The Ultimate Spray Tan Guide

Spray tans are a fantastic alternative to sun bathing. You’ll never suffer another painful sunburn from miscalculating how long you’ve been lying in the sun.

Even more importantly, they also don’t cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin like leathery texture or fine lines and wrinkles, and the process only takes a matter of minutes.

It’s fast, convenient, and safe.

If you’ve ever wondered why some people’s spray tans look absolutely flawless, while other people’s look dreadful, rest assured that this isn’t just a matter of luck!

If you want to get a spray tan, but are terrified that you’ll end up with one that looks awful, you don’t have to leave it to fate. By taking the proper steps before, during, and after your spray tan, you can rest easy, knowing you’ll achieve the best possible results.

You can have a beautiful bronze color that isn’t streaky or blotchy, and is totally free from the dreaded tell-tale signs that your tan isn’t real.

Here’s how to prepare and care for your spray tan like a pro.

Before You Head to the Spray Tan Salon

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

They may have been talking about colds and flu, but it applies to tanning, too!

Caring for your spray tan actually starts long before you ever set foot in the salon.

By taking these steps before you get sprayed, you’ll get the best possible results and the most bang for your buck.

  • Before your first time spray tanning with a salon, go in for a patch test to be sure you love the color. Not all salons produce the same results, and you won’t regret taking the time to ensure you don’t end up a regrettable shade. If you’re not in love with the way one salon’s spray tanning looks on your skin, try another one. If you’re tanning for an important event like a wedding or professional photos, get the patch test a few weeks in advance so you’ll have plenty of time to find an alternative if it’s not working for you.
  • If you’re planning a mani/pedi, get it done before your spray tan, not afterwards. It will help protect your nails from staining, and the solutions used in nail salons wreak havoc on spray tans, stripping away your color on the skin around your nails. Even if you’re not getting your nails done, you should apply at least a clear coat of polish at home.
  • Shave and exfoliate the day before your spray tan. This will slough away dead skin cells, revealing a fresh layer that will stick around longer, thus, causing your tan to stick around longer.
  • If you get your eyebrows threaded or if you wax your face or body, do these beforehand. Getting waxed or threaded after spray tanning will result in uneven areas of pale skin. It is okay to tweeze your eyebrows after your first shower, but not before.
  • Don’t apply petroleum or oil based products, sunscreen, or any other sort of moisturizer before you get your tan. These products create a barrier that the spray tan cannot penetrate, and it will result in less than satisfactory results. The spray tan needs to be able to cling to your skin’s surface and be absorbed.
  • It is okay to wear lip products like balm, gloss, and lipstick, as well as mascara during your spray tan, but all other makeup should be removed. Most salons have makeup remover wipes on hand, but not all of them do, so save yourself the trouble and just skip your makeup routine on the day of your appointment.
  • You can choose to go bare during your spray tan if you want to avoid lines, but if you prefer, feel free to wear underwear, a bandeau top, or a swimsuit. Just remember that anything you wear while being sprayed will be stained. A special note to guys who spray tan: While women are usually free to spray tan in the nude, most salons require men to wear something. Swim trunks or underwear of any cut you prefer are appropriate attire.
  • For best results, it is best to wear dark colored, baggy clothing to your appointment. Dark clothing is less likely to develop noticeable stains from the bronzer rubbing off, and loose clothing won’t create friction that rubs away your color. Flip flops are the best type of footwear for the same reason. If it is raining, or the sky looks even slightly inclined towards rain, bring an umbrella and wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pants. You don’t want to get caught in a downpour after your spray tan, because if it gets wet right away, the results will be disastrous.

During Your Spray Tan

Most businesses offering spray tans have their own set of protocols and suggestions, which you should be informed of in advance.

If this information isn’t offered to you, be sure to ask.

While certain things vary slightly from one spray tan salon to the next, the tips listed here are standard practice for most reputable businesses.

If your salon recommends something different from what you read in this guide, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The staff should be friendly and well informed about the reasoning for anything they tell you to do.

After all, it is your body, and you are the only one who has to live with the results, so ask away!

