As a man with ginger hair I have had to accept that I will never be capable of having a proper sun tan. It is scientifically impossible. My light hair and pale sensitive skin means that I get third degree burns even when just thinking about spending five minutes exposed to sun light. Most vampires are capable of achieving a healthier sun tan than I ever will be.
Maybe that is why, during my mid 20s, I decided to do something about it. Something that quickly became an addition to the list of stupid things I did in my mid 20s. I decided to get a fake sun tan.
First I had to figure out how someone went about getting a fake sun tan so, one Saturday afternoon, I walked into the local Body Shop in Haarlem and started asking questions. This resulted in a few strange looks from the people who ran the shop, mostly because I don’t look like the kind of person who would normally walk into a Body Shop and start asking questions about fake sun tan products.
It didn’t help that I had to ask them to explain everything in tiny, step by step detail because I could not read the Dutch instructions of the products they recommended.
I then confused them even farther with my reaction after they informed me that I would need two different kinds of fake sun tan dye; one for my body and one for my face.
“But I can just use one for both right? It’s all just skin.” I asked.
“I would not recommend it.” Replied the shop attendant, looking worried in a way that suggested she ‘really’ would not recommended it.
“It’s ok. I’ll just take the body dye, thanks.” I replied, not picking up on the rather obvious hint at the time.
I returned home, happy that I would soon have a sexy tan. I entered the bathroom, stripped naked and started applying my fake sun tan body dye… everywhere. Soon I would have an amazing tan… or so I thought.
When I looked in the mirror a short while later I discovered that things had gone horribly wrong. I’d left the dye on for too long, far too long. It had had almost half an hour to soak into my skin. I had turned completely brown. Not a healthy sun tan brown but a ‘I just had an accident with a tin of brown paint’ kind of brown. I looked like an out of season Zwarte Piet.
To make matters even worse it seemed that I had not distributed the dye evenly. My new sun tan was rather more ‘patchy’ than you would expect from the real thing. Between my fingers, for example, the dye had been able to accumulate and had turned the sides of each digit extremely dark in comparison to the rest of my hand. I won’t mention the other bodily crevices where this had happened but there were a few, some easily visible, some more private.
There is a serious problem when it comes to using fake sun tan dye. If you mess it up (as I had done quite spectacularly) you can’t simply remove it. You have to wait it out until it fades away a few weeks later. This meant that I had to return to work on the Monday looking like I had fallen into an entire vat of industrial strength sun tan dye when I had left on the Friday as the palest and whitest guy in the office. Obviously, no one was fooled by my fake sun tan. In hindsight, it probably didn’t help that it was already October.
For the next few weeks everyone was asking if what I had done had been by choice or if I had somehow been forced into it. I had to reply, “neither.”
By the end of November my skin had finally returned to a more normal colour for someone of my complexion (just in time for the real Zwarte Pieten to show up).
I told myself that I would never do anything as stupid ever again as long as I lived… That was until a few months later when someone convinced me that I would look good with blond hair with brown patches. Hair dye also takes a few weeks to wash out.