By Dayna Sason


If you’re anything like me, a shade between Casper and a long lost member of the Cullen clan, then the warm weather brings a lot more with it than just shorter skirts and outdoor cafes.

For me, Spring means facing the inevitable fact that was so easily avoidable all winter: I am pale. Painfully, embarrassingly pale. And so, dear readers, I decided to brave the strange world of sunless tanning, all in the name of journalistic inquiry.

First, a little back-story: the last time I stepped foot in a tanning salon, I left with angry, red vertical stripes down my back – just in time for prom. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled about picking up those little tanning goggles again. But visiting City Sun’s new Upper West Side location put all of the sun-burned worries out of my mind and put lovely, coconut smelling memories in their place.

Stepping into City Sun is a little bit like taking a luxury, 12-minute-max vacation. The plush lounge boasts comfy leather seats, complimentary bottled water, and enough glossy gossip mags to make you feel like you’re heading to the beach instead of the UWS. Still, I couldn’t help be a little nervous about subjecting my fair skin to the harsh rays that I have read so much about. But owner Jan Meshon assured me that much of the negative press surrounding indoor tanning is just hype. “As much as some anti-tanning crusaders try to make indoor tanning seem like a scary thing, it is essentially just man-made sunshine,” he said. “Indoor tanning is a great way for people to keep sunshine in their lives, especially here in New York City.”

That doesn’t mean that City Sun is a UVB free-for-all (exposure to UVB rays can cause premature skin aging, eye damage, and even skin cancer). On the contrary, Meshon and his knowledgeable staff work with customers to complete a Skin Type Analysis. “We work with you to develop a tanning schedule that’s appropriate for your skin type and to minimize the risk of sun burning, which should always be avoided,” he said. The highest UVB percentage at City Sun is 2.9%, and the maximum amount of time for any bed is 12 minutes.

The City Sun staff determined my skin type (I’m Type III, or “normal sensitivity,” in case you were wondering) and recommended that I stay in my bed around five minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to find goggles, a folded towel and a personalized chocolate waiting for me inside the P-90, a “bronzer bed” with the low UVB percentage of .9%. I stripped down, turned up the music, and five minutes later emerged to a chilled, scented towel and the beginnings of a faint tan line. City Sun’s relaxed and luxurious atmosphere as well as its knowledgeable and helpful staff made tanning a pleasant and stress-free experience. But be warned: it ain’t cheap. While you can tan for as little as $19 a session, the beds with lower UVB percentages (in which you are less likely to burn) can cost as much as $49 a tan. Packages are available, however, and if you visit now, you can print out a coupon for a buy-one-get-one deal to get your legs short-skirt ready.

If you were hoping to give indoor tanning a try without forking over your cash, then Solar Salon offers an option for even the tightest of wallets: free. That’s right, all first-time customers to either the Upper East Side or Chelsea locations are entitled to a complimentary tan. And if that’s not enough of an incentive, Solar Salon has an awesome referral program: if you refer a friend for the free tan, and said friend ends up purchasing a package, then you are entitled to either a week of unlimited tanning or two free sessions redeemable whenever. Solar also dispenses free “accelerator” lotion to all customers. There are six different formulas of the lotion based on your skin type and the amount of recent sun exposure you have experienced, and a salon attendant can help you determine which formula is right for you.

The lotion is not to be confused with sunscreen, however, as it contains no SPF. In general, you should always apply sunscreen to sensitive areas that you want to protect before getting into a tanning bed: tattoos, freckles, moles, etc. Also, all Solar Salon beds have a 2.8% UVB exposure in the body and 2.2% in the facial bulbs, which means that pale folk like me might not be able to spend much time in the beds. I spent only five minutes in a Solar Salon bed and emerged much pinker than I had after visiting City Sun. But by the next day, the redness had subsided substantially and my coworkers were remarking that I looked “decidedly less pale.” I’ll just go ahead and consider that a success.

But if you are still not convinced and have absolutely no desire to step foot in a tanning salon, don’t forget the age-old self tanner route. Personally, I’ve found that the Jergens™ Natural Glow line is a great option. The lightweight moisturizer allows you to gradually build a healthy, natural looking “tan” without having to worry about unsightly streaks and messy blotches. Jergens has even come out with a firming formula proven to reduce the sight of cellulite.

At the end of the day, being pale isn’t really a bad thing. We fair-skinned ladies should feel just as confident slipping on our strappy sandals and flowy dresses as our bronzed counterparts. But if you’re feeling like you’d like to get a jump on summer and try out a slightly more sun-kissed look, then there are plenty of options out there for you. If not, I hear they’re holding open casting calls for the next Twilight movie.

Happy sunning!

City Sun Tanning
207 W. 75th St. (Between Broadway and Amsterdam) 212-595-9700 OR
50 E. 13th St. (Between Broadway and University Place) 212-353-9700
No appointments necessary. Spray and Stand-up tans also available.

Solar Salon
1568 Second Avenue (Between 82nd and 81st St.) 212-828-5880 OR
55 W. 21st St. (Between 5th and 6th Avenues) 212-242-3749
No appointments necessary. Spray and Stand-up tans also available.

Originally published May 2010



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