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A History of Fake Tanning

In the 2000’s, the spray tan ruled us all

Growing up in a sunny, beachside town in Georgia in the mid-2000s, it was always trendy to be tan. But thanks to my Irish-English roots, I was much more likely to burn and freckle than achieve the summertime bronze glow I so coveted. As I grew into teenagehood, girls with tans were always the most popular — they looked healthy and toned, not pale and sallow. A spray-tan studio opened up downtown the year of my junior prom, and every summer since, I’ve relied on sunless tanning lotions and spray tan booths to transform my vampiric white skin to a light, natural-looking bronze.


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Fake tanning has come a long way, even since my high school days. These days, I go to an organic spray-tan studio in Atlanta, where I strip down to my skivvies for a quick all-over application by a trained tanning professional a few times a month during the spring and summer. There are really only two people who see me completely nude on the regular: my boyfriend and my spray-tan girl.

Follow along to see where the faux glow started, how it’s transformed from chemically dense and orange (looking at you, Paris Hilton) to the shimmering, natural bronze looks we see today.

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