Last week, we tested out a bunch of tanning products with the intention of recommending our favorites in a standard beauty service PSA. Long story short, due to some unforeseen hiccups, we were no longer able to move forward with that angle. Short story long…well, that’s what our conversation below is for. Scroll down to read about the Great Failed Tanstravaganza of 2019, in our own words. –Harling and Haley
Haley: Greetings H. Harling Ross. I’m looking at you across the office right now in your white top and white barrette and I MUST say you’re looking positively swarthy. Which makes me think it’s a great time for us to discuss the Great Failed Tanstravaganza of 2019.
Harling: May she rest in peace.
Haley: We really really wanted to recommend some tanning products. Didn’t we.
Harling: We did! For reasons both professional (we thought it would make a great, service-y story) and personal (we hadn’t used self-tanners in forever and thought it would be interesting to test out some of the newer options).
Haley: Yes! I believe we called it “the next generation of self-tanning products”! Such high hopes!
Harling: Like if Steve Jobs was making self tanners.
Haley: Exactly. Okay. Let’s go back and explain what happened and why we are relaying it now instead of, you know, just writing the intended story.
Harling: Okay, so, we decamped to my apartment to try out four different varieties of next-gen tanners, which we applied to different body parts in order to witness their separate effects.
Haley: There was a cream, there was a clear (!) liquid, there was an oil (!), there was a pad (!)
Harling: We’d both forgotten how arduous it was to apply self-tanner in the first place.
Haley: Yes. Well, perhaps we made it harder by putting four different products on four different body parts (but how else could we test them all in a single day???), but not that much harder. And actually, we didn’t hate the process, right? Or at least, we were kind of intrigued by how smoothly some of them went on. But then we were trapped in your apartment in our underwear and we weren’t allowed to put clothes on yet or sweat and it was very hot and I felt like I was melting.
Harling: And smelly. Melting and smelly. And sticky. Just bad adjectives.
Haley: Yes. And then I went to therapy!!! In the middle of it! Lol.
Harling: Which was truly brave
Haley: So stupid. When I was there I crossed my legs out of nervousness and I swear that partially messed up my tan…
Harling: I think it’s worth noting that you were reticent to reveal to him that you had just applied self-tanner.
Haley: I couldn’t tell my first male therapist that I had applied self-tanner mere moments before our consultation! Wasn’t ready to bear his judgement.
Harling: Too much too soon.
Haley: Agreed. So anyway, I returned, then we ordered dinner. The smell was getting stronger.
Harling: And the whole time we were waiting to actually start looking tan. The sun was setting. We needed to take our “after” pics! But no dice. Even though one of the products said it took 2-3 hours to develop, and it had been what? 3.5 at that point?
Haley: Yes, and nothing.
Harling: I was also desperate to shower.
Haley: Oh! And then there was the tone mixup!
Harling: Oh a crucial plot twist, yes.
Haley: We were taking notes in a Google Doc about the properties of each of the products so we could properly review them. Both of us were squinting at the bottles and typing away. And then I got to the bottom where it said: medium/dark. And you got to the bottom where it said: light/medium.
Harling: And we had no idea who had used which one where.
Haley: Yes, that was user error. Anyway, so then somehow it became 9 p.m. and I had to go home. We agreed we’d take the after photos tomorrow and both shower that night since one of the products told us to—but sans soap. Which is a cursed shower.
Harling: Let the record show that I asked Austin to smell the self-tanner smell on my elbow before I showered and he said, “I can’t smell anything.”
Haley: I also sniffed your knee and liked it. Left knee more than right knee.
Harling: I think I was getting tripped up by my upper lip, which smelled like a sour penny.
Haley: Lol. There were def some bad smells. But aside from the smells the general feeling of self-tanner after you’ve applied it is bad. You feel like you can’t just live your life. So I was excited to shower and go to bed. The next day we came to work and looked…
Harling: Like we’d just come back from a rodeo.
Haley: Crystal was like, “You’re looking so tan, Haley!” all nicely and I was like, “this is a self-tanning disaster,” and she started laughing and was like “okay, yeah, you look absurd.” Which gives me cause to never trust her again.
Harling: That’s the thing with self-tanners that gives me so much anxiety. You might look tan at first glance, but anyone who cares to give you more than a cursory look can easily detect evidence of the fraud that is occurring.
Haley: Absolutely. I mean, in my prime self-tanning years I tried VERY hard for that not to be the case. But it was so much work and it probably didn’t pay off. Even in the best case scenario, where a fake tan looks even, it WILL get splotchy as it fades and washes off. So there is truly no escaping it.
Harling: I think applying and maintaining self-tanner is hard even for people who are really good at makeup and are super meticulous about their appearance, which is not something I would say about either of us…. hence the even greater struggle.
Haley: Right. And doing this experiment made me realize I’d really lost the taste for the kind of beauty that requires hard work. I used to use self-tanner fairly often, and used to spend a lot of time on my physical appearance in general. There was a time when I think it really did bring me a kind of joy! And as the years passed and all my regimens slowly dropped off, there were even moments when I felt a little nostalgic for that former self, for how much fun I had trying to feel pretty (even if it had consequences I wasn’t seeing). I thought maybe this experiment would enliven that energy, but it kind of just made me feel old. But in a good way, like I’d outgrown self-tanner.
