Being fair-skinned, I’ve always been somewhat of an odd one among my four naturally-olive-tanned sisters. For several years of my childhood I was addressed as “Casper the Ghost” in my household. True sibling love.
So when I decided to test out the Chocolate Sun organic sunless tan at Georgetown’s newly-opened Nectar Skin Bar, I did so with bittersweet apprehension: I was afraid the experience might make for one of those orange-skin horror stories I’d heard from friends. And while an authentic-looking tan is something I’d always wanted, I’ve never been willing to risk the long-term damage that can come from laying out in the sun—the dangers of harsh UV exposure are just too scary. But a sun-kissed glow from safe, natural ingredients? I couldn’t say no.
What I didn’t know is how much pre-care is involved in sunless tanning: It’s important prior to any airbrush treatment that your skin be exfoliated, your face makeup-less, and your body free of perfumes and oils. The textures and ingredients of these products could interfere with the way the airbrush solution interacts with your skin and ultimately the shade of your tan. Exfoliating rids the skin of such impurities and leaves a bare palette on which to paint your caramel complexion.
A spray-tan newbie, I wasn’t prepared for any of this. When I arrived at the spa, a classy, violet-hued rowhouse, the staff happily supplied me with soft towels, a mineral-based cleanser, and a private room to remove my makeup and exfoliate.
On the way to the treatment room, I passed displays of vegan and eco-friendly makeup and skincare products that lined Nectar’s shelves, showing off high-end brands like SpaRitual, Darphin, and Comfort Zone. The shop has exclusive rights to some organic labels.
During the tan, Kimmie Worley, the Calfornia-based Chocolate Sun technician who trained Nectar’s staff, made a point to keep me informed of what was going onto my skin at all times. The cool and velvety “chocolate” formula contains cocoa beans full of antioxidant properties, she told me, keeping my attention on the quality of the product and away from the fact that I was semi-nude in front of a woman I’d just met. She chose a lighter mix that she assured me wouldn’t shock my fair complexion.
The solution needs eight hours to fully develop on the skin, Kimmie told me, during which time clients must be ultra-careful not to come in contact with water; you can’t shower or wash your hands until that window passes. A bit of product made its way onto my white top, but unlike non-organic solutions, Chocolate Sun’s is water- and sugar-based, so it’ll wash out.
Unlike traditional spray tans, Chocolate Sun’s formula is finished with SPF 30, which provided me with much-needed protection against the bright sun that greeted me when I left the spa. Tests have shown that a key ingredient in sunless tanners—dihydroxyacetone (DHA)—leaves the skin especially susceptible to sun damage.
Go figure the sunny day would soon be interrupted by an out-of-nowhere rainstorm, sending me into panic mode as I attempted to prevent what seemed like golfball-sized droplets from soiling my fresh glow. Only my feet were affected, and a light blot with a damp towel fixed the appearance quite nicely. The herbs and botanicals in Chocolate Sun replace odor-forming chemicals and perfumes found in other mixes, so I’m not left smelling like I just walked out of a science lab.
That was Monday. Today, I’m showing off the clean, natural-looking glow I’ve wanted, but never thought I could have.
The Chocolate Sun Organic Sunless Tan treatment is available to customers starting today. It costs $50 for the full body, and $25 for face, arms, and chest. To make an appointment, call 202-333-4332.