Spa provides a sun-free tan

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. – “Where have you been and what beach were you on?” I’m quizzed at the outdoor wedding reception of my daughter’s best friend.

“Hawaii?” guessed my inquisitor, who simultaneously admired my golden tan.

“Tahiti?” imagined another.

“Indoors at a spa in Santa Monica,” I quietly replied. “I was there about a week ago. It took 50 minutes, cost $130 (U.S.) and is completely safe,” I shared.

My sun-free tan confession garnered me almost as much attention as the newly wed bride.

Le Merigot SpaI explained that it’s one of the newest body treatments offered at the Le Merigot Beach Hotel & Spa (in the oceanside suburb of Los Angeles, steps from the renowned Santa Monica Pier).

Called Body Bronzing, the spa menu explains: “A gentle exfoliation to smooth out the skin is performed before professionally applying a self-tanning solution. The skin is left with an even, glowing golden tan.”

Upon my arrival at this JW Marriott property I felt like Tammy Faye Baker at a makeup counter – possible activities included rollerblading, surfing (the bartender gives daily a.m. lessons), bicycling (hotel rental is $5 U.S. per hour; $55 U.Ser day) and sightseeing.

But it was Spa Le Merigot’s treatment menu that enlisted my attention – with services like Elasto-Firm Facial, Lavender Herbal Bath and Desert Heat Body Wrap.

However, the Body Bronzing promise to look sun drenched sans its harmful rays was irresistible. And the additional enticement of doing so in one of the world’s best-known sun capitals sealed the deal.

The 6,500-square-foot, full-service, eight-room spa is reflective of the hotel – both luxurious, low-keyed, intimate havens.

Since opening in 2000, each has garnered the attention of local celebs – like Brad and Jennifer (a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Pitt); Bruce Willis, who visited with his pet pooch and Once & Again actress Sela Ward, the first Hollywood star to overnight at Le Merigot. And during my visit, I received no less than star treatment as well.

“Hi. I’m Liza,” greeted the dark-eyed, curly-haired technician. “The service is typically 50 minutes but I usually take longer – I want it to be perfect.”

We retreated to the comfort of a dimly-lit, air-conditioned, private room from which I would emerge with the beginnings of a summer blush.

I was told that while I would immediately notice a difference in color, my “tan” would become more and more pronounced as the day progressed.

There were a few guidelines. Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing for at least 30 minutes and do not shower until 24 hours after the treatment.

Additionally, Liza shared that chlorine (translation: no dips in the swimming pool) and any additional exfoliation would cause my streak free, four- to eight-day tan to fade more quickly.

An hour later I exited the treatment room and headed poolside to let the tanning product “do its thing,” as Liza suggested.

Comfortably perched upon a chaise, carefully shielded from the sun by a strategically placed umbrella and completely enveloped in my oversized spa robe, I felt smug.

My fellow pool princes and princesses glistened with beads of perspiration as they baked, applied and reapplied sunscreen and flipped from front to back – all in the quest of their skin hues evolving from ivory to red and to brown eventually.

But it was I who, after a short time outdoors, retreated from the pool to my room for an afternoon nap and emerged hours later with a flawless cabana-like tan.

Did I lament the relatively short life of my newfound look? Only briefly – because it’s possible to “body bronze” at home. I purchased the Pevonia Body Scrub ($23 U.S.) and Self-tanning Emulsion Spray ($31 U.S.) from the spa boutique.

* Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Spa is a Mobile Four Star and AAA Four Diamond recipient.

For information or reservations, call Marriott toll free at 1-888-539-7899 , Le Merigot at 1-310-395-9700 or visit www.Marriott.com or www.LeMerigotHotel.com