whose birthday you’ve forgotten, or googling what you can make with two avocados and a tin of chickpeas for a last minute dinner party. Add to this lack of preparation my chronic lack of patience, and the coordination of a baby giraffe learning to ice skate, and you’ve got yourself a Mensa-level challenge for even the cleverest of self tans.
However, Lancome delivered on its outlandish promise – the gel was easy to apply, despite looking far darker when you initially put it on than any tan I could ever hope to pull off. It then rubs in easily: I had no method to my application, as you might imagine given my hurried approach and general lack of discipline in beauty matters, but could tell easily enough where I’d applied and where I hadn’t. The second test was whether it would dry in a flash - I ran out of the door into town not knowing whether I’d stick to the tube seats or turn up to lunch with streaky marks all over my dress, but thankfully my legs and the Flash Bronzer seemed to have made a real bond in their short time together.So, first adventure in self tan land complete, and since then I’ve been looking for any opportunity to show off my skin-friendly tan. The only problem? I think my successful quest for the ultimate healthy tan have made the sun go in...