I get burned by all these tanning ideas

Sunday, July 24, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:26 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

I grew up in an age where tanned bodies were beautiful bodies. There was no Surgeon General warning about the effects of the sun, just huge highway billboards with the Coppertone baby baring her white bottom to the world.

All my friends sported deep, dark tans by mid-May. And although I have dark hair (now from a bottle), I have fair skin and could never achieve the desired dark hue. Two reasons come to mind; one I HATE lying in the sun sweating, and two, when I did expose my body to the sun, I’d either burn or freckle. OK, maybe there were three reasons. Did I ever mention that I was pudgy as a youth? The last thing I wanted was to get nearly naked with a bunch of girls who thought a size 8 was fat. So I spent my teenage years lily white, which now I am told is a good thing.

After my third child, I had abdominal stretch marks that looked like a railway station. Some fool told me that tanning them would make them disappear. I stripped down to my underwear, hauled a lounge chair to the back yard and fell asleep. I almost had to have skin grafts to repair the burns.

When tanning beds came into vogue, I was one of the first in line to try out this new concept. Only 20 minutes in the metal bunk, and within days I would have the perfect tan I had always wanted. The first two visits went great, and I was beginning to see some results. On the third visit, the attendant told me that I was in luck. She had just changed the bulbs in the bed I was to use. While I was lying there, I thought I smelled something odd. When the little buzzer sounded, I got out of the bed and noticed that my nylon panties were melted to my skin. Once the blisters healed, I had a perfect lace imprint from the waistband of the underwear.

Then came the era of tanning potions, and I thought I had finally found the answer. No more would I walk around as white as my shorts. Fat looks better tanned, and if I have to use chemicals to achieve “the look,” so be it.

I think I’ve tried every brand on the market. But I have several problems with these wonder lotions. The first one I tried turned my skin orange. I walked around for days with my skin screaming FAKE.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to spread any of the solutions evenly on my skin. I follow the directions implicitly. First I defoliate my skin to rid it of all the dead skin. I use a soft Brillolike pad and scrub so hard I’ve been known to draw blood. The directions say to use a little less on the elbows, knees and ankles. How do you do that? It’s a liquid for Pete’s sake. Those areas usually end up looking as if they’re bruised. One time I decided to skip the troublesome areas. That doesn’t work either. It looked as if I had a pigment disease.

And I can’t seem to reach all the way around my leg (especially the thigh area). I have whole sections that end up tanless because my arms are too short or I ran out of strength with so much area to cover. Once, I went back and tried to cover the spots that I missed — BIG MISTAKE. The areas already covered got darker and I looked like a Calico cat.

Tanning toes is a challenge. I haven’t mastered the technique, so the lotion pools between each digit and it looks like I’ve been playing in dirt.

Putting these self-tanners on the face is also frustrating. I smear the goop all over my face and neck. But what about the ears? I’ve tried including them but the result is the same as the toes.

I learned the hard way that washing my hands with SOAP is a must. Once I just rinsed them off with water. Several hours later my palms were almost as dark as my arms. I also learned never to use a white towel when drying my hands. I have a pile of “dyed” towels that I use as rags.

The “tan” gradually fades away – operative word is gradually. Every streak or blob refuses removal no matter how hard I scrub. So if you see me this summer wearing pants and a long sleeved blouse when it’s nearly 100 degrees, feel sorry for me. It means I screwed up again.

Note: Although I wrote this column more than four years ago, I’m embarrassed to admit that nothing has changed. I am still suntan impaired. And please don’t tell me about the air brush tans. I have a friend who does this professionally but I won’t even let HER see me up that close.

If you have any comments or know of a pill that I can just swallow and tan please e-mail me at

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