Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie on… home tanning

An encounter with the high priestess of the believable glow

Spa Junkie on… home tanning

Image: Jay Yeo

December 27 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2

Spa Junkie is undergoing a home tanning session with Amanda Harrington.

Amanda is on my doorstep, bearing a large bag full of bottles and a beaming smile. “Mint tea?” I welcome her in. We talk about the sort of colour I want to achieve. “Think less Valentino Garavani, more Jennifer Aniston,” I quip as she starts blending. Like a good student, I have already exfoliated my entire body to smooth baby-soft perfection – elbows, kneecaps, ankles and all. I stretch out atop a large black fluffy towel that Amanda has brought with her. While I tend to my BlackBerry, she meticulously buffs an aloe vera-based tanning tint on to my skin, alternating body brushes of various sizes. I feel as if I am going through a beauty car wash; my skin, which resembles a strip of dried Christmas turkey thanks to a hydration-depleting combo of high champagne intake and 10-hours-a-day exposure to central heating, greedily absorbs the tint.

The different brush sizes allow her to get to the places where a spray tan can (and usually does) miss, especially in between toes and fingers – the usual tell-tale signs of a fake. The buffing ensures that the tint is absorbed by the skin while the treatment is in progress, so by the time it’s finished – about 25 minutes in total – there is no need to stand awkwardly while you wait for it to set; and there is no transference of the tint to your clothes or sheets. Amanda’s background as a make-up artist and body painter lets her leverage all those different-sized brushes to subtly draw contours; so for the first time in a shamefully long while, I look as if I have the outline of muscle tone on my torso and midsection, which will be very welcome when I reach for my bikini in a few weeks. It also allows her to “bespoke” your tan, darkening down certain areas that would normally be hit more intensely by the sun (tops of the shoulders, for instance) as opposed to that suspect uniform tint that results from a blast from a can.

At the end of the process, there isn’t a streak in sight. As I am admiring the results on my now beach-ready body, I ask Amanda about the benefits of the aloe-based tint versus other over-the-counter tanning products. “Aloe contains an ultra-hydrating agent which penetrates our skin much quicker than water, which is the base of the majority of tans on the market today,” she explains. “Aloe is absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin, which keeps the skin moisturised and nourished for a longer period of time.” And the more hydrated your skin is, the longer your faux colour lasts. And what about the chemicals normally used in tanning products – how does the aloe-based formula stack up against them? “The aloe tan is over 65 per cent pharmaceutical-grade aloe.” (Most aloe used for cosmetic purposes is of cosmetic grade, but InParlour is one of the few companies that uses medical-grade aloe, which is much purer, and has a higher activity level.)

You can shower after about six hours, when you’ll have achieved the full tint; but, as I didn’t have even a trace of that nasty chemical smell or the sticky-paint-drying feeling I normally associate with spray tans, I head straight out for dinner. In Hollywood, this is what we call “red carpet ready” – and I’m frankly a little disappointed that my burnished pins are encased in opaques and not flashing, peep-show style, through undulating panels of Elie Saab chiffon. I step out looking as if I am blushed with health (even if I don’t feel it); and with a life expectancy of 10 days, my glow will see me through until I can get to the beach and develop the real thing.The steps of the yacht await…


This is the most natural tan, both in base ingredients and final result, that I’ve found in all my tanning experiences. The flaw-busting buffing technique covers every inch and allows the tint to be totally absorbed by my skin, which looks as if it’s been dipped in a jar of honey, minus the stickiness. To have Amanda work on you, it’s about twice the cost of an in-salon spray tan – but it happens in the privacy and comfort of your own home, and – crucially for the working woman – outside of salon hours when necessary. Tanning perfection, and worth every cent.

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.