Should you get a spray tan?

Getting a spray tan as a male can be an intimidating experience but thankfully, GQ's test pilot, Jim Chapman, has tested the waters and the results are brilliant.

GQ’s Test Pilot, Jim Chapman, puts spray tans to the test and the results may surprise you…

By Jim Chapman, GQ

Until yesterday I had only ever had one spray tan and it was a traumatic experience. I was working in Dubai and was supposed to look like I’d been there for a few days, but I ended up looking like I’d recently returned from Venus. I’d asked the sprayer to keep it natural, but apparently that wasn’t an option. According to him, it went on and I got what I got: a dirty-orange hue that nobody would actually turn when exposed to sunlight.
I’m not a great sun worshipper. When it decides to put its hat on, you can usually find me slathered in factor 50, hiding under a tree. Not because I don’t tan, but because I don’t enjoy slowly cooking myself and I’m scared of skin cancer. But it’s summer now and I want the best of both worlds. I want to be able to hide under my tree and still look sun-kissed. Cue my second spray tan.

I went to see James Harknett at the Away Spa in the W London hotel and was made to feel at ease as soon I arrived. For one thing, he’s a lovely guy, but he’s also brilliant at his job. He listens in the way a good hairdresser should, so rather than just sticking me in his booth and giving me the tan equivalent of a short-back-and-sides, he was inquisitive about my lifestyle, the purpose of the spray and any concerns I may have (I had lots). By the time I stripped down to my boxers, I was quietly confident that I might not come out looking like a complete tit.

I work out about five times a week and eat well, so I’m in pretty decent nick, but I’ve never got my body where I want it to be. Looking in the mirror after application, though, I couldn’t help but smile at how I looked. All that work in the gym had been paying off – only being “pale and interesting” hadn’t done it any justice.

After the initial chat, the process takes about ten minutes. You strip down to your tighty-whiteys and step into the booth, then Harknett sprays. He’s like an artist at work, considering every approach, applying a natural gradient where necessary and giving instruction on how to stand. I found the entire thing really interesting, although I didn’t enjoy having my face done – I was reluctant to inhale what I assumed would be a bunch of nasty chemicals. But I needn’t have feared: the solution is natural and made mostly of sugar.

The longevity of your new tan depends on your skin type and how much time you are willing to invest in it. I was advised to keep my showers cooler than usual and was given moisturiser to prolong the glow for up to five or six days. Seeing as the spray sticks to dead skin, those with a dry physique will lose it faster as skin flakes off. The aim is to keep the skin in as good a condition as possible. That means moisturising daily and only sloughing it away when it starts to look a little worse for wear.

Harknett kept my tan light and natural to break me in gently and I would suggest similar baby steps to other newbies, though it’s worth noting that more is on offer. Harknett helps formulate the product he uses and knows exactly what to do with it, so whereas my first foray into artificial tanning was rushed, sticky and left me orange, Harknett took his time and seemed to be a firm believer in less being more. He can give you a light dusting, as he did with me, or a deep, golden glow if you’re a seasoned pro. He can even contour your abs, chest and biceps, making you appear more defined.

I’m surprised to say that I’m converted. Sure, it’s not something I’ll be doing fortnightly, but that’s mainly because finding the time and booking it in is added admin I don’t fancy doing. And if I’m being honest with myself, my grooming regime is low-maintenance and in order to keep your tan tip-top you do need to think ahead and moisturise often, commitments I’m not ready to make just yet. That said, I would definitely pop in for a subtle pick-me-up before heading abroad or doing a big shoot.


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Men's Magazine: Should you get a spray tan?
Should you get a spray tan?
Getting a spray tan as a male can be an intimidating experience but thankfully, GQ's test pilot, Jim Chapman, has tested the waters and the results are brilliant.
Men's Magazine
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