When I competed in bodybuilding contests the most difficult aspect for me wasn't the stringent dieting I had to undergo to strip my body of any excess fat, nor was it the hours I spent pumping iron at the original Gold's Gym in Venice and elsewhere. The hardest part about preparing for a contest was getting a tan. I had what is termed "type-2" tanning potential. What this means is that rather than develop a deep, dark tan when I laid in the sun, instead all I got was freckles and a bad sunburn. In short, my reaction to the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun was similar to what happened to those with blond hair and blue eyes who had fair complexions. In fact, I had brown hair and brown eyes, yet I still began to burn after about 15 minutes of sun exposure. This was a problem for a physique competitor like myself, since having a tan was an absolute requirement when you competed. The tan allowed your muscular definition to be more apparent, since competing with a milky white complexion drowned out any trace of muscular definition when you stepped under the bright posing lights on stage. Of course, black guys had it easy in this respect. Indeed, I often noticed that many of the black competitors looked more muscular than they actually were due to their darker complexion. The thing that made black people darker was a greater degree of skin pigment called melanin in their skin. Melanin is the skin pigment that produces skin color, including a tan. The release of melanin after exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) is a protective response of the body to protect the skin. Any dermatologist or medical skin specialist will tell you that, contrary to its association with health ("A healthy glow in the skin"), acquiring a tan is a signal that your skin has already been damaged. It is, in effect, a silent scream emitted by your skin.
This need for a tan was problematic for me since I just didn't seem to tan. When I first began competing as a teenage bodybuilder, a common solution to the tanning problem was to use cosmetic tanning lotions. These came in two types. The first one was a "Sunless tanning lotion" that contained an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) (not to be confused with the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA) that worked by reacting with amino acids in the top layer of the skin to produce darker skin color. The problem with using these products was that, unless you had a light base tan, or had naturally darker skin, the resulting "tan" looked either yellow or bright orange. Quite unnatural to say the least! These sunless tanning lotions are still sold today. A similar product came in a capsule. These pills contained a carotenoid, similar to the beta-carotene found in vegetables such as carrots (indeed, overconsumption of . . .