The Ultimate Vegas Tan
by emma trotter
In a tucked-away salon on Paradise Road, across the street from Hard Rock, is Bronzed, the creative hub of Vegas’s thriving spray-tan industry. It’s here that founder Terry Hunter, who did his first tan just eight years ago, will now often notch up 14-hour days just to keep up with demand.
“I’ve averaged 400 new people a month since January,” says Hunter, who’s become the go-to guy for everyone from Holly Madison to Jenna Jameson and tans A-list celebrities such as Demi Lovato. “People hear about me on Twitter, get off the plane, and come straight to my door. Celebrities come in, get sprayed, and then go straight to the red carpet. That’s how natural it looks. And then it gets darker as the night wears on.”
Las Vegans aren’t alone in our fixation with faking it. A recent report singled out self-tanning as one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the US (with revenue due to increase by more than 18 percent in 2012). The boom is fueled by a more sun-savvy population; we’re hyper-aware of the aging effects of the sun, have just said no to sun beds (after research found that people who have spent more than 50 hours in a tanning bed are three times more likely to develop melanoma than those who’ve never tanned indoors), and are increasingly well-versed in the health dangers of UV rays.
Still, in Vegas’s body-conscious culture, being pasty poolside is a beauty faux pas: No socialite would dare step into a summer social situation (or have her picture taken at one) without a bronzy, golden glow. “Our eight-month summer means that this is the city of the year-round tan,” says KLAS-TV 8 News Now This Morning anchor Dayna Roselli, who despite being 100 percent Italian still feels she needs to boost her color. “We have this legacy of dancers and performers with coppery, rich fake tans. But the reality is that Las Vegans aspire to a classy, natural-looking color.”
With a few basic rules, one five-minute tanning appointment can now last for more than a week. “Be showered the day of and shaved and exfoliated the day before, or at least eight hours before,” Hunter says. “That way, the hair follicle is right where you want it to be. And you must have bonedry skin. If you forgot and put lotion on after your shower, we have ways to wipe it off.” To extend your tan, Hunter advises avoiding high-pH soaps, petroleum and mineral oils, as well as pools and Jacuzzis, all of which contain severe drying agents that prematurely strip off tans.
Our predilection to bronze means that we’ve developed buying habits normally found in beachside cities like Miami and LA. According to Sephora skincare merchant/buyer Kate Gronso, self-tanners have become a “beauty staple” for Las Vegas, with sales on the increase across all four of its local stores. And when it comes to faking it, we don’t scrimp on cost, she says, making a beeline for the most cutting-edge foundations: “St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, which contains Aromaguard technology to nix unpleasant smells, and Perfekt Matte Body Perfection Gel, which promises fleck-free color and hydration, are two Vegas favorites.”
The list of need-to-own products grows by the day. Nordstrom carries the peptide-packed range of products from cult British skincare company Rodial (beloved by Victoria Beckham), and the line’s fast-drying Rodial Brazilian Tan Airbrush is a top seller at Cosmopolitan’s crown jewel of high-end beauty products, Skins 6|2. “Tanning is such a huge part of the Vegas experience,” says Rodial’s founder, Maria Hatzistefanis. “Vegas customers are all about looking and feeling amazing, whether they’re relaxing with cocktails by the pool or partying the night away. A fabulous tan is the perfect accessory.”
I personally have my go-to “between” spray appointments routine down to a fine art: Victoria’s Secret lotion for a shimmery base layer, followed by a thick layer of Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs makeup in Medium Glow, and a top coat of Lorac’s popular TANtalizer Body Bronzing Luminizer.
Is it a real tan or a fake? As with many things in Vegas, the fun is in not being able to tell.
photography by bonnie holland