By Jessica Farrish
For many, springtime happens when the natural world languidly shows signs of awakening from wintertime. Crocuses and daffodils push through the earth, and fat, green leaf buds burst suddenly on forsythia branches.
Others feel the same excitement when they walk into a store and realize that their favorite suntan oils and lotions are back on prominent display.
Freed from the dusty, bottom shelf of the cosmetic aisle Australia Gold, Coppertone, No-Ad and Banana Boat suddenly explode each spring in a colorful and coconut-fragranced promise of warmer times.
Hawaiian Tropic is, to some, what the robin is to others.
When warmer months approach, many hearts turn to tanning. The season is full of reasons to tan, from proms to weddings to trips to the beach.
But the newest way to a bronze glow isn’t necessarily through the sun.
Sissy Halstead, owner of Sissy’s Tanning Salon in Crab Orchard, said spray tanning is a perfect choice for anyone — including those who need a quick tan for a pageant, prom, a wedding, a class reunion or a client who just wants immediate color.
“It looks like you’ve been to the beach, and it gives a good glow to your skin,” said Halstead.
Halstead has experience in tanning, both herself and others: The five-time winner of The Register-Herald’s Reader’s Choice awards has operated her tanning business, located beside the Crab Orchard Walmart, for 29 years this April.
“My clients and I have good conversation, we talk a lot, we pray,” she said. “I love my customers.”
Spray tanning is another way Halstead said she’s serving her clients these days.
“Spray tanning gives everyone, with no limit of age or health, the opportunity to tan,” said Halstead.
Halstead said that in addition to local beauty queens and brides and grooms, her clients include pregnant women, those whose medications make their skin extra-sensitive to sunlight and those with other health issues.
“I spray a lady who has a colostomy bag,” she noted, adding she also has a diabetic client who removes a pump before spray-tanning. “It’s a perfect solution for everyone, even if you have health problems or some issues where you can’t tan because you’re afraid of the ozone depletion.”
Spray-tanning is the latest way to appear tan, the most recent development in Americans’ obsession with a burnished epidermis.
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Along with the little black dress, the toss of the corset and the classically feminine scent of Chanel No. 5, American women can credit the late French designer Gabrielle “CoCo” Chanel with the “sun-kissed” glow and bronzed skin that becomes mandatory for some each spring.
Before the famous fashion designer and perfumier boarded a yacht to Cannes, France, in 1923 and accidentally got a sunburn, tan skin was not popular among many Americans.
Pale, unfreckled skin was a sign of refinement since only women who had to do manual labor, outside, got tan.
This desire for paler skin tones continued in America until the day Coco Chanel returned to Paris with a suntan.
Suddenly, tanned skin was a status symbol, proof that one had leisure time to spend on a cruise, playing golf or horseback riding, instead of toiling away in a factory or office.
Women who had thrown away their corsets at Chanel’s direction now began a quest for darker skin.
They also began to notice Chanel’s contemporary, American-born French dancer Josephine Baker. Baker, the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, was admired in popular fashion circles of the time for her “caramel skin.”
By the time the bikini showed up on American beaches in the 1940s, swimsuits had steadily exposed more skin to the water and sun over the years, and the popular desire for a tan was understood by American advertisers and cosmetic companies: Baby oil was the first “tan accelerator,” and Coppertone marketed its first sunscreen in 1953 with the “Coppertone girl” and her dog.
The first “sunless tanner” also debuted in the 1950s. Known as “Man Tan,” it left the skin orange, according to online sources.
In 1971, Malibu Barbie had her own bottle of sun-tanning lotion, and in 1978, the first tanning bed appeared.
For years, Americans tanned innocently and easily. But in the 1980s, dermatologists began linking UVA and UVB exposure to melanoma, or skin cancer, and sunbathing became contoversial.
Over the next several years, tanning was also linked to premature aging of the skin.
Dermatologists now advise consumers to wear a sunblock against both UVA and UVB rays of at least SPF 30 daily and to avoid tanning in tanning booths, but an estimated 30 million Americans visit tanning beds every year, despite that warning.
Despite a global sunblock industry expected to hit $5.2 billion next year, Americans still like to tan — or at least, they like to show that they’ve had time to tan.
Bronzed skin is considered a status symbol in America, and even those with naturally darker skin tones relish showing a sun-kissed glow: Tanning has increased in popularity among African-American and Asian women over the past several years, according to online sources.
(Note: Doctors advise people of all races to follow the same precautions regarding UV exposure.)
Halstead said her ethnic clients are looking for both an even skin tone and darker skin — nothing new in the world of tanning.
“I do have black clientele, and Asians,” noted Halstead. “What they want to achieve, just like (white clients) do, is to be browner.
“That’s the whole goal.”
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For those who won’t risk the dangers of UV exposure for a bronzed body, the good news is that “sunless tans” have come a long way from the carrot-tinged, Oompa-Loompa tones of Man Tan.
The coloring agents used in professional spray tans appear natural, Halstead said, and are effective for clients of all ethnic groups.
“If someone’s really pale, then I spray heavy to give them more color,” she added. “If your skin is a little browner, you can imagine how good that looks.”
Halstead said the process is simple: Take a shower to make sure no oils or lotions are left on the skin.
Then, stand in the private spraying section to get a “tan.”
“It takes about 10 minutes to do it,” Halstead said. “After I spray you, I leave you in the room for 5 minutes to dry.”
She advised that spray-tan clients wear loose clothing for at least six hours and then take a shower and moisturize their skin.
Finally, Halstead said, clients are ready to show off their new “tans” at the beach, prom, wedding or pageant.
More information on spray tanning, tanning oils, lotions and other tanning products is available by calling Sissy’s Tanning Salon at 304-253-2303.
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