Before my $55 Chocolate Sun herbal spray tan at Derma Hair Care in Falls Church, I could have been mistaken for Elvira’s younger sister.
Honi Borden, the spa owner and my technician, took one look at me and recommended the lightest possible formula—it can be custom blended for a wide variety of skin tones—to turn me from Casper to believably bronzed in about ten minutes. She said it was better to err on the side of too light than too dark because I could turn orange. Even though I had fantasies of a savage tan, I took her advice.
Unlike some sunless tanning formulas that contain scary-sounding chemicals or synthetic dyes, Chocolate Sun is a blend of vitamins, herbs, botanicals, and DHA, a natural ingredient derived from the sugar of a beet. I was all for ditching unpleasant-smelling drugstore self-tanners and spray-booth tanning in favor of a product that promised to be safe and all-natural and that didn’t leave me smelling sour.
There was one unexpected part of the treatment: Instead of sending me to be sprayed by a machine, as at most tanning salons, Honi applied the product using a hand-held spray gun. I’m fairly modest, so having to strip to my undies and twist around in various positions was mildly disconcerting. That said, Honi made me feel comfortable with her upbeat, professional demeanor. Within minutes we were chatting like old friends.
After two applications, from head to toe, back and front, she dried my skin with a hand blower, helped me put on my loose-fitting, dark clothing, and gave me a pair of flip-flops to wear home. She told me not to shower for at least eight hours.
I had the treatment late in the afternoon and went straight out to meet friends. One said I looked healthier, while another assured me that my skin didn’t have that pungent post-tanning smell. If you moisturize religiously and don’t use harsh soaps or scrubs, the tan will last about six days.