Harriet Walker: Fake tan makes me quite like myself

 

Share

There are some things in life you instinctively know will make you feel good: strawberries, the colour yellow, frankfurters, pictures of hedgehogs... And you can add to that list having a tan.

"Well, yes, tell us something we don't know," you'll no doubt be thinking. Because you're part of the golden majority for whom sunshine means going a lovely shade of chestnut. But for me, having a tan – and the accompanying good-humoured benefits of having a tan – is a revelation. Because I spend most of the year the same colour – apart from when I get burnt in the sun (which is often) and I have to endure two days of florid scarlet smears where I didn't rub the suncream in properly. And then I go back to the colour that I normally am.

Which is grey.

"You're pale and interesting," friends tell me. "What wonderful translucent skin you have," the more polysyllabic among them sometimes add. But pale and translucent skin doesn't make you feel good the way a lovely sunkissed hide does. It doesn't magically make you look a bit thinner, a bit richer, or less tired. It doesn't make your clothes easier to wear.

In fact, it does the opposite of all these. So if I look tired – which I do, because everyone with pale skin looks tired unless they have slept solidly for 36 hours – it's because my pale and interesting skin has thoroughly worn me out.

And getting a tan is much harder when you have pale skin. (I know. My life is so hard.) You have to pay money to stand naked in front of a stranger who hoses you down with brown dye. You didn't think my tan was real, did you? You didn't think I'd just jetted back from the Riviera? You did? Marvellous. Job's a good'un.

No, my tans involve no sun whatsoever. We don't mix, the sun and I, apart from when it burns me – which, as I said, is quite often. I love fake tan. I really, really love it, in the way other women love their dishwashers or their high heels for liberating them from the drudgery of everyday living. I love fake tan like a relative or esteemed mentor. I respect it and I am in awe of it. Because it actually makes me quite like myself.

You know when you stand in front of a mirror and think, "Yes, finally the vision of myself in my head now matches what I am seeing in this shiny reflective surface"? Thought not. Nobody ever thinks that. But fake tan can help you towards that. Which is why I love it.

It does worry me slightly, though, because the other sorts of people who love fake tan are often those who apply it every day and accessorise it with a lurex bandage dress and false eyelashes so large they look like a pair of false moustaches stuck to your eyelids. It is not often I can say I'm of the same opinion or demographic as WAGs, but my love for fake tan puts me firmly in their territory.

So I try not to use it too much. It takes rather a lot of effort, you see, and that's before you factor in the drying time. And I'm hopeless at applying it myself. So, short of investing in my own personal live-in airbusher (my life's ambition), there isn't much scope for fake tanning on a regular basis. Also, I've noticed that wearing fake tan for a long time gives your actual skin the impression of jaundice when you eventually rub it off.

Even so, for the past few weeks, I've had reason, occasion and the lust that comes of desperately needing a little pick-me-up to tan, and I've been hosed brown several times. I had a wedding to attend, which meant wearing a dress that wasn't black. And when I wear things that are not black, I feel odd and garish – sort of like a WAG – and a fake tan helps to put me at ease. I went for this tan with the bride-to-be, because fake tan has become as important as something borrowed and something blue. She loved it, too, although she did describe her hands as looking "like an Oompa-Loompa with vitiligo" as the tan slowly faded a week later and went a bit patchy.

This phase of the tan is never the best. It's like a reverse chrysalis, as you shed your wonderfully glamorous, healthy and not- tired-looking patina, and emerge having regressed to the greying whiteness of a podgy grub.

Having a fake tan is a bit like having a holiday from yourself, or tasting some sort of parallel life. But sooner or later (around six days, I've found, even with rigorous moisturising), you have to go back to your ghostly, larval existence, in which limbs look a bit stumpier and veins are easier to follow round your body like motorways on a road map.

But don't worry, it's around this time of year that I normally start burning, and that always makes me look slightly more awake.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss