Once upon a time, a terrible, terrible thing happened to me. It left me ashamed and scarred, unable to face my friends and family. I was 60 shades darker on the skin spectrum, and smelled vaguely of burned biscuits and coconut. Yes… I had a tanning disaster.
It all started during the December of 2015. A perilously pale Megan decided to fast-track her way to bronziness by lathering up with some Caribbean Tan tanning mousse (shade A, of course). I had been inside for most of November (exams) and really needed to be able to swim without blinding the others in the pool.
A watched a Youtube tutorial or two, but ended up strictly following Lauren Curtis’s demo of how she achieves an all over sun kissed look. To the tee. I did EXACTLY what she did. You’ll see why this is important later, and why it resulted in me never watching her channel again.
So that night, I awkwardly stand in my bathroom, desperately hoping no one will accidentally walk in while I wait to dry. I do stretches and splits and lunges and leaps in order to make sure I’ve gotten every little piece of my body (who wants a half-tanned back?).
All that I am now left with is what to do with my hands. These were the days before tanning mitts were really available in South Africa (or Dischem at least), so I had used my hands to spread the mousse. In the video, Lauren gets between every finger, knuckle and nail, so as to not have untanned hands. I reckon that I ought to do the same.
I go to bed very carefully, and try to move as little as possible so as to not mess up my soon to be bronzy bod. Come the next morning, I am dragged from the depths of my slumber by loud, obnoxious laughter. My brother.
He’s desperately trying to explain how funny I look, but in my sleepy state, I think “He’s just being weird because you’ve never tanned before”. You know, like how dads are weird when you first wear high heels? Look… Even half asleep I was desperate for this not to be true.
I eventually wake up fully and the first thing I see is my hands. Well, they look like my hands, except they’re brown. Not tanned, but CADBURY-FRIKKIN-CHOCOLATE-BROWN. No. LINDT-50%-COCAO-DARK-CHOCOLATE-BROWN. The rest of my body, my face, arms, legs, torso, are an absolutely terrible shade of dark orange, but in comparison to my hands, I don’t even care.
Immediately I start to panic. First, after a quick Google, I use lemon juice. But after half an hour my bathroom is filled with halved lemons and I am still looking like a leather couch, while my hands look like I’ve dipped them in creosote. I abandon that, and move onto straight nail polish remover. I mean, if it can remove glitter nail polish, it can remove anything, right? Wrong.
My whole body is not burning from the abuse, and after a long while in the shower with a pair of exfoliating mitts, I’m looking only char-grilled. But my hands… oh my hands. They little suckers are clinging to the tan for dear life. Not a single ounce of improvement has been shown. They look like they took themselves off for a mud bath and left the rest of my body behind.
Over the following week I remain indoors as much as possible. I invest in long baths and lots of scrubbing, and eventually my body returns to normal, after having the top five layers of skin removed.
Now, I am only left with the tan gloves. The product has sunk into every nook and cranny, every dry piece of skin had absorbed the mousse like a sponge. Eventually I am forced to leave the house. My mom takes me to shop for Christmas presents, but for the life of me, I cannot face giving the Typo cashier my card. What will she think of my mahogany hands?
After drawing the process out, I spot the boyfriend of one of my friends. We aren’t close. We have only hung out once or twice. But that day, I trusted him with my debit card pin, purely to avoid the horror of anyone else seeing my hands.
On the way home from the ordeal, my mom has one final stop: her friend’s house. She promises that she is just dropping off flowers and that we “won’t go in”. She lied. Her friend insists we come in and my mother (who is generally lovely but this one time was quite evil) agreed. After hysterical laughter from both her and her children, I spend the tea date with my hands in a bucket of Milton’s, which she hopes will gently bleach away the tan.
Plot twist: it doesn’t. Eventually I end up having to use a pumice stone (the foot scrubby stone) to REMOVE THE SKIN ON MY HANDS in order to finally be rid of the Caribbean Tan curse.
Years later, I have perfected my tanning routine to now only look slightly bronzy when I wake up, and I always tan in steps, preferring it to be too light than too dark. But it took many months for me to have the heart to try again after that incident. I suspect it will take years for my family to stop tormenting me about that day though.