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The Love Island Tanning Conspiracy

The Love Island premise is simple: toned young (because nobody over 29 could possibly find love on this island) men and women in swimwear play out heteronormative relationship structures under a microscope while the watching the public analyze their pursuits. As they pair off and hopefully find love, or a quick fling, temptation - in the form of rippling muscles and Western beauty standards - is paraded in front of them. Meanwhile, they compete in degrading challenges (like breaking watermelons with their toned buttocks or giving pulse racing lap dances) to win kudos and cocktails.

Other than The Great British Bake-Off, I can’t think of a singular reality show that has the UK as enraptured as Love Island. It’s edited chaos in real-time. It dangles carrots of conversation on topics as diverse as racial and gender politics, Brexit and the ‘Do Bits’ society to a baying audience of meme-makers. What it lacks in subtly it makes up for in uncovering the messy world of dating in 2018. The conversations on incel-lite men, like Dr Alex, and the double standards of Meghan Barton’s plastic surgery has caught up a nation already busy digesting Wimbledon, the World Cup and an unexpected heatwave.

Though the pace of Love Island dissecting moves so fast Usain Bolt would struggle to keep up, one niggling rock has yet to be upturned. For the women of the villa, swimwear is a uniform. Even when the sun is swapped for the stars many find themselves dressed in sheer slips and bodysuits revealing bikinis and one-pieces beneath. Contestants like Dani, Samira, Ellie and Laura pour their beautiful, buff bods into slivers of swimsuits with gussets so high the fairest of blondes require constant waxing. Swimming costumes with stomachs sliced open or sides tacked together by a single piece of dental floss may model washboard abs (mandatory for every Islander) but question the logic of gravity and engineering. The audacity of this swimwear is applaudable, but is shaded by a singular query: how do you navigate endless bikini-swaps and constant sun-exposure without falling prey to a Tetris board of tan lines?

In a dream world, Love Island would smell like Piz Buin and contestants would be proudly brandishing their Factor 70, but more likely the air is rich with fake tan and baby oil. Early on the topic of tanning became contentious - maligned Dr Alex was rejected early for his pasty complexion and proceeded to bemoan Samira for reminding him to top up his sunscreen. While we’d like to say the dangers of sun exposure (from burns to cancer) don’t need to be underlined, the ITV producers have no qualms at showing the contestants sunning themselves for hours on end without any health warnings.

Without TV or internet (or seemingly books) for entertainment, the Villa-bound Islanders spend their time lounging in the sun for hours on end. Though there’s a pool to be enjoyed few take a dip, which underlines a theory doing the viral rounds that the contestants are too scared of ruining their fake tan to dive in. Could this be how they keep their tan lines in check? Is it all fake? When falsie lashes and hair extensions are accepted, a faux tan is the natural next step. Though we see the contestants spend hours preening - applying and reapplying their eyebrows, baking, strobing and blow-drying their eyelashes - we’ve yet to see their bright white bedding marred with the soft tangerine glow of St Tropez. When everything else about these contestant’s lives is content to be milked, why leave the embarrassing baseness of tanning your own bottom off camera?

Call me a perv, call me curious, but I for one would like to see Georgia and Dani mitts-on rubbing Vita Liberata into the tanned gaps left from the cut-outs of yesterday’s swimsuits. Makeup Artist and Tan & Skin Finishing Expert Olivia Todd explains, 'to achieve the best coverage for those stand out tan lines and to master the art of disguise is tricky if you are wanting to spend the day at the beach or by the pool as a gradual tan or spray tan is unlikely to totally cover those dreaded lines and most concealers or instant tans will just rub off.' She thinks the contestants could be 'mixing a high coverage waterproof foundation such as Vichy Dermablend a waterproof tanning product...This combination will act as an instant blurring body concealer to reduce the appearance of tan lines and imperfections.'

I would love to know the etiquette of perfecting a patchy tan, of making up for the pale stripes left by a halter neck bikini, and these Love Island women are evidently experts.