Thursday, 9 September 2010

If you're going to fake it, fake it well.

This summer we true Brits have been trying to soak up every last ray of sun. Lily-white, goosebumped limbs have been freed from warm sleeves and denim trouser legs. And I, like many others, am not especially keen on exposing flesh which bears a certain resemblance to corned beef.

In order to feel a bit more comfortable about showing off so much skin I have been known to give nature a helping hand and dye the top layer of my dermis a slighter darker colour. And what’s wrong with that? As someone with what can only be described as an ‘English rose complexion’ by kind people and ‘pasty’ by unkind people, I’ve been faking it for years.

Over the last decade fake tanning has really taken off and evolved. I think back with a shudder to the revolting product I used as a teenager; from The Body Shop, it smelt like acrid artificial watermelon, it streaked like hell and often made me itch so much I scratched over the top layer of skin, removing the need for me to exfoliate. All the fancy quick-drying, airbrush-effect stuff now available is light years ahead of that revolting goo.

Now we’re all a lot more clued up about the dangers of the sun - skin ageing, skin cancer and so on - it’s become more and more popular to get your tan out of a bottle. I don’t care what you say; everyone I’ve ever met looks better with a bit of colour. Provided you don’t go too far and end up looking like the creepy little man from the Tango adverts, it is a quick way to noticeably improve your appearance. Did you know that most women look half a stone lighter when tanned? It hides all sorts of marks and blemishes and just makes you feel more confident, which always makes you look better.

Right, so we’re agreed, fake tan’s a wonderful thing. Or is it? Like any sort of chemical substance, it’s dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands. More than any other beauty product, it takes time to get right and unlike smudged eyeliner or pancakey foundation, it can’t be immediately remedied. If you make a real mess of it, you’re stuck looking dreadful for several days unless you’re willing to scrub yourself raw. And that’s what bothers me, having to look at others who’ve well and truly cocked it up.

Low level offenders include the person with golden arms and deathly white hands and the individual with the odd missed patch, especially around the knee - neither of which is great but just about visually acceptable. What I honestly cannot bear is being forced to observe the person who didn’t rub it in properly so now has what looks like a trickle of melted chocolate, usually frozen in time, rolling down an ankle or heel.

Not to mention the true wally who forgot to wash her hands after applying and now looks like she’s been mushing apricots solidly for the last month. For god’s sake - how hard is it to remember to wash your hands? You know, it’s that small thing you supposedly do every time go to the loo. Remind me never to come to their house for nibbles - or any sort of food in fact.

Then there’s the person who doesn’t own a loofah so never exfoliates it off properly as the top layer of skin starts to shed. I live in fear of conversations with such offenders as I invariably find that the resulting patching is worst around the neck and d├ęcolletage area. And I can’t stop staring at it the whole time I’m talking to them. If you’re too lazy, broke or disorganised to purchase this bit of kit then at least improvise. Use the pan scourer for all I care, just get that disgusting flaking skin off.

It goes without saying that I have committed every single one of these beauty crimes at some point in my life. As I said, it’s tough to get the hang of it. But do you know what I did each time I messed up spectacularly? Had the decency to hide it from the general public and then learnt from my mistake. With great power (to look radically better) comes great responsibility (to make a decent job of it). So please, embrace safe sun tanning but take the time to get it right before showing it off to the rest of the world. Read more by Rosie.