Sun-Safe Beauty Boom: The Resurgence of Fake Tan in the Age of Skin Health
In a surprising twist, fear of sun damage has propelled the sales of innovative tanning products to new heights, but this isn’t a resurgence of the old orange-tinted mishaps. What do household names like Martha Stewart, Ken from the latest Barbie film, and the savvy Generation Z have in common? It appears that this diverse group shares a newfound love for fake tanning.
Martha Stewart, at the age of 81, swears by the confidence boost she got from a spray tan aka fake tan before gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. Ryan Gosling, who portrays Ken in Barbie, had a personal tanner on set to ensure his perfect bronze glow. Experts have also noted that the sun-conscious Generation Z is driving a surge in fake tan sales, giving rise to a wave of new brands and products.
London-based tanning expert James Harknett exclaims, “I’m getting over 200 requests a week; it feels like we’re back in 2008 again. Everyone wants one of the fake tans spray tans.”
The United Kingdom has entered a new “bronze age of the fake tan.” While previous generations relied on sunbathing and sunbed sessions to achieve a tan, today’s younger crowd seeks ways to appear tanned without exposing themselves to harmful UV rays. On TikTok, the hashtags #faketan and #faketanroutine have garnered billions of views. George Driver, a beauty editor at Elle UK, notes, “Gen Z is much more aware of skin cancer and general sun damage. Wearing an SPF on the face has become part of their daily skincare routine. No one wants a natural tan.”
As a result, a slew of new brands have entered the market. These emerging brands prioritize skincare, aim to redefine the image of fake tanning, and embrace inclusivity, offering products tailored to people of all skin tones. Say goodbye to telltale orange-stained hands and the dreaded “Oompa Loompa” effect. In their place are clear drops that users can mix with their moisturizers and gradual tanning products designed to match various undertones beneath the skin’s surface.
Beauty consultant Cassie Steer dubs this trend the “skinification” of tanning. Brands like Tan-Luxe incorporate ingredients like hyaluronic acid for skin plumping, while Beauty Pie includes niacinamide (a form of vitamin B) to prevent skin dryness. Steer emphasizes, “It’s all about the undetectable tan. People want to look healthy, and the era of an obvious and blanket tan is over.”
Makeup artist Lisa Potter-Dixon even arranged a “pre-holiday tan” for her friends, complete with a professional spray-tanner operating in her garden. “A fake base tan gives you more confidence on arrival,” she explains. “We all know we shouldn’t be out in the sun as much. On top of that, I’ll wear SPF 50. You still get tanned, but that fake base gives you a lovely, safe glow.”
It has been two decades since former American sportswear model Jimmy Coco revolutionized the spray-tanning industry. In 2003, he introduced the world’s first mobile spray-tanning kit, known as the “Bomb,” which changed how Hollywood celebrities prepared for red carpet events. Coco continues to see growing demand for his services, offering more than just a tan. He helps clients contour their bodies, enhance their best features, and create a three-dimensional and natural effect.
Coco shares some of his trade secrets, saying, “I always tan the face lighter than the body, which results in a more natural appearance. I can also create the illusion of a butt lift, which celebrities like Kim Kardashian love.”
Harknett reveals that half of his clients are now men who have abandoned sunbeds. With the release of the Barbie movie in July, insiders predict a “Ken effect” on the horizon, albeit more subtle than the movie version. Kimberley Nkosi, a celebrity tan artist who spent three months on set, explains, “In the film, Ryan as Ken is meant to look like he is wearing fake tan.” Nkosi used a custom-blended water-based tan from Isle of Paradise to match Gosling’s undertones, ensuring that he looked his best under the lights and in front of the camera.
While Nkosi tanned other cast members, including Hari Nef and Emma Mackay, Margot Robbie chose to embrace her own skin color. Nkosi reflects, “It’s Margot’s own skin color. There was talk of tanning her, but then it was decided against. Perhaps they thought it could be a bit of a cliche.” H