The spray tan
For a place called Tropical Tans, Time Out was picturing something a little more beach-hutty than a Satwa villa behind a Pizza Hut. As first time tanners, we couldn’t quite shake the fear of coming out looking like Donatella Versace. Hence, we asked our therapist for the lightest shade, adding repeatedly ‘as natural as possible’. After being ushered into the booth and asked to strip down to full birthday suit (optional, but no tan lines), the airbrushing commenced. Instructed to bend and turn so that the colour could be evenly applied, the feeling was a little like being a car in a paint shop. But, while we left feeling a bit sticky, we couldn’t take issue with the results, which were instant, impressive and lasted nearly a week.
Tropical Tans (04 398 9424), Al Diyafah Street. From Dhs100. There is currently a promotion where all spray tans are only Dhs50
The St Tropez way
According to Patsi Collins, the charmingly chatty owner of her namesake salon, the secret of a successful fake tan is good exfoliation. Which is why the St Tropez cream treatment begins the day before with a Moroccan bath. Hosed down, hair mask and black olive soap applied, you lie, coated with this nourishing, if slightly whiffy, tapenade, in hot steam for 15 minutes. After a loofah scrub (don’t be alarmed when you see noodles of dead skin gathering in your crevices – this is the point) your skin will be soothed with natural yogurt. The following day, the process continues with a messy slathering of St Tropez. When we went, we looked (but sadly, didn’t smell) like chocolate. We asked for an all-over tan and, my word, that’s what we got. Surprisingly, when the cream was wiped gently away, it left a wood-stained and not-too-scary version of our former selves. Yes, there are a few uneven patches, but these come out in the wash.
Patsi Collins Salon (04 286 9923/050 535 7967; www.dubaibeautysalon.com) RAK building, Al Garhoud. Moroccan Bath (1 hour) and St Tropez cream tan (45 mins) Dhs300; available separately on request
Going it alone
Rather than spend hundreds of dirhams to get someone to apply tanning cream to our body, we decided to try doing it ourselves. We bought Soltan’s self-tanning kit and gave it a go. You can easily add this tanning process to your shower routine. Apply the moisturiser/exfoliation cream before you jump in (the beads are rough, but they do leave your skin silky smooth), then rub in and rinse, dry off and apply the tanning lotion. The cream is pleasant: it doesn’t have that weird biscuity smell that some lotions have. It’s also very light and refreshing on the skin, but its almost complete lack of colour means you can’t keep track of where you have and haven’t applied. There are no instant results and, in truth, we didn’t see anything after two or three hours. In fact, Time Out was convinced it hadn’t made the blindest bit of difference, until the next day when we noticed the streaks. Oh dear.
Soltan Self Tan Lotion, Dhs15; Soltan Self Tan 2-in-1 Exfoliator, Dhs15. Available at Boots
The gradual tan
Weary of rocking the streaked look, we decided to try one of those gradual tanning kits, care of Sanctuary. At first glance, the kit looked daunting. It’s a three-bottle process, implying you have to invest time to get the best results. We needn’t have worried. The first tube, containing dry skin-banishing exfoliator, smells citrusy and can easily be incorporated into your shower. Second up, the moisturiser doesn’t have any strong smell and goes on lightly to knees and elbows to avoid giveaway orange areas. Last, but not least, the cappuccino-coloured foam rubs in smoothly, and doesn’t stink of potatoes, unlike some well-known brands. The packets advise you not to put any clothes on until the lotions are dry, but we put this to the test with light-coloured shorts minutes after the process (call us reckless), and thankfully avoided any stains. The real test? Whether anyone noticed our new glow, or found it natural. Lucky for Sanctuary, they did, and we didn’t even have to put in any effort. In fact, we felt as if we’d spent the day at the beach. Almost.
Sanctuary Self-Tanning Kit, Dhs138 at Boots