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Spray Tan Tips You Need to Know

BY: Editors | May 10, 2017

Everyone loves the sunkissed look, but not everyone loves risking a painful sunburn or exposing their skin to the UV rays of the tanning booth. Thankfully, there are quick and safe spray tans that can help you get bikini ready without the burn. But if it’s your first time you may be a bit apprehensive about stepping into that booth. Don’t fret, you won’t have to worry about those dreaded orange palms, follow our spray tan tips and people will be asking you if you just got back from vacation in St. Tropez.

What to do before a spray tan

Sure, a spray tan sounds super easy: just strip down and wait for a magical mist to bestow your entire body with a sun-kissed glow. But if you take just a little time to prep before your spray session, you might be rewarded with better results.

  • Exfoliate your skin. Removing those dead skin cells with a good body scrub or sponge will help your tan adhere evenly and will help it last longer.
  • Shave ahead of time. If you wait until after your spray tan to do this, you run the risk of removing color along with your hair. The same goes for waxing, threading, and plucking.
  • Skip the lotion. Bare skin is best: That means no makeup, lotion, deodorant, or anything else that might work as a barrier between your skin and the tanning solution.
  • Wear loose, dark clothing. Even though you'll wait for the solution to dry before leaving, there's still the chance that some of the spray tan can rub off on clothing, so avoid white or light-colored items.
  • Paint your nails (really). Even if you just use a clear topcoat, putting a layer of lacquer on your fingernails and toenails will prevent them from being stained with the tanning solution

How much does a spray tan cost?

The price of a single spray tan differ depending on the method and the salon, but clients can typically expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $50 per tan, but you can spend less than that if you use a spray tanning deal on Groupon. Mobile tans, where the technician brings equipment or booth to your home, will cost you a little more.

Is spray tanning safe?

Most spray tan advocates love the treatment because it provides a golden glow without exposing skin to harmful, cancer-causing UV rays. But what exactly are you spraying on your skin? Ingredient lists can vary from brand to brand, but the vast majority of spray tanning solutions contain a substance called DHA (short for dihydroxyacetone), a chemical that is actually made from—wait for it—sugar. Plant sugar, to be more precise. DHA reacts with the proteins and amino acids on your skin, causing the surface cells to oxidize and turn brown.

But don't assume that your spray tanning salon's solution is natural just because it uses DHA. If ingredients are a concern for you, ask your local salon if they offer an organic solution. Many of them do! In addition, remember to keep yourself safe during a spray tan by wearing the recommended protection: eye covers, nose plugs, lip balm, and undergarments.

How long does a spray tan last?

A spray tan typically lasts anywhere from five to ten days, but there are a lot of factors that can affect the duration of your sunless glow. Showering too soon after application, for example, may cause some of the solution to wash off before its set, and shaving or waxing afterwards will naturally lighten your tan. Here are some other tips on what to do after a spray tan:

  • Don’t get it wet. This might even mean going to bed without washing. In general, the longer you can let the solution sit, the better.
  • Shower warm, not hot. When you do finally get wet, opt for lukewarm showers over hot. It's also a good idea to avoid bubble baths, salt water, or chlorinated tubs as these things can all cause your tan to fade faster.
  • Stay hydrated. Keeping your skin moisturized can help protect your tan. Just be sure to avoid oil-based lotions, which can make your tan run.
  • Touch-up with self-tanner. A tinted self-tanner can help if you notice your tan is fading faster in certain areas, such as the hands and feet.

Types of Spray Tans: Airbrush Tan vs Spray Tan Booth

During the booth tan, you'll be alone inside and voice prompts will instruct you how to stand as automated jets mist you from head to toe. If you opt for an airbrush tan, a trained technician will enter the booth with you and spray you using a handheld device. Although both will result in a natural, even color, there are some subtle differences that might lead you to choose one over the other:

Custom Airbrush Tans

Pros: more even coverage, customization and attention to detail, and longer lasting than booth tans.

Cons: getting (almost) naked with a stranger, pricier than automatic spray tans, and you’ll have tan lines.

Booth Spray Tans

Pros: private (you’re in a booth aline), less expensive than airbrush tans, and typically take faster—takes only a few minutes from start to finish.

Cons: more risk for error because it’s up to you to follow the directions, less color customization, more potential for uneven coverage.