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For Tan, Push Button: Biter goes in search of the farmer tan cure.

The 60-Second Tan


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WHEN BITER USED to watch those obnoxious ads for Earl Scheib's auto body shop--you know, the ones where he used to howl, "Riiiiiiiiiiiight! I'll paint any car for $99.95"--we never dreamed that some day such an offer might apply to human beings.

Mystic Tan® is a new technology that is purported to deliver the perfect spray-on tan. The spray is delivered via a standup booth. You just drop your linen, step in, close the door and press a green button. A few seconds later, three patented MagneTan nozzles hose you down you from head to toe. Then you turn around, and they do your backside. The only precaution needed is a little coat of blocker gel for your fingernails, toenails and palms, all of which can get somewhat stained by the process. It actually takes longer to remove your clothes and apply the gel than it does to get sprayed.

The idea sounds bizarre, but since Biter has been suffering the humiliation of a farmer's tan for the last year or so, we were interested to find out that Jessica Wittmayer's new Los Gatos beauty salon, Coco Cabana, was offering Mystic Tan technology. We headed over to 290 E. Main St.--right next to the 7-Eleven and across from the high school--to pursue the farmer-tan cure.

Coco Cabana itself goes for a quasi-tropical feel, with carrot-colored walls and numerous chairs and pillows to lounge on. The Latin tunes crank away, and the welcoming staff meticulously tend to their duties. Inside the rectangular, blue tanning booth, you feel as if you're going through a car wash.

Granted, going through a car wash without a car is not most people's idea of a good time, and it's a little creepy to find yourself getting sprayed with a warm, foggy chemical mist. The Mystic Tan tanning solution has three components: The bronzer, the DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and the aloe vera. The bronzer is a water-soluble cosmetic dye that produces an instant tan. DHA, the component that creates the long-term tanning effect, interacts with the amino acids and proteins within the superficial layer of the skin to form a golden brown color. Aloe vera is a natural moisturizer that helps carry the DHA deeper into the skin.

Apart from these ingredients, the folks at Mystic Tan keep the chemical formula absolutely secret. They won't tell anyone what it is. It's like Coca-Cola: only a select few actually know the complete formula. Very mystical, Biter thinks. If you aim to get a Mystic Tan at Coco Cabana, and you're concerned about specific allergic reactions, tell them what you're allergic to, and they'll call the Mystic® folks and ask them if it's OK. Mystic Tan will give them a yes or no answer. That's it. Nothing more is revealed.

"You can call and ask about a specific ingredient," says Wittmayer, "but they're never going to give you the entire recipe."

It takes about 24 hours for the tan to materialize fully. When it does, it looks amazingly natural, but it only lasts about a week. Mystic Tan recommends that to maintain an optimal tan, one should tan every four to five days, so it almost feels as if you're paying dues to a mystical secret society just to look bronze.

But with winter almost upon us, this is precisely the time of the year when everyone's summer tans are beginning to fade, making Mystic Tan's arrival in Los Gatos even more timely. If, like us, you have a farmer's tan, and you want to get rid of it immediately, Coco Cabana is a good option. Don't let anyone laugh at your farmer's tan anymore! (Nothing against farmers, of course.)

Coco Cabana is open Monday-Thursday 10am-9pm and Friday-Saturday 10am-6pm.

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From the November 27-December 4, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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