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Tanning Tips: The Ins and Outs of Spray Tanning

Updated on April 15, 2015

Spray tans have come a long way, folks. You probably know a bunch of people who get them, but you have no idea, because they just look awesome. Here are some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your spray tan experience. Oh, and push that Friends episode out of your head—it’s really easy, too, so you probably won’t pull a Ross.

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Some Reasons to Spray Tan

  1. Instant color. You don’t have to sit in the sun for four hours a day for two weeks or go to the salon daily to bake in a bed before bronzing. You’ll be seeing color within 4 hours of your spray tan, and it lasts around a week.

  2. Damage-free. Let’s be honest—a steady UV tanning routine is not the healthiest for your skin, and does indisputably raise the risk of getting skin cancer. A spray tan is liquid DHA interacting with the proteins in your outer layers of skin, and does zero short-term or long-term damage to your body. Even pregnant women can do it without trepidation.

  3. It can really look awesome. Done right, you’ll get that glow you wanted for your beachside vacation or your big speech. A lot of people do it on a regular basis because they like how their faces and bodies look with a little color. I know I do… I feel like when I have color in my face, acne is less noticeable and less makeup is required—a little glow goes a long way in the beauty department!

These are NOT Reasons to Spray Tan

  1. Protection from the sun. Even though you look darker, a spray tan will not protect your skin from UV rays.

  2. Long-lasting color. Color from a spray tan rarely lasts much longer than seven days. If you want to look dark all the time, you’ll need to go weekly to spray, or you’ll want to look into UV options.


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Preparing for a Spray Tan

Before going in for a spray tan, you’ll want to prime your skin by opening up your pores. Shower, exfoliate, and shave your body. Taking these steps immediately before a spray will also allow you to go a little while without doing them again, which is ideal, as exfoliating and shaving can strip your spray tan (showering is OK—just don’t scrub hard.) You’ll also want to schedule your time wisely—spray tans stink, and there’s no way to avoid that completely. Give yourself at LEAST four hours, but up to twenty-four hours (depending on your desired color) to be stinky. Many individuals choose to spray tan later in the evening and sleep in their spray tan before showering the next morning.

Once you’re in the booth, you’ll want to follow whatever specific instructions your tanning consultant gives you. Normally, they involve putting a blending cream on dry areas of skin and wearing a hairnet.

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Choosing a Color for your Spray Tan

Your color choice, of course, should depend on the look you’re going for. The good news is that it doesn’t matter how white or black you are—a level one, or light color, is going to get you one to two shades darker than your current skin tone. That means a redhead with fair skin and freckles is not going to turn the same color as her olive-skinned Hispanic friend, even if they both do the same level or shade. A level two, or medium color, will get you two to three shades darker than your current color, and a level three, or dark, will get you three to four shades darker. Wait till you hear this, though: you can really get any color you want from a spray tan. You will see the color developing on your skin, and as soon as you love it, you can jump into the shower and the color will stop developing.

So just choose whichever shade is the closest to what you want: subtle, noticeably darker, or much darker, and then watch the color. You could choose the darkest, even if you don’t want it crazy-looking, and be sure to shower after four or five hours when you feel that you’re dark enough.

How to Avoid Orange

Unfortunately, this answer is going to vary person to person. Like I said, spray tans have come a long way, and my personal recommendation is a spray tan machine like Mystic HD—after seeing countless customers use this machine, I saw very few of them turn even a little bit orange. That being said, no one can predict how your skin tone will reflect any given shade of a spray tan. If you want to play it really safe, start with the level one or light shade and watch it closely as it develops. After a few spray tans, you’ll know for sure what your perfect shade and development time is. If you do need some noticeable color, don’t be too scared of medium or dark shades. They usually look great.

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After a Spray Tan

After your spray, be SURE to wash your hands! It won’t make them look weirdly white. It’s MUCH worse to leave them, because they will look splotchy the next day! Some individuals choose to wipe their faces off with a baby wipe—since facial skin is thinner than the skin on your body, sometimes a sprayed face appears darker than may be desirable. I have found that because I rinse my face more regularly than my body, the color is even within a day or two, and I don’t need to wipe it immediately after the spray tan.

Take your time letting your body dry off before putting your clothes back on. Most importantly, stay out of water while you let your spray tan develop (anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.) Don’t rush to the gym afterwards and sweat, because that may cause splotches and streaking!

What's your favorite spray tan shade?

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Recommended Spray Tan Products

While products are not necessary to most spray tans, they definitely enhance them. Here are a few that I find most useful.

Spray Tan Accelerator or Primer

Mystic Tan Accelerator

Sunless Tan Solutions Direct pH Balancing Spray

Products like the ones I have listed above prime your skin for a spray tan by balancing your pH levels. Using one of these results in a faster-developing, less splotchy, and longer-lasting spray tan. I never do a spray without using a bottle of or add-in accelerator or primer.

Spray Tan Scents

Airbrush Tan Masters Drops

Kahuna Beach Drops

Like I said, spray tans are stinky. Scents honestly don’t mask the smell entirely, but I do feel that they help counter it a little bit. Oftentimes, they are offered as inexpensive add-ins in tanning salons.

Spray Tan in a Bottle

9 Best Self-Tanners Review (Total Beauty)

Recommended Self-Tanners (Cosmopolitan)

Oftentimes, you can get away with never touching up a spray tan, but if you’re hoping to extend the life of your spray and perfect any imperfections, you may like products like these.

Spray Away!

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