Hugh Laurie and co. may be leading the charge in the rise of "the retrosexual" in the UK, but after being asked for the thousandth time by one of the guys in our office what the point of beauty products (ie. the basis of my job) are I snapped. We're having an office makeover, I declared. And so, over the course of the week you'll see the guys adopt our weekly grooming rituals — spray tans, brow waxes and facials — as we attempt to not only give them an insight into our world, but also to see if we can encourage them to be a bit more open minded when it comes to splashing the cash to look after your skin. As well as being a fun read for you, they're also worth bookmarking for your husband, boyfriend or guy mates. Because if we can turn one pasty Scotsman into a spray tan convertee, there's hope for everyone!
As part of BellaSugar's Man About Town makeover series, Mark Serrels, editor of Kotaku Australia, volunteered his pale pasty Scottish body to Science, receiving a full body spray tan in the name of colour, vanity and a boundless sense of narcissism. This is his story.
Keep reading . . ."Am I supposed to use this," I ask, impatiently, holding a tube containing exfoliate or something. "Then what? What am I supposed to scrub myself with?"
I am completely naked, in my bathroom. My wife gestures towards a body scrubber. It looks like a mild, medieval torture device.
"First you have to scrub your entire body with that scrubber."
"Then you have to moisturise. Everywhere."
"My entire body?" I ask, timidly, suddenly aware that I am naked.
Panic sets in.
Tomorrow I’m getting a spray tan — a spray tan. Not that I don’t need one. I grew up in Scotland, with an absence of consistent sun and the skin tone of a jaundiced sea bass. The Procul Harem song a "Whiter Shade of Pale" was written in prophecy of my pigment-free hue.
Having been sunburnt more times than I care to remember, in search of that mythical beast the ‘healthy tan’, I had often considered ‘faking it’ — particularly after living in Australia for four years, where beaches are populated with bronzed Adonis after bronzed Adonis. But it always seemed perilously close to ‘the line’.
Unsurprisingly, I’m naked. Again. In front of me is a strange set of underwear I‘m supposed to be wearing. It’s a G-string of sorts, and it appears to be made of paper. At least it feels like it.
Next to the disposable underwear is, randomly, a shower cap.
A knock on the door.
“Are you ready? Can I come in?”
It’s Lee-Ann, my spray tanner.
“Uh… just a second.”
I scramble into the disposable underwear. I genuinely don’t know if I’ve put it on properly. Is the fabric heavy area supposed to be at the back hiding my buttocks, or at the front providing . . . the necessary support. A thought instantly flashes through my head — do I really want a visible tan line on my buttocks?
This is the point of no return. This is happening. I may as well just accept it.
According to Lee-Ann, the process is simple. I stand, in various positions, whilst she sprays every part of my body with a solution intended to make me look a little bit browner — just as advertised.
It occurs to me, as I stand here, almost naked, that this is an ever so slightly awkward situation. For me at least. Lee-Ann is oblivious and seems highly comfortable, manoeuvring around my pasty body, applying the spray, coaching me, adjusting my body when the need arises.
“It can sometimes be awkward,” she says, as she continues to spray, “but mostly that's because the client is awkward. I’m completely fine with it.
“The only problem is that some guys, they want an all over tan, so they’re completely naked! But only some girls agree to do that.”
Is Lee-Ann one of those girls? Has she ever given someone the 'full body treatment'?
“No! I don’t know if my husband would like that much,” she laughs, flashing her wedding band.
I get curious — has Lee-Ann’s other half ever been the recipient of a spray tan.
“Oh yeah, totally,” she says. “He’s come in a few times, but I usually just end up doing it at home.
“He loves it.”
My two coats are now done. I have been thoroughly sprayed, and it’s time for me to leave.
“Now, don’t forget,” begins Lee-Ann, “you can’t go for a shower for the next eight hours at least. The tan will get really strong, at first, but after your first shower it starts looking natural.”
“When guys get a spray tan, it can’t be too extreme,” she explains, “it’ll just end up looking ridiculous. You want it to be noticeable, but subtle.”
I arrive in the office — to rapturous applause. Immediately the girls have me surrounded.
Inside I swell with a strange pride. I’m happy with how I look — but concurrently I become aware of a tug in the opposite direction, a second internal voice reminding me of my own narcissism. I just stood motionless for 20 minutes whilst a girl sprayed a foreign substance over my entire body, all to serve my own selfish vanity.
What does that say about me?
And that’s the constant struggle — that’s what it means to walk the line. It’s a constant balancing act, and everyone has to find his or her comfort zone. I wonder if I’ve somehow pushed past mine . . .
Honestly? I don’t think so. I haven't crossed the line — I'm simply navigating it.
Mark had his St Tropez spray tan at Fifty Four Park Street. Images (top to bottom): Mark pre-spray tan; Mark showing off his white bits after his natural-looking spray.