Ready…Set…Faux! Achieve the Perfect Sunless Tan at Sundara Salon

I am unabashedly a tanorexic. I spent a lot of time baking in the sun or in tanning parlors. About ten years ago, a disturbing UV picture exposed the extent of my sun damage and scared me pale…for about a week.

Pale is cool. Really. It’s just not me, so I invested in self tanners, exfoliants and latex gloves. I lived with slightly orange skin, dark palms and funky elbows for years. No matter how carefully I applied the lotions, sprays, and creams – my skin tone was always too gold, too orange or uneven. I tried expensive spa tan applications, misting booths and airbrushing. I looked darker, sometimes browner, but always with an odd gold cast that did not flatter my yellow toned complexion. Bronzers? They just made my face look dirty.

The Sunless Tanning gods were smiling the day I discovered Sundara, (Sanskrit word that means beautiful) the sunless tanning haven specializing in customized air brush spray tanning. Dressed in black, loose fitting clothes and praying that it would not rain (water and sweat are no-nos for the first 12 hours), I met with Sundara’s senior technician, Natalie Cupid (a portent that I would love my tan?). Unlike many salons, sunless tanning is Sundara’s only service. Sundara has spent years developing its hypo-allergenic solutions, researching and developing its custom color matching system, training its technician(s), and building a state-of the art facility.


Sundara’s atmosphere is warm and opulent, unlike most salons, which seem sterile and cold. Natalie put me at ease immediately. I was conversing with an expert; a specialist not unlike a hair colorist. She evaluated my skin tone (yellow), asked me if the tan was for a special occasion (a vacation in the Caribbean) and listened patiently to my sunless tanning experiences. We agreed on a medium to deep tan with reddish, not golden tones (recommended for olive, medium and darker skin tones). Natalie would create my very own formula that could improve on my own natural tan (brown), which often needed blush. My personal formula (level 10, red-brown, three coats) is now on file, and includes detailed notes on depth of color and tones used.

Natalie was personable and professional; I felt totally comfortable being sprayed “au natural”. She coated my finger and toe nails with clear latex to protect from staining, then she airbrushed my body and face three times to achieve a “just got back from Mustique” color. Within minutes, as I stood in the “drying’ area, 10 fans warmed my body and my sunless tan was set. I left Sundara, beautifully bronzed, and armed with a list of “dos and don’ts” for the next week (Don’t shower or get wet for about 12 hours; Do rinse any excess color off without soap after 12-24 hours; Do wait another hour before washing completely; Do not exercise or swim for a day or two and Do moisturize, moisturize, moisturize at least twice daily for a week).


Natalie has an expert eye and a steady hand, creating different color tones and depths depending on the individual skin type. According to Santiago, owner and founder of Sundara, it’s unlikely that clients have the same exact formula. He told me, “We generally use different solutions for people with different hair color, eye color, and skin tones. A red-brown color formula works well with clients who have a moderate to dark complexion, darker hair and people of Mediterranean, or Latino descent. A fair blonde client, in contrast, generally receives more of a golden-light brown look because the golden undertone tends to complement the hair and eyes and look more natural with their skin tone.”

My tan was totally natural and impeccably applied. I followed instructions carefully and was “the Girl from Ipanema” for six days. I exercised on day three. I swam on day four and by day six the fade was even, not patchy.


I used a few new products that enhanced my new coloration and prolonged my sunless tan. Sundara’s Coconut Body Butter, is an amazing moisturizer; melts into the skin, ensures a deep, long-lasting bronze and promotes a clean fade. Its fabulous scent is like an aphrodisiac; my husband was sniffing my skin and smiling a lot. Look for Sundara to introduce a full line of sunless tan care this Spring, including an at home sunless tanner. Jemma Kidd’s Perfect Tan Bronzing Trio, (available at Bergdorf Goodman’s) is absolutely the most genius bronzer, and all I needed to look polished. When mixed with Sundara’s Coconut Body Butter, the bronzer refreshed my color on days five and six. Finally, I applied Laura Mercier’s Baked Earth Stickgloss (available at which plumped and colored my lips perfectly.

Want a tan, but don’t want to leave home? Sundara offers house calls, especially popular with brides and with couples. “We have lots of couples. In many cases, it is the woman bringing her boyfriend or husband to the salon – against his will”, Santiago notes, “The man will stand there before the session and say “I can’t believe I’m getting a spray tan – honey, never tell any of my friends about this! After the session, he will stand there in the mirror for twenty minutes, marveling at his complexion, and asking about our package deals!”

According to Santiago, Valentine’s Day is a very popular time of year, so make your appointments in advance.

Sundara Airbrush Tanning
429 W. 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 956-1830

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