Harling: Yeah, I also had the revelation that the mediocre effect that self-tanner elicits is not worth the labor it requires by my current standards of lazy self-care. I don’t think I’ve outgrown all beauty rituals that involve time/some work (for example, my curly hair wash and go routine is very time-consuming and annoying but I love the results), but I’ve definitely gotten better at recognizing what brings me joy when it comes to beauty versus what feels like a chore, or a vestige of a former self.
Haley: I feel like a broken record for saying so at this point, but it’s really true that growing up is about sloughing off the parts of you (SO TO SPEAK) that no longer feel right, and it’s the most satisfying exercise, and no one can rush it. I did not expect self-tanner to serve as an impetus for another version of this lesson.
Harling: And I think growing up is also about understanding that you can (and def will) change your mind about things. Maybe we will both be self-tanner obsessives five years from now! I doubt it but who knows!!!
Haley: Good & valid point, my liege. Okay, back to our streaky day in the office. We were concerned about our story. Because at this point we were still planning to review the products! We even went to your house and took after pics!
Harling: We still wanted to review the products, but we encountered a brand new problem in our already mountainous litany: We had complete opposite experiences in terms of which ones we liked best.
Haley: Yes, my legs were streaky, but your ARMS were streaky.
Harling: And we used the same products on each.
Haley: Which meant that we didn’t even have a single nice thing to say about any of the products. And since we had no interest in putting up a story where we just shit-talked a bunch of tanning products, we were at a bit of a standstill. And meanwhile we both were dying to exfoliate, because even though we DID look tan, and the streakiness wasn’t that obvious, it just didn’t feel right. Also you had a natural tan under the fake one, which I found hilarious.
Harling: So upsetting to paint over that with fraud juice.
Haley: We decided not to do anything for a day. And the next day. And by day 3 (!) I was like, “Wait, Harling, I kind of like my tan?”
Harling: And I was admiring it right when you admitted that. It looked so nice peeking out of your white button-down.
Haley: After allllllll my overtures about being too mature for a fake tan!!!! Even Avi copped to liking it, which I took as meaningful because he never understands my obsession with being tan (he’s Indian), and thinks I should just love myself.
Harling: The nerve.
Haley: Hahaha. So anyway, I believe my change of heart was a result of a lot of it coming off in the shower.
Harling: The rodeo residue, yes. That helped mine, too. I used intense scrubbing gloves to help smooth things out, so I no longer had an obvious demarcation on my neck where I clearly forgot to swipe the product. Very embarrassing. I think I would have liked my day 3 tan as well if I wasn’t comparing it to the actual natural tan I had earlier in the week.
Haley: I scrubbed vigorously, too! So it started looking more natural. And then I kept forgetting I’d used fake tanner and seeing myself for a second in the mirror and thinking, “Wow, I’m looking so tan! All that tennis!” And then I would remember I was a fraud. But the point remains: I don’t think it was worth the effort.
Harling: Do you think liking self-tanner/being comfortable wearing it/not feeling self-conscious a.k.a. fraudulent is an age thing or a personality thing or both? In other words, is the tendency to overthink the enemy of a relaxed self-tanner experience?
Haley: It’s funny you mention that, because one of my most visceral self-tanner memories isn’t even my own: It was this suuuuper old shitty video of Cat Marnell applying self-tanner in a messy apartment. Did you ever see this?? [Ed note: I can’t find it otherwise I would link!]
Haley: Omg. Remember how she was so haphazard?! Cat is the quintessential self-tanner addict. And I’m positive she still uses it. Not even because I actually am but because I don’t want to imagine she’s not.
Harling: She’s also not the type of person who would care one iota about a streak or two.
Haley: Yes. Her whole thing was not giving a shit! She was like, “Stop worrying about it. Seriously. Just swipe it on! I do it twice in a row!”
Harling: Lol. When you think about it, getting anxious about self-tanner results is an even more absurd equivalent of getting anxious about a haircut. Neither are permanent! But ESPECIALLY the tanner. It’s so inconsequential.
Haley: But this isn’t really making me change my mind about self-tanner! Is it for you?
Harling: Nah. I’m just being a devil’s advocate. A tanvocate.
Haley: You would. Maybe the upshot is self-tanner is not inherently good or bad, and if it it’s worth the effort for you, GO FORTH and own the streaks! And if it’s not, revel in the simplicity of wearing your natural skin tone. This isn’t unlike my revelation with quitting makeup, because outgrowing self-tanner has made me more accepting of my paleness.
Harling: And it is for SURE a healthier alternative to baking in the sun, if a tan is what you’re after.
Haley: That is a good point we should have brought up earlier! But I’m still secretly into an organic I’ve-been-outside-because-it’s-nice tan. Not the frying-by-a-pool kind, just the I’ve-gotten-into-gardening kind. Paired with some menocore. (Maybe I haven’t accepted my paleness?)
Harling: Me too. I love looking healthy/glowing in the summertime. To achieve this in a safe way, I’ll occasionally allow myself 20 minutes of unobstructed vitamin D time before putting on sunscreen.
Haley: So hedonistic of you.
Harling: I’m not a doctor, though! Consult ur derms, people! I’ve just found this to be a way of getting a teeny bit of sun without getting burnt. Personally.
Haley: Yes, and I support you. So anyway, in case it wasn’t clear, we decided to kill the self-tanner review story and run this instead.
Harling: Indeed! And we would loooooOoooVE to hear your thoughts (and by your I mean the royal you, i.e. anyone who is reading this) on self-tanner, Cat Marnell’s devil-may-care application style, and/or getting into gardening.