Reporters put their bodies on the line to achieve a sun-kissed glow

The Brooklyn Paper

Nothing matches a summer outfit — or bathing suit — better than a tan. Our three fair-skinned writers ventured into Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg and Bay Ridge to achieve tans you might get after a costly week in the Caribbean. Here’s the lowdown on local tanning machines, spray tanning and self-tanning options. Read on to discover the form of tanning that’s a match for your schedule and budget.

Scrub and tan

Self-tanning doesn’t have to be a lonely process. We turned to professional aesthetician, Shalene Persico, of The Spa in Bay Ridge, for their three step “Shake & Bake” treatment.

First things first: your only piece of clothing for the next hour or so is a paper thong. Although it’s not an easy feat for everyone to bare all of one’s flaws to another, Shalene has a very accepting, cheerful attitude that will soon have you looking forward to your imminent tan, rather than hiding embarrassment about those extra pounds
And as Shalene says, a great tan can help to camouflage varicose veins, blemishes and stretchmarks. (Plus, she’ll tell you that she’s seen worse.)

The treatment itself, in a tranquil treatment room with low lighting and soothing music, is extraordinarily relaxing.
The Spa uses the Fake Bake product line, which includes three steps: exfoliation, dry-oil spray and self-tanner. First, Shalene massages the customer from head-to-toe with the Fake Bake passion fruit body polish. The polish smells great and isn’t as drying as a salt scrub.

Then its into The Spa’s shower to rinse off the polish and back to the table for dry-oil spray on typically dry areas and nails. The spray enables the self-tanner to smooth over these areas without leaving dark patches or staining fingernails or toenails.
Then, Shalene applies the Fake Bake tanner. Because it has a tint, she can see — and immediately fix — any imperfections. She can also adjust the level of darkness of the tan to the customer’s wishes.

After applying the Fake Bake tanner, she carefully buffs the skin with a towel to remove excess product and erase errors. This left my skin with a head-to-toe rosy glow beneath my new tan. Because of the buffing, you can immediately get dressed and go out after treatment without waiting to dry or worrying about your clothes (although I wouldn’t recommend wearing white).
The self-tanner gives your skin a natural bronze that’s not at all orange-y. But it also has a tint — Fake Bake calls it their “color guide” — so we could see immediate results and could immediately go out for a night on the town. (The Spa carries another self-tanner, but it takes up to three hours to appear.)

Before you leave The Spa, you have the option of a free, quick makeup touch up. For me, Shalene applied bronzer, eye shadow and mascara for a fresh-from-Monaco look.

The body polish — with its aloe vera, chamomile, yarrow, elder flowers and other botanicals — left my skin smooth, and the tan faded naturally away without leaving behind patches of discoloration. My tan lasted for three days, although Shalene says it can last as long as five to seven days. (Moisturizing — especially with the Fake Bake dry-oil spray — after showering may have helped it to last longer.)

For those who want to maintain their tan, The Spa sells the trio of products ($58) with the gloves so customers can continue applications at home. Because the face fades faster than other parts of the body, a bronzer ($25) can come in handy; The Spa carries bronzers for all skin-types, in several degrees of sparkle that can take you from the office (minimum glitz) to nightclubs (sparkle like a diamond).

Total time spent tanning: 90 minutes; total cost: $95 (plus gratuity).

— Lisa J. Curtis


Melaina Ulino’s full-service salon, DownTime Spa, a tranquil and elegant retreat in Williamsburg with high ceilings and gilded furniture, added its “Beautiful Tan” airbrush tanning line last year.

Vindy Lam, the resident expert technician, applies this all-natural compound with an airbrush sprayer to ensure an even, streakless glow. (And she can get to those hard-to-reach spots you would normally miss with your self-tanner.)

The spraying process is a somewhat noisy and a bit chilly, but the application room is serene and private — as long as you don’t mind Lam’s close inspection of every inch of your epidermis.

(Prior to the spray tan, we recommend getting a full body scrub at a spa, or do-it-yourself, for an even tan. The scrub should also help the spray tan to last longer.)

At DownTime, a disposable paper thong is provided for those who want to further the illusion with tan lines.

The tanning solution, a blend of DHA (dihydroxyacetone, a simple sugar that causes a chemical reaction with amino acids in the surface cells of the skin, producing a darkening effect) and erythrulose (a natural sugar) in an aloe vera and white tea base, dries quickly and doesn’t leave you with a sticky, oily residue. The solution also contains a light bronzer for some instant color.

Ulino recommends waiting a few hours before exercising to avoid sweating off the bronzer.

The full tan takes a few hours to develop, but when it appears, it’s worth it. Unfortunately, for me, the tan faded faster than the promised week; a few days after treatment, I looked more sun-kissed than sun-worshipped, but this tan can be maintained with regular spa visits.

Total time spent tanning: one hour; total cost: $50 (plus gratuity).

— Erin Daly

Sci-fi tanning

The days of feeling your skin simmer as you bathe in your own puddle of sweat for 20 miserable minutes are long gone. Today’s standard tanning machines are sci-fi contraptions with bulbs powerful enough to do their job in just 12 minutes.

