Soapbox Saturday: Tandemonium

Today I am dedicating Soapbox Saturday to raise awareness about an issue that, through no lack of effort on the part of experts everywhere, appears to maintain it's status as one of the most frequently-committed atrocities the world over. Severity may vary on a regional basis (hello New Jersey, LA, and Glasgow...), but the problem is pandemic.

The self-tanning pandemic claims another victim
Orange Face Syndrome
photo courtesy LA

I remember very vividly my first experience, in the 1980’s, with a self-tanner (the first of its kind) called QT. QT was short for Quick-Tan, and I am pretty sure anyone who tried this first-generation self-tanner will have a very vivid recollection of it, if only for the fact that it turned you the most delicious shade of Jaffa orange.

Coppertone QT lotion. The origin of the orange face. 

My first time out of the gate, I put on four coats of the stuff. The next day, I wore an unseasonable pair of shorts to school, as you do when you are a teenager in Wisconsin and the temperature crests just above the freezing line (33 degrees? Flip-flop weather, definitely). I pranced around in my shorts that day, the envy of all the school. Absolutely everyone commented on how tan my legs looked, something my teenaged mind not only interpreted as a compliment, but also took as an indicaton of the elevation of my social status. Had any of my admirers gotten just a little bit closer, say, within a five-foot radius, they would have seen the rust-stained crevasses between the fingers of both hands, the brown blotches at the back of my knees, and the iodine-colored rings around my ankles, demarking the end of the self- tanner and the beginning of the virgin skin of my feet (the hallmark of Wisconsin winter-pale teenaged shame).

Two or three days later, it started coming off in chunks. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to what that looked like.

Then there was the time, not so long ago, when I was in the Air Force Band. I couldn’t wait to use my new bottle of really expensive tinted Clarins self-tanner (tinted so you can see where and how much you are putting on. I learn from my mistakes). Tinted Clarins self-tanner vs. light blue shirtsleeve parade uniform. Add hot summer’s day. Long parade, sweaty uniform. Orange sweat, ensuing humiliation. 
Needless to say, orange blotches all over the entirety of one’s duty uniform is not considered regulation by the U.S. Air Force. Huh. Who knew?

And I could no longer blame my stupidity or lack of foresight on being a teenager. I was in my thirties when this happened.

Oh sure, there have been other, less humiliating forays into the self-tanning realm. Even some successes.  I did the spray booth thing once…once. I looked nice when I came out…I guess. But the process is just so…..unpleasant. It stinks, it’s time-consuming, and no matter how good a job you do, or good a job someone else does, there will always be just that little spot here or there (if you’re lucky it’s little) that went awry. That, and you’re just….orange. Maybe not QT orange, but still, it is all a matter of degree. I liken it to people who have a lot of tattoos. Sometimes you lose your objectivity of when a little bit more, and them just a little more still,  is too much. We've all seen it.  I give you, exhibit A:

Top left: Valentino (with Anne Hathaway), Lindsay Lohan, Snooki,
Bottom: Jessica Simpson, The Lohan again, and Will Ferrell (tee hee)

Snort.  Don’t get me wrong. Self-tanners have come a long, long way from the QT days. They are capable of feats of magic not depicted in the photos above. With a light hand, they are fine, I suppose. Hey, if you like it, go for it. My problem is (recurring theme alert) that I just can’t be bothered. As I was doing “research” for this piece (read: surfing the net for hilarious photos of orange tans gone wrong), I typed “how to apply self-tanner” in to Google, and the first piece that came-up was from Wikihow, titled How to Apply Self-Tanner: 7 steps.

Seven steps!? Wikihow, surely you jest. You can resuscitate a human being in less than seven steps. Hell, a mere five steps more and you can become a recovered alcoholic. As a rule, I am diametrically opposed to any single endeavour relating to fashion or beauty that takes seven steps to achieve. This is supposed to be fun, people. If I do something that involves seven steps, surely there must be math involved. Possibly even chemistry or physics…something needs balanced, an equation or something, I’m sure of it.

So for those of you who, like me, cannot bother your arse with self-tanning, I have decided to publish...

 The Official Highland Fashionista One-Step Guide to Achieving a Healthy Glow

STEP 1:     Go outside

And the newly-published companion edition now available....

The Official Highland Fashionista Two-Step Guide to Achieving a Healthy Glow 
For Residents Outside of the UK

                                    STEP 1:     Shmear-on sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
                                    STEP 2:     Go outside

Copyright Highland Fashionista 2012. Available at your local bookseller this spring.


  1. Ooooo I love self-tanner! But yes, there is a trick to it and it takes some practice. Tho I suspect Lindsay Lohan would look like a disaster no matter what she does.

    Skip the spf and just go outside...get some vitamin D...fresh air :O) Gawd I miss warmth and sunshine lol

    1. Believe it or not, we've got the sunshine here in Scotland right now.....albeit not the warmth. And you're right about The Lohan. My theory about that pic is that the active ingredient in self tanner reacts with coke or meth, hence the orange moustache ;)

  2. Bwahahahaha. I have never self-tanned on my born days. Unlikely to begin. Who says white legs are evil?

    1. Exactamundo! White legs can be very chic! Plus, I would rather spend the effort online booking a holiday to an actually sunny place instead of a theoretical one in a bottle

    2. All the untanned people will be laughing their smooth, unwrinkled, un-sun-damaged-skin way to the bank when they are old and the rest of us who thought tanned skin looked good are trying desperately to have our age spots lasered off.

  3. The trick is to use one light coat per week...just during the spring months until the real deal, sunshine-induced color, kicks in!

  4. Put a drop or two of Clarins self tanner in your moisturizer, and you get a slight amount of a glow. Too lazy to try it on my legs.


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