There she glows…
I don’t think Tanorexia/being a ‘tanaholic’ is a recognised ‘thing’ but it’s something that I most definitely suffered with from the ages of about 18-23. That’s at least five years of treating my skin terribly by excessive use of sun beds that I am never going to get back.
I think the reason that I had wanted to be tanned so much is that although I have dark hair and eyes, throughout school I actually had very pale skin (particularly on my face) as I never spent much time in the sun and never ate properly (or hardly ate anything at all). I certainly had an iron deficiency and basically not enough nutrients in my body so I seemed to look pale, skinny and poorly. Comments about me looking pale and unwell stuck with me, so when I realised how easily my skin tanned when I was older, I became OBSESSED with tanning.
I remember it very first began on a holiday to Cyprus when I was 15; it was the holiday when I first started sunbathing and I came back to England so tanned, then everybody recognised this and said how nice it looked. I no longer felt ‘pale’ and I liked it. From then on, I seemed to tan really well whenever I went on holiday and my natural skin tone became light olive in complexion. It was when I turned 18 that I started using sun beds before a holiday to Malia and that’s when my obsession really began.
For years I used sun beds throughout spring and summer in the build up to my holidays. Sometimes I would use them a couple of times per week but right before a holiday I would be going on them every day. My skin looked so dark that I looked stupid, but due to how addictive tanning beds are, I struggled to see just how dark I was getting and just wanted to use them more and more. This is despite the comments about me looking too tanned, particularly from my mum and Luke, but I just couldn’t see it myself.
The picture below is a photo of me in Zante (at the beginning of the holiday!). This is the result of me going on three beach holidays that year and tanning beds in between. At that time, I just couldn’t see how tanned I was and if I could, I would have gone browner. I used harmful tanning oils at around a factor 2 and somehow didn’t burn! I am amazed that I never realised that I looked like a ridiculous human wotsit, but that’s part of the addiction I guess!
I have avoided tanning beds for two years now and I can’t imagine ever using them again. I remember one day in Spring, a few weeks before a holiday, I just felt like I couldn’t be bothered going to the tanning salon anymore as it felt like a chore and something that I HAD to do, rather than me wanting to. It was then that I googled the effects of excessive tanning, the addiction and read horrific stories about skin cancer; something that I was of course aware of before but chose to ignore as I just kept saying ‘my skin is olivey, that won’t happen to me’. I was mortified. It was from that day on that I vowed to stop worrying about whether I was tanned or pale, to look after myself more and to never use a sun bed again. I still sunbathe when I go on holiday, but I do it because I want to relax rather than because I am desperate to get a tan. I now have a much enjoyable holiday doing other activities and spending time in the shade if I need to, rather than lying there making myself feel ill!
I still hate it if I’m told I look pale, but I now feel much more comfortable in my own skin. The effects of excessive tanning has left my skin feeling slightly drier than it used to be, and I now have small moles on my chest and back that have appeared over the last couple of years which I will now be keeping my eye on forever! Before I go on a night out I will fake tan, which everybody knows is a cheaper and safe alternative to tanning beds (it’s just the smell and staining that annoys me).
I have tried numerous tanning products over the years from Fake Bake and St Tropez, to cheap products from Superdrug and Home Bargains. Everybody is different but below are the products that I can recommend and that worked best for me (and seem to be the most streak-free on my skin):
Cocoa Butter Natural Bronze Tan
This is a developing tan, so I will put this on all over my body at night and wake up tanned in the morning. I would say this is a light tan rather than a deep tan, but it rarely streaks and is great for my skin because it’s so moisturising (my skin gets a little dry). It doesn’t smell too ‘biscuity’ either. The only downside to this is that it will stain your bedsheets, but this is definitely my favourite tan for an even, light coverage which you can build up gradually if you want to (plus, it’s only about a fiver per bottle!). Click here to view this product.
Creighton’s Glow n Go
This little one is cheap as chips, and I get mine from Home Bargains or B&M. This is an instant tan and the liquid is very gold in colour, so you only need to put a little bit on your tanning mit. I only ever use this if I want to add a bit of extra colour to my arms or legs and I wouldn’t use it all over my body as it’s very shimmery. Click here to view this product.
St Tropez Face Tan
I don’t use this very often, probably about once a week or just before a night out. The bottle comes in a 50ml size and is a build-up tan for the face. As the shade I buy is medium/dark, you only need one application at night to notice it the next day. You only need a small amount too, so although it’s around £12-£15 a bottle it does last a long time if you’re not using it every day. Click here to view this product.
My current exfoliator is The Body Shop ‘coconut cream body scrub’. I’ve tried a few different scrubs but find this one as good as any and seems to be the one that makes my skin feel the most smooth and refreshed after using it. I try and get in the habit of exfoliating my skin every day about a week before I go on holiday to leave it feeling fresh and get rid of any dead skin. Many people think that by exfoliating you’re getting rid of any light tan you already have, but research shows that you actually tan better by exfoliating beforehand as you’re letting the ‘new skin cells’ catch the sun leaving your tan lasting longer! Click here to view this product.
Since my little scare when I was reading about the effects of sun beds, I try to always put sun cream on even in England on hot days (the worst sunburn I ever got was from sitting in my own garden!). I will wear a minimum of factor 15 now, and I find I still tan just as well as I do wearing lethal oils. I have no preference with suncreams; I find that cheaper, supermarket brands contain the same ingredients as the high street brands anyway.
I went for my first ever spray tan a few months ago, and I have fallen in love with them! I’ve only ever had two but they’re great for weddings or nights out if you don’t want the build up of self-tanning. I go to Sunshine in Somercotes after recommendation by a friend (link below) which costs £10 and you get to choose the darkness of tan that you want and the girls are lovely! The following link is to their Facebook page.
Thanks for reading! X
*Disclaimer – my opinions on these products and tanning salons are entirely my own and I have not been paid to review these products*