If you open a care package posted to an Irish emigrant anywhere in the world in 2015 you’ll probably see a fake tanning bottle parceled out for them with the same care and consideration they once reserved for holy water.
That's because Irish people have a long-standing and secret relationship with fake tanning lotions. It’s the one passionate affair that they never discuss.
Leaving Ireland, thousands pack their passports, plane tickets, and fake tans in order of priority. And it’s the men as well as the women, in case you’re wondering – perhaps not in the same numbers, but enough to make it a thing.
Here’s how the secret Irish dependence on fake tans came to be:
It’s club night and you're out with your European friends taking photos on your iPhone. The girls are all in sleeveless summer tops, the boys in shorts and tight t-shirts. Their perfectly tanned faces accentuate their perfect smiles.
And then there’s little Irish you, looking like the snowman that didn’t get cast on “Baywatch.” When you break out your shorts it’s time for your friends to break out their sunglasses.
Irish people are universally pasty because we rarely ever see the sun. Visitors to our lovely little country will quickly understand why the Romans named the place Hibernia (Winter Land). June in Ireland can look and feel like November. It’s in our DNA now.
That simply doesn’t make for long, languid days and golden tans. That makes for mostly milky white limbs with the odd twelve hour bout of severe sunburn.
And so when it’s time for the Facebook photo you’ll probably be the polar bear next to all your sun-baked European friends. To make sure you understand this you'll be tagged and bagged and belittled by all your non-glow-in-the-dark friends.
The only way to combat this social disaster, Irish people have discovered, is to request a new supply of the cheap fake bronzers from home that they’ll quickly come to depend upon when they send for care packages:
“Send me Barry’s Tea, send me Cadbury’s Whole-nut and for God's sake send me Rimmel Sun Shimmer, Mammy,” they plead. There's an underground international trade in the stuff that would put the machinations of the mafia to shame.
Here are the top ten Irish tanning tips as told by in-the-know IrishCentral readers and writers:
1. Oh, the shame.
It's a teenage rite of passage that no Irish person forgets. When your new friend Julio from Madrid comes to Ireland for a summer English course he instantly thinks the funniest thing in the world is to compare his bronzed forearm to your raw turkey wing.
2. Orange you sorry now?
Irish people should avoid wearing bright colors, perhaps especially orange, which tends to wash out lighter skins. But even worse is the fake tans that turn your skin that citrus hue. Here's a tutorial to show you exactly what not to do.
3. The wrong Tans
Ireland has a history that involves Tans. And these were the wrong ones. You'd think we'd have had enough of tans already.
4. Tans really aren't all that
Some cultures have a desire for darker skin tones, some for lighter tones. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, why not just choose to love the skin you're in?
5. You can get punked so easily
Everyone knows that overdoing the bronzer can lead to a painful social death. But what if your spray tanner is actually setting you up too?
6. Tangerine dreams
U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has Irish ancestry on his mother's side and apparently Oompa Loompa ancestry on his father’s. He's so tan that his tan actually has its own Facebook account. Don't let this form of notoriety happen to you.
7. Penny's for your dreams
Irish fake tanners tend to swear by the brand they finally settle on. For some that's Rimmel Sun Shimmer, for others that's Penny's reputedly magical potion Coco Brown. Penny's fashions always draw praise from the Irish – and when you reveal their low prices, admiration too. That's true with Coco Brown, a life-saving tanner that some swear by.
8. Irish dancing meets “Honey Boo Boo”
Have you seen the competitive state of Irish dancing? To get ahead a girl (and quite a few boys) have taken this beloved Irish national heritage and turned it into an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Girls under the age of ten are getting the fake tan treatment in US competitions. Maybe it's time to say that skin shouldn't be a costume?
9. Sunbeds won't work for you, ever
Look! You're Irish. You don't tan. You just don't. You can throw away your wages on tanning bed treatments or make your peace with it. Studies show that 42% of Irish people using sunbeds are male, which shows you just how widespread the pressure is to be something other than what you are.
10. The tan from hell
If you insist on your fake tan then you should know the real perils. It'll likely rub off in the pouring rain as you dash from the taxi to the pub. If you cry it may look like your skin is melting. If someone takes your photograph in your distress you'll probably end up on an endless shame loop on the internet with ten million views. Think again.
And finally, two terrifying fake tan words to restore you to your pasty Irish senses: Donald Trump. Don't let it happen to you.