But if you’re anything like me — freckles, fair skin, light hair and eyes — start small and work your way up to the big guys.
That is exactly what I did at The Tanning Annex in Carroll Gardens. What consisted of only one tanning booth at the adjacent gym facility, Body Elite, owned by born-and-bred Carroll Gardener, Robert Alimena, is now a separate tanning salon on the floor above, run by Alimena’s wife, Robin Figueroa.

The new top-of-the-line equipment in the year-old facility features three levels of tanning in a total of five machines in addition to the popular spray tanning known as MysticTan. (For more on spray tanning, see “Spray-it-on” above.)

Tanning Annex has a level-one Hex II stand-up machine — the least strong of the three — with thin A bulbs that are spread apart for less potency. The two level-two Sun Dash stand-up booths use the strong B bulbs placed close together for a faster effect. Then there are the two level-three lie-down Ergoline 450 beds, which mix the powerful thick B bulbs with their thin and less strong A counterparts. The Ergoline has an optional facial bronzer, which you can turn on and off while tanning.

As with most tanning salons, your experience starts with the signing of the release form that informs you of the risks and precautions you need to take. The salon is fully stocked with tan-enhancing moisturizing lotions (trial packs are $4-$6 and full-size bottles range between $19.99 and $49.95), because tanning can dry out your skin. Also for sale are SPF-enriched lip balms and glosses and Fresh-Ease after-tan body cloths ($.75 each) to neutralize post-tanning odor.

According to Alimena, having to wait a few hours after tanning before showering is a myth.

“If you think about what UVA is doing,” he said, “it’s working with the melanin in your skin.” So you can treat your skin like you would after a day on the beach — gently.

Wearing protective eyewear when inside a booth is recommended. While The Tanning Annex loans goggles (which they disinfect) free of charge, Alimena recommends purchasing your own pair (available for $3) to minimize risks of eye infection.
The informative receptionist, Marissa Venable, sized up my skin tone and then customized a tan regimen for me.

On my first day, I opted for the lie-down Ergoline 450, because I was looking forward to dozing off for a few minutes. But with this being a level three bed and I being a tanning novice, I only subjected my skin to six minutes of exposure, as recommended by Venable, in order to prevent unwanted burning. The results were hardly noticeable.

The following day, a few hours after I went into the level two Sun Dash for nine minutes, my skin started to change color. As I alternated between the level-two and -three booths during the course of the week, working up to the maximum of 12 minutes in the Sun Dash on my fifth and last visit, my skin went from pale to rosy red and finally to a bronzy tan — as tan as my fair skin will ever get.

But if you’re fair, I suggest spending more time than I did building up to the 12 minutes in the Sun Dash, which left me with a deep shade of red for a day, before it turned into a tan after my last visit.

It’s been a week and a half and my tan is still going strong. I predict it will last two weeks total.

Total time spent tanning: 48 minutes (over five visits); total cost: $81.

— Ajla Grozdanic

DownTime Spa [115 N. Seventh St. at Berry Street in Williamsburg, (718) 218-9680,] offers full body airbrush tanning for $50. Purchase four or more applications and receive 10 percent off the total price. DownTime is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 8 pm, and weekends from 10 am to 7 pm. DownTime accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

The Spa [8806 Third Ave. at 88th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 921-6100,] offers “Shake & Bake” using Fake Bake products (body scrub, dry-oil spray, self-tanner) for $95; customized scrub and tan application: $65; tan application only: $45. Open Monday through Friday, 10 am-9 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 8 am-7 pm. The Spa accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

The Tanning Annex [350 Court St. at Union Street in Carroll Gardens, (718) 858-5057,] offers unlimited tanning in the level one Hex II for $29.95 a month with upgrade options for other machines. Prices per visit are $10 for Hex II (stand-up), $15 for level two Sun Dash (stand-up) and $18 for level three Ergoline 450 (bed). Open Monday through Friday 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

Reader Feedback

anonymous from Park Slope says:
Why go through all that headache. I go to Park Slope tanning salon and get a spray tan that takes less then a minute and i get instant color. I use to self tan but then i got tired of the headache of having it equal. I now go to a tanning salon where it spray tans me from top to bottom evenly throughout in less then a minute including a automatic dryer. Tanning salon 11217 was great.

Save yourself time. You can choose the level of tanning from light, medium and dark. In case there are people who don't believe me they can check it out themselves at Go to the spray tanning tab and you can watch the video.Thank you.
Jan. 4, 2012, 2:56 am
olvia from flatbush says:
Why go through all that headache. I go to Park Slope tanning salon and get a spray tan that takes less then a minute and i get instant color. I use to self tan but then i got tired of the headache of having it equal. I now go to a tanning salon where it spray tans me from top to bottom evenly throughout in less then a minute including a automatic dryer. Tanning salon 11217 was great.

Save yourself time. You can choose the level of tanning from light, medium and dark. In case there are people who don't believe me they can check it out themselves at . Go to the spray tanning tab and you can watch the video.Thank you.
Jan. 12, 2012, 7:31 am

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