a beginner’s guide to spray tanning at tropicoco, glasgow;

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m in Tesco on the Trongate struggling with an unexpected item in the bagging area. Ladies, I’m sure we’ve all been there: digging around the handbag for 5p for a plastic bag, aware at any moment that one wrong tug means exposing the bra in said handbag to our fellow convenience store shoppers…

Which, I guess, is my first tip for those of you who, like me, are currently plotting their first spray tan: it’s better if you don’t wear your bra on the way home. Plan accordingly.

A beginner's guide to spray tanning - Last Year's Girl

Day 3: taken aback by my Nobody’s Child post? You were right, I’m not normally this colour.

When Caroline at Tropicoco Spray Tan Studio got in touch to ask if I fancied coming in to try one of her treatments, I was hesitant for about 30 seconds: pale and interesting is my jam, plus my idea of tanning involves sitting under a shady tree in a long-sleeved t-shirt with a book. Plus, aren’t spray tans for pure fannies who think “tangerine” is a shade of foundation? All of these thoughts flew through my head – for the 30 seconds it took to remember that everything is copy and even if I looked ridiculous for a couple of days it would give me something hilarious to blog about.

Conveniently located on Glassford St, just across from Marks and Spencer – seriously, my bus home leaves from right outside – Tropicoco is an inviting-looking space, despite the two flights of stairs you have to climb to get there. And Caroline is the perfect combination of enthusiastic and reassuring that one looks for in a beauty therapist, with plenty of knowledge about her field and a particular fondness for spray tan “virgins”…

We’d originally planned my appointment for just before my last trip to Dubai, giving me the chance to show it off to my cynical sister as well as carefully following all of Caroline’s lovingly put together pre-tanning steps (hair removal! check! exfoliation! check!). Unfortunately one too many pre-trip deadlines caught up with me and I had to postpone – but who wants to get their pins out in Glasgow in April anyway?

A beginner's guide to spray tanning - Day Four

Day 4, and my natural paleness is beginning to win out on my legs…

Caroline and I had agreed upfront that I would be going for the palest shade that she offers – a rich, golden brown – so by the time I arrived the only thing that was left was to strip off and jump into her little tanning booth. It’s completely up to yourself what you wear for your session: some people bring swimsuits and some choose to wear a bra and pants, but since Caroline had seen it all and put me instantly at ease I was happy in just my knickers! I was also given sticky cardboard foot protectors to wear, to prevent the tanning product from running straight down to the soles of my feet and giving them a delightful varnished look. I was instantly reminded of that scene in Orange is the New Black where the inmates fashion shower shoes from sanitary towels – something which, apparently, some salons do; but which can weird out the first-timer!

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Suited up with her spray gun and a gas mask – something which I wasn’t expecting, but which I guess makes sense when you’re working with tanning products all day! – Caroline then began by spraying under my boobs (an easy-to-miss spot, apparently) and then around my front and back. The solution was a little cold, but not unpleasantly so; and as for all those horror stories about smelling like a baked potato afterwards? Definitely untrue: in fact, Caroline’s product of choice had an appropriately tropical undertone scent which I actually found quite pleasant! As for what brand she uses though, I’m afraid I can’t tell you: it’s the sort of closely-guarded secret that apparently trade rivals book false appointments for to try to get out of her.

As an admitted perfectionist, Caroline scrutinised me at length so she could spray over any spots she had missed before I left the booth. I then put the loose-fitting clothes I had worn to work that day especially back on (but not my bra, as we have already covered!) before heading out into the night – anxious to see what the results would look like the next morning. And whether anybody would even notice, given I hadn’t told anybody in the office what I was up to when I left that evening…

A beginner's guide to spray tanning... Day One

Day 1: and “glowing”, apparently

The tanning solution should be left on overnight to develop, which is a bit of a nerve-wracking experience for the first-timer – it gives you hours to watch your skin settle to the shade of a varnished tabletop and wonder what you have done. All being well though, it will wash away in the shower in the morning leaving you a gorgeous shade of golden brown…

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…which is still a little nervewracking, when your natural skin tone is “peely-wally“. And so I headed into work in a white t-shirt, and braced myself for what I assumed would be the inevitable teasing…

…which didn’t come! In fact, I hadn’t even gotten my coat off before my (male) colleague did a proper double-take and said, hesitantly, that I appeared to be “glowing” that day. I also got loads of compliments over lunch with the girls, where we were saying goodbye for now to Gillian as she disappeared on maternity leave – given the number of spray tan horror stories that were shared, I suspect Caroline might be welcoming some new clients ahead of everybody’s summer holidays!

Of course, the real test was during a hastily-arranged lunch at Singl-end on the Saturday with my Glaswegian waxing partner-in-crime Jehane, who is contractually obligated not to be polite when I do stupid things for the sake of internet “likes”. As you can perhaps tell from the giggly photo that she took of me which appears at the top of this post, she was almost as impressed by my golden skin as by the excellent food.

Singl-end: steak and garlic pesto ciabatta

Shoutout to this steak and homemade garlic pesto open sandwich, though.

So, with my colour practically faded (as naturally as my limited experience with a natural tan, although my flaky legs did need a little moisturising TLC at the weekend there), how do I feel about a spray tan now? Although far from a spray tan “addict” like many of Caroline’s repeat clients, I’d definitely say I’m a convert – as fond as I am of my ghostly exterior I did find myself walking with an extra, peppy spring in my step when I had a bit of colour on my skin. Tropicoco treatments start from just £16, which as I admitted to Caroline is cheap enough for me to have tried it for a laugh – and definitely worth treating yourself to before a holiday or a special occasion, with none of the risks of skin damage that come with sunbeds. Tell Caroline I sent you!

Have you ever had a spray tan? If not – has this post changed your mind?

Thanks to Tropicoco, who provided me with a complimentary treatment for the purposes of a review. All opinions are my own and unbiased.

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  • Ed P.

    I’d go for the garlic pesto before the spray tan. You took one for the team!

    • Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it! Though the garlic pesto was excellent… 😉 x

      • Ed P.

        Ten minutes in The Sun and I get a nice glow, just not tan 🙂

  • Siobhan

    Oh you look so natural here. Almost enough to convince me to give it a try!

  • trona

    I have to say you’ve tempted me. Your tan looks lovely and natural *thumbs up*

  • “aren’t spray tans for pure fannies who think “tangerine” is a shade of foundation?”

    Oi!! ????

  • rachelle renée

    The local tanning salon offers spray tans, but it’s not something I can keep up with. I actually calculated that it’d be easier for me to do the at home self tanning and maintenance, despite sitting in my underwears for several hours! I recently recounted your wax experience with a friend and it lead to a conversation griping about body maintenance, haha

    • I can’t imagine ever being bothered to do it myself at home, think of the mess! Plus… I don’t really care enough. But as a wee occasional treat in a salon, sure 😀 x