"The fake tan horror story that still haunts me, ten years later."

It was a Sunday afternoon when I bought my first bottle of fake tan…in secret. 

I was 15. I was pasty AF. And I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, especially when it came to my face… but also my body.

You see, everyone else in Year 10 had started fake tanning. We were coming into spring, and as young women we were beginning to realise that when you’re ‘hot’ the world treats you better.


This was...legit me. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

I'd always resented my milky white skin, the kind that goes blotchy purple when it gets too cold. And gives people anxiety when they spot you in the sun without a rashie on.

Fake tan was new and hip. All the groovy kids were doing it. So I decided to try it out.

Being transparently white was the least of my issues. I wish this image was not supplied.

So there I was with my $10 bottle from Coles. Within it would be a magic serum to finally make me look like a Victoria's Secret Angel. It was all that was standing between me and hotness, me and eternal happiness, me and Leonardo f*cking DiCaprio.

I was surprised when I went to apply it that it looked like moisturiser. It wasn't brown or orange. I didn't read the instructions because, um, instructions are dumb and also #lifestooshort.

I applied a layer. And nothing. I looked the same. 

"It mustn't be working," I thought.

So I applied another layer.

Common. Why aren't I tanned yet? Image via Giphy.

Still nothin'.

Other than smelling like curry, I was mostly unchanged.

So I applied another, and then another.



Flick through some beauty products that absolutely, definitely work. Post continues below. 


After about ten layers of it, when I still couldn't see any difference, I went to bed completely deflated.

I woke up on Monday morning quite excited because I was getting an award. A special one - for public speaking. I'd like to reiterate, my milky white skin was the least of my problems. At 15 I was excited about a public speaking award for goodness sake. 


Anyway, I made my way into the bathroom and was confronted with my own reflection. It was borderline traumatising.

What...WTF is that. Image via Giphy.

To this day I have never seen anything like it.

No one had TOLD me that fake tan out of a goddamn bottle is goddamn gradual and one layer is GODDAMN ENOUGH.

What I saw wasn't body. It was a burnt orange body. Like an ugly, ugly orange on a young woman who was clearly white. Oh, and it was also extremely blotchy.

So I scrubbed and scrubbed. And then I cried and I scrubbed again. I couldn't miss school because I was getting that award. But I looked so stupid...but the award...but my face...

My uniform was light blue so it really did wonders for my startling complexion. Eventually I convinced myself it looked much better than it did 15 minutes ago, and I made the mistake of leaving my house.

I looked worse than this. Like significantly. Image via Getty.

I've never...I can't explain...what it feels like to be stared at all day within a school of a thousand girls. It must be what it's like to be Donald Trump or something. No one can look away but it's because they think you look like an idiot. 

Just after lunch, it was time for assembly.

I had worked very hard to get my public speaking award and this WOULD be my moment. I'd never been afraid of being on stage until it looked like I had some flesh eating disease that also smelt a lot like... bad food.

Ask Bossy answers a listener's question: Should I get a spray tan before I give birth? Post continues below.

The award was announced, and I walked up to receive it. I'd love to say it was better than I expected but it was infinitely worse.

There were sniggers. There were comments. There were whispers about " that is a really bad fake tan". Guys, no one even cared that I had received a very important public speaking award. No one. 

I don't think anyone even noticed what the award was about. They were too distracted. And when I sat back at my seat I was met with looks of pity and disdain. Some people actually looked angry that I had failed so badly at being a woman.

I was asked what went wrong at least 50 times that day, and even though I tried to laugh it off, by 9:45am it just so wasn't funny anymore.

It took more than a week to rid myself of that god-awful fake tan. And to this day it still haunts me.

I now use it sparingly and, um, always read the instructions because it turns out they're not all that dumb after all.

Take some comfort in knowing that you might have had the odd fake tan sweat patch, or stained bed linen, but it can't be nearly as bad as the nightmare that was standing in front of my school the shade of a pumpkin.