Testing a tan with the man who sprays Kim Kardashian
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Growing up under the influence of shows like The Hills and brands such as Victoria’s Secret with its preternaturally bronzed angels, tanned skin was always the aspiration. In my family, tanning was not so much a by-product of going on holiday as the reason for going itself: a competitive sport. But despite my love of a tan bronzer, I have never thought to “fake it” – partly down to laziness but also in fear of the streaky lines, stained sheets and that rancid biscuit smell.
Today, it seems that everyone is faking it. Hailey Bieber recently revealed to her 10 million TikTok followers that she swears by Tan-Luxe’s Self-tan water spray; Miley Cyrus loves cult tanning brand Dolce Glow so much she became an investor this year. The 81-year-old domestic influencer Martha Stewart got a spray tan before shooting her recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit-issue cover. The global self-tanning market, valued at $597mn in 2019, is forecast to be worth $735mn this year, according to Euromonitor International. It’s no longer embarrassing to fake tan; it’s de rigueur.
“In the realm of beauty, trends come and go, but self-tanning has been consistently gaining momentum in recent years,” confirms Clare Varga, beauty director of trend forecaster WGSN. “Gone are the days when it was associated with unnatural and day-glow results. Today, self-tanning is viewed as convenient and safe.”
The transformation in fake tan’s public image is partly because of our increased awareness of the detrimental effects of sun exposure – from wrinkles and dark spots to melanoma – but it’s also thanks to the innovations in formulas and improvement of products on the market. The new mousses, sprays, serums and even pills are “more customisable and convenient”, says Varga, “with an array of options for different skin types, colour intensity and more inclusive shades and tones.”.
Tanning brands are also increasingly focusing on “skinification”, adds Euromonitor’s research analyst Brando Coleman, “which has led to the incorporation of additional moisturising ingredients such as glycerine, hyaluronic acid and squalene”. According to Sophie Wayman, head of content management for beauty at Farfetch, customers are even using self-tan in lieu of makeup to contour their face overnight, “which is reflected in the increase in sales we’ve seen for face tanning products such as Chantecaille’s Sheer Glow Face Tint and By Terry’s Tea to Tan Face and Body Bronzer.”
When I get an email asking whether I would be up for an appointment with Hollywood’s “spray tanner to the stars”, Jimmy Coco, I am initially hesitant. But, in the interests of research – and curious as to whether I too was just a spray tan away from celebrity-worthy flawless skin – I accept.
A tanning guru and pioneer of mobile tanning, Jimmy’s client list includes Heidi Klum, Jennifer Aniston, Gigi Hadid and Victoria Beckham, and he spray-tanned Kim Kardashian and Olivia Wilde for this year’s Met Gala. “In the beginning, people would tan in the spring leading up to summer or they’d be lying in the sun to look good in their dresses. Now they all get a spray tan one or two days ahead of a red-carpet event,” he tells me as I strip down to my bikini bottoms and put on a hair net. I then step inside the tanning booth and am guided through a series of unusual poses - lunging my feet out and clenching my hands into claw shapes - to ensure the tanning nozzle gets into every nook and cranny. After 20 minutes, I am fully coated in a cool, slightly sticky mist, after which he wipes the residue off my fingers and toenails to avoid staining and applies some talc to the areas that are prone to sweating such as the inner elbows and the backs of my knees.
He beams as I nervously step out of the booth and look in the mirror. Although at this point the tan is still developing, I’m pleasantly surprised to find it’s a caramel brown and not the lurid orange of Lindsay Lohan c2006. My eyes seem brighter, my teeth look whiter and I’ve even magicked up some abs thanks to Jimmy’s contouring wizardry. “Everyone gets a butt lift, everyone gets all the contours,” he tells me. I start to appreciate why he’s LA’s go-to spray tanner. For $350 and in less time than a HIIT workout, you can come out not only more bronzed but more sculpted, too.
I’m warned not to shower or work out for 12 hours and avoid any oils or exfoliants that could strip the tan. “Once I tanned Khloé Kardashian, and she fell asleep with her hand on her chest and woke up to find it had left a white mark. I said, ‘Hey, I think the Virgin Mary appeared,” he laughs.
On getting home, however, I realise I too have managed to rub off some of my tan where the bra elastic has dug into my skin (I didn’t heed Jimmy’s advice to wear loose or no underwear at all). Fortunately I can pull it off as it looks like an authentic tan line, though I am equipped with Jimmy’s face and body tanning soufflé should I need to cover any marks. A moisturising mousse that contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and colloidal gold (£28.89), it comes in five shades and allows you to recreate a Jimmy tan at home – which is just as well for those who can’t jet to LA for a top-up.
Over the next few days, the spray tan starts to fade into a subtler golden glow, the initial chemically smell is noticeably absent, and though my face reverts back to its natural, pallid colour quicker than the rest of my body, my tan stays relatively even and streak-free for about a week thanks to avoiding the gym (a great excuse) and religiously moisturising (Jimmy recommends using a non-oily moisturiser such as a shea body butter to extend the life of your tan). I start to appreciate the allure of the tanning booth: I’ve been complimented on how I look, without them quite pinpointing what’s different, and it’s also diffused the redness of my spots, eliminating the need for my usual foundation and concealer. “I feel like everyone reacts the same way,” says Jimmy. “Everyone just feels so much better when they glow.” Maybe bronze do have more fun.
A Jimmy Coco spray tan costs $350; Jimmy Coco Sunless Cocooning Face and Body Soufflé range available in five shades, £28.89, jimmycoco.co.uk