  • Before your appointment, you will have decided between using a booth or an artist for your spray tan. There are pros and cons to both. Booths are typically less expensive, and the process only lasts for one minute. This makes them very appealing to a lot of people. If you’re extremely shy about your body, you might prefer this option, too. Artists typically cost more, and the process takes five to fifteen minutes, but you get a totally customizable tan with less chance of missed spots. Because of the precision offered by this method, a fantastic spray tan artist can even add definition to your muscles and create other aesthetically pleasing visual effects.
  • The salon will provide you with a hair cap to protect your tresses from the spray. Ask for assistance in getting every last stray wisp of hair under the cap if you need it. Be sure that the cap is pushed back slightly behind your hairline, or you may end up with a white line on your forehead.
  • You will also be provided with a barrier cream for areas that don’t normally tan. For best results, apply the cream in two thin layers, rather than slathering it all on at once.
  • If you’re using a booth, close your eyes, hold your breath, and keep completely still. If you’re working with an artist, holding as still as possible will ensure the most even tan. Your artist will warn you when it is time to hold your breath and close your eyes.


By following these guidelines, you can help your spray tan last for longer and look its best from the moment you step out of the salon until your next appointment.

It’s a good idea to print off a copy of this guide before you get a spray tan.

There are a lot of steps involved in getting optimum results, and it can be hard to remember them all the first few times you do it.

Use the guide as a checklist and you won’t forget a thing!

  • Immediately after you are sprayed, you will probably be instructed to towel off extra tanning spray. To avoid streaks, start at your feet and move up your body, instead of from the face down.
  • Ask your salon if they sell tanning extender lotion. The average spray tan lasts between four and eight days, but regular use of extender lotion can prolong the color.
  • Remember that it’s best to wear baggy clothing for the first few hours, as tight clothing can rub away your tan.
  • It’s normal for your skin to feel slightly sticky after your spray tan until you shower. Avoid the temptation to touch it! Touching your sprayed skin can result in stained hands.
  • Don’t shower until the amount of time specified by your spray tanner has passed. This varies considerably, depending upon the type of product that was used, and can be anywhere from 2-12 hours. Many experts recommend leaving the spray tanner on overnight if it is possible.
  • You will see color washing off your skin during your first shower. This is normal. It isn’t your spray tan being washed away, it is just the bronzer that gives you immediate color while the spray tan is developing.
  • To help your spray tan last as long as possible, avoid long, hot showers and baths.
  • While swimming isn’t prohibited when you have a spray tan, you should be aware that both prolonged water exposure and the chlorine in pools will fade your tan. You can help prevent this by wearing a waterproof sport sunscreen, as it provides a barrier.
  • Don’t bathe with bar soaps or heavily perfumed body washes. Choose a gentle body wash, and apply with your hands, as bath poufs, loofahs, and even washcloths will make your tan fade faster.
  • When toweling off after bathing, pat yourself dry. Avoid rubbing, as this will scrub away color.
  • Don’t exfoliate until your spray tan is starting to fade away. It is a great way to prep your skin for a spray tan, but afterwards it will actually scrub away the color. This includes anything even remotely rough in texture, so no loofahs, scrub brushes, bath poufs, salt or sugar scrubs, and exfoliating body washes.
  • It’s okay to shave, but not daily. Go as long as you feel comfortable in between shaves, as shaving is actually a form of exfoliation.
  • Moisturizing will extend the life of your tan, so slather on the lotion! For optimum results, apply moisturizer twice a day. Avoid heavily scented lotions, as well as those containing petroleum or mineral oil.
  • Sun fades more than the color of patio furniture. Wear sunscreen every time you leave the house, and your tan won’t fade away under the sun’s powerful rays.
  • It’s important not to get wet in any way before your first shower. This means no swimming and no sweating!
  • If you have a dog, be aware that he will probably want to lick you. Dogs seem to love the way spray tan solution tastes. Wherever they lick, you will end up with white spots.
  • If you have children, bathe them before you get your tan, or have someone else take over bath time duties for the day.
  • Try to limit hand washing. When necessary, it’s better to use wipes or hand sanitizer, and apply it only to the palms of your hands. This will protect the color on the backs of your hands.
  • If you want to wear perfume at any point when you have a spray tan, apply it to your clothing or hair, not your skin. The alcohol it contains can lead to fading of your tan wherever you apply it.
  • Be aware that items containing adhesives, such as Band-Aids and Biore Pore Strips are not recommended. They remove skin cells, which means that they will be removing color, too.
  • Spray tanned facers tend to fade faster than spray tanned bodies. If you notice this happening, you can use a bronzer on your face, but avoid using self-tanners.
  • Doubling up with a self-tanning lotion seems like a great way to darken or prolong your spray tan, but in reality it can negatively impact your spray tan.
  • You’ll want to avoid acne spot treatment products, because the ingredients in these products will bleach out your skin, leaving splotches of white on your otherwise tan face.
  • If you typically use a face was containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, switch to one without these ingredients for the time being. Both of them will drain your skin of its spray tanned glow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.