If you live in the sunshine city of Dubai, it’s almost expected that you’ll boast a golden glow all year round. Yet if you’re anything like us, you spend too much time in cinemas, spas and restaurants to cultivate a truly stunning tan. To be honest, it’s safer that way – it’s not healthy to spend too much time basking in the scorching sun, which can lead to skin cancer and premature ageing.
Sunbeds are even worse: a May study in New York found that those that bathe in UV light from sunbeds are 74 per cent more likely to develop skin cancer. So don’t risk it – mist it. We’ve tested some options for safe, effective bronzing.
The spray tan
St Tropez spray tan
The promise: This UK brand claims to have revolutionised the industry, banishing orange-hued tans.
The process: This is a quick 20-minute treatment – there’s no exfoliation, so do that at home first. We stood in the booth and were asked to squat, turn, lift our arms, etc. We then stood in front of a fan for 10 minutes to dry off.
The aftermath: Our white clothes turned the colour of terracotta (which luckily washed out) and on the way home we were still sticky, causing streaks of the tan to rub off. However, by the next morning these dramatic white patches had disappeared.
The result: The tan was near perfect at first – our arms, shoulders and legs were golden brown, which was fantastic considering the cheap price. It didn’t look patchy, although our toes were white yet our feet brown by day four. By day eight we still had a soft glow.
Best on day: Two (post-Oompa Loompa, pre-streak).
Star rating: 4/5
Dhs175 at Essential Beauty Salon, Al Wasl Road (04 395 5909)
The rub-on tan
Fake Bake full-body tan and exfoliation
The promise: This long-lasting tan claims to give you a natural-looking colour for up to two weeks.
Process: The therapist started by rubbing fruity body scrub all over us before we jumped in the shower. The application process itself was comical – we were asked to stand virtually naked in odd ridged positions (we looked like we were attempting the robot dance) while the therapist methodically rubbed the lotion into our skin.
The aftermath: The therapist was skilled in her application and there was no mess at all. However, we experienced a mild itching sensation that made us want to have a little scratch (you can’t straight away or the solution may come off).
The result: After surviving the bizarre application process, we were left with an excellent natural glow. It looked as though we’d spent the weekend at the beach, minus those telltale strap marks.
Best on day: Three. It looked very natural, like a real tan.
Star rating: 3/5
Dhs350 at Sisters Beauty Lounge, The Dubai Mall (04 339 8500)
The man’s perspective
Sanitex spray tan
The promise: The spa brochure says this treatment will result in a colour that ‘best suits your own skin type’.
The process: Wearing disposable pants, we stepped into a shower cubicle and were shown a number of different poses to adopt. We were then sprayed with tanning solution, followed by cold air to dry. The process was then repeated as we’d opted for two coats.
The aftermath: After the treatment our skin was a deep shade of brown, although we looked like we’d been dusted in a layer of grit. By the time we got home, our white shirt was filthy, as if we’ve been rolling in a compost heap. When we showered, the water turned orange, although the tan looked more natural afterwards.
The result: After an initial shock at the colour (we wouldn’t normally tan that much), we got used to having a healthy-looking glow. Some areas still seemed ‘gritty’ and some of the dye had collected around our fingers, but otherwise it looked pretty good.
Best on day: Three: it settled and looked a lot more natural. We still had a glow by day six.
Star rating: 3/5
Dhs250 at Talise Spa, Jumeirah Emirates Towers (04 319 8181)
The at-home options
Clarins Delectable Self-Tan Mousse
This product was surprisingly easy to apply: it was the texture of whipped buttercream and, unlike most at-home tanners, glided on with no stickiness, although it smelled a little of chemicals. After a thorough hand-wash, we padded around in a towel for an hour or so to allow it to sink in, yet the cream was absorbed so quickly that we probably could have got dressed after 10 minutes. Our tentative first-time application produced a fantastic glow that looked natural – our sparing use even helped us to avoid Tango ankles. We re-applied the product a day later to build the colour, and were bombarded with comments about our healthy, radiant glow. The best at-home tanner we’ve ever used.
Star rating: 5/5
Dhs175, available at Debenhams, The Dubai Mall (04 339 9285)
Boots No.7 Self-Tan Body Spray
When we read the words ‘spray’ on the side of this bottle, we imagined something more along the lines of an aerosol than two fine streams. On the upside, it was extremely quick to dry (less than five minutes) and after an hour or two you can add another coat – we’d recommend you do, as the first shade was rather pale. Following the instructions a little too closely, we used it sparingly on our knees and elbows, only to be left with white patches. Over the next week, the tan faded gradually without patchiness. The verdict? We’d definitely use this one again.
Star rating: 4/5
Dhs75, available at Boots, The Dubai Mall (04 339 9383)