We got fake abs from London’s top tanning artist
Her clients include Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman
Rising gym fees and decreased student finance payments have meant getting fit has never been more expensive, without even accounting for lost time and effort. It’s hardly surprising, then, that cheaper alternatives to achieving muscular definition are becoming more popular.
One alternative is spray tan contouring. It saves effort and time as well as cash.
In the wake of Hollywood blockbusters like 300, more men are turning to make-up to alter their physiques – and you’d be surprised how much of what you see on screen is painted on.
Amanda Harrington, described as “London’s top tanner”, invented the concept of body contouring and has even patented it.
Now she has half of Hollywood begging for a bronzing. From adding muscles to rake-like models to slimming down beefcakes for the silver-screen, Harrington is truly the queen of the contour.
We arrive at her office in idyllic Putney Bridge in the heart of West London, not quite sure what to expect. However, we’re quickly made comfortable – and once the paper thongs are out, we’re ready to get down to business.
Bobby’s figure was sad and tired – a distinct lack of much-needed gym time was evident. His physique needed a boost. Fortunately for Bobby, Amanda Harrington was on hand to help him out.
Aside from the exceptional service and welcoming demeanour, Amanda is capable of giving you more muscle. Well, at least the appearance of having more. After a warming “Get your kit off and I’ll get my kit out” and the application of a generous base layer, the impact of the contouring was immediately obvious.
Five minutes in and Amanda coyly asked Bobby “Are you cold?”, his self-consciousness becoming all the more obvious as he stood fixed to the spot in his skimpy paper thong.
With extreme precision and subtlety Amanda tightens Bobby’s bulky figure, synching in his body shape. The difference is remarkable. Using brushes, Bobby’s pecs, arms and abs are tightened to such an extent that he starts to resemble the close runner-up of a Chris Hemsworth lookalike competition.
While Hollywood’s Thor may not feature on Amanda’s lengthy list of clientele, many other household names do. Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman are both “lovely” – Poppy and Cara Delevingne are also “legends.”
Amanda said: “Often people will appear in an article which says ‘so-and-so is in great shape – and check out their new tan’ and they’ll forward it to me and say ‘thanks, that’s you!’’ – but they all pretend it’s real.
“I get actors, models, husbands and wives coming in. People do it for their husbands and get used to looking a certain way.
“You can lose eight pounds with contouring. It becomes a confidence thing.”
With the way it ends up looking, we can see why.
We took to Oli’s bear-like physique with a half-empty bottle of extra-dark St Moritz and a chewed-up looking paintbrush. Our first mistake was opting not to apply a base layer of tan, instead theorising that contouring muscles was little more than paint-by-numbers – how hard could it be?
Quite, it turned out, as we began to slather an excessive coat of what looked like Ronseal under Oli’s pecs. Struggling to replicate Amanda’s finesse, the abs were roughly put together as little more than a noughts-and-crosses style diagonal line with two wonky splodges through it.
Professional tanners will advise hair removal before a treatment, and we soon saw why. The tan began to pool in Oli’s plentiful snail trail, and his stomach ended up looking less like Bradley Cooper’s rippling torso and more like a generously spread piece of Marmite on toast.
The problem here is, whilst Amanda uses a variety of hand-crafted brushes and self-mixed lotions, we haven’t. Amanda says: “I only train body painters – they see light and shadow in 3D, whilst someone who does facial contouring sees in 2D.
“We cook the tan ourselves in the kitchen. It’s a mix of stuff like Aloe, with different combinations of greens and reds.”
The mistake we’ve made is using the same block colour for the whole job – and it’s making Oli’s midriff look like a slice of marble cake. If you’re really going to try this at home, you’re going to have to be pretty bloody good at it. We aren’t.
Despite our valiant efforts, Oli’s tan job ended up resembling an unwashed dad who’s just completed his first Tough Mudder. It doesn’t look like a career in contouring awaits.
Hey, at least it was quicker.
Bobby says: I couldn’t believe the results. I expected to end up looking like Joey Essex but I feel like an action hero – if you need a bit of a confidence boost, then I’d definitely recommend it. I won’t tell if you don’t.
Oli says: Don’t do it. Just don’t do it.