spray tan guide

The Ultimate Guide to a Flawless Spray Tan

Are you looking to achieve a sun-kissed glow without exposing yourself to harmful UV rays? Look no further than spray tanning! 

Spray tanning, also known as sunless tanning or airbrush tan, has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a safe and convenient alternative to traditional tanning methods. But with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to navigate the world of spray tanning. 

That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to help you achieve a flawless spray tan every time. From understanding how spray tanning works to choosing the right shade for your skin tone, we’ll cover all the essential information you need to know. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets to a beautiful, natural-looking spray tan.

Table of Contents

What is a Spray Tan?

A spray tan is a popular cosmetic procedure where a fine mist is sprayed onto your skin to produce a tanning effect. This mist typically contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a chemical that reacts with the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken its appearance, giving the look of a natural suntan without UV exposure.

How Does Spray Tanning Work?

Spray tanning involves applying a tanning solution to the skin, which results in a temporary tan that typically lasts for about 7-10 days. The active ingredient in most spray tanning solutions is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). 

When applied to the skin, DHA interacts with the amino acids in the skin’s top layer, resulting in a tan color. Unlike sun tanning, spray tanning does not involve exposure to harmful UV rays, making it a safer alternative for achieving a golden glow. 

With advancements in tanning technology, spray tanning has evolved to provide a natural-looking tan with customizable color options.

Understanding the Different Types of Spray Tans

No two spray tans are created equal, and understanding the different types of spray tans can help you choose the one that best suits your preferences.

  • Airbrush tanning, performed by a tan artist, offers the highest level of customization and ensures the best results for a flawless tan. 
  • Spray tanning booths, on the other hand, deliver an automated, even spray tan application, catering to individuals who prefer a quick and convenient tanning solution. 
  • Organic spray tans, made with natural ingredients, are perfect for those who prioritize eco-friendly options. 
  • Rapid spray tans, as the name suggests, offer quicker development time, ideal for individuals with a busy schedule.

The Science Behind Spray Tanning

Ever wondered how spray tanning actually works on your skin? The secret lies in the active ingredient of most spray tanning solutions, dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When the tanning solution is applied, DHA interacts with the skin’s natural proteins, resulting in a natural color. 

This reaction takes place in the outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum. The color development process usually takes around 2-4 hours, but it can vary depending on the individual’s skin type and the tanning solution used. 

Proper tanning prep, such as exfoliating and shaving, helps ensure an even tan application, while moisturizing post-tan helps maintain the glow and prolongs the life of the tan.

Preparing for Your Spray Tan

Before diving into the spray tanning process, it’s essential to prepare your skin properly to achieve the best results. It’s also important to consider what to wear during the spray tan process.

Importance of Exfoliating and Shaving before a Spray Tan

Exfoliating your skin prior to a spray tan is essential for achieving a smooth, even tan application. By using an exfoliating mitt and body wash, you can remove dead skin cells, allowing the tanning solution to adhere evenly. This helps prevent any patchiness or streaks in your tan. 

Shaving, on the other hand, should be done at least 24 hours before your spray tan appointment to avoid skin irritation or little cuts that can interfere with the tanning process. 

Proper exfoliation and shaving prep your skin to absorb the tanning solution effectively, ensuring a beautiful tan that lasts longer.

What to Wear During the Spray Tan Process

When it comes to spray tanning, what you wear during the process can affect the results. To ensure an even tan coverage, it’s recommended to wear minimal clothing, such as a swimsuit, or opt for disposable undergarments provided by the salon. This allows the tan artist to have better access to your skin, ensuring a more precise application. 

It’s also important to consider the color and fit of the clothing you wear to and from your spray tan appointment. Dark, loose clothing is typically recommended to prevent the tanning solution from rubbing off and staining lighter clothes. 

So, next time you head to the salon, make sure to choose your spray tan attire wisely for the best results.

Dos and Don’ts Before Your Spray Tan Session

To ensure a flawless spray tan, it’s important to follow a few dos and don’ts before your spray tan session. By adhering to these guidelines, you can optimize your tanning experience and achieve the best results:


  • Follow the specific tanning prep instructions provided by your salon, which may include exfoliating, shaving, and wearing loose clothing.
  • Communicate your skin goals and preferences to your tan artist, who can provide personalized advice and recommendations for achieving your desired tan.


  • Don’t apply any lotion or oil-based products before your spray tan, as they can interfere with the tanning process and prevent an even application.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing or accessories that may rub against your skin, as this can smudge or remove the tanning solution.
  • Don’t forget to arrive at the salon with clean, makeup-free skin, ready for your beautiful tan to be applied.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can ensure your skin is prepped and ready for a flawless spray tan session.

Choosing the Right Shade for Your Skin Tone

When it comes to spray tanning, one size does not fit all. Tips for achieving a natural-looking tan with the right shade include considering your skin color, understanding the different levels of darkness, and seeking advice from a spray tan artist who can guide you through the process.

Determining your skin undertones and how it affects spray tan results

Understanding your skin undertones is key to achieving the best spray tan results. Your skin color, whether fair, medium, or dark, influences how tanning solution develops, affecting the final tan color. 

  • Warm undertones, characterized by yellow or golden hues, tend to tan more easily and may benefit from a deeper tan solution. 
  • Cool undertones, with pink or blue undertones, may require a lighter tanning solution for a natural sun-kissed glow. 
  • Neutral undertones, which don’t lean heavily towards warm or cool, have more flexibility in choosing a tanning solution color. 

By determining your skin undertones and working with a tan artist, you can achieve a flawless, natural-looking spray tan that complements your skin tone.

Understanding the different levels of darkness in spray tan solutions

Spray tan solutions come in various levels of darkness, allowing for customization based on individual preferences. 

  • Lighter tanning solutions provide a subtle, natural-looking glow. 
  • Medium tanning solutions offer a sun-kissed tan. 
  • Darker tanning solutions create a more intense tan. 

Choosing the right level of darkness in a tanning solution is essential for achieving a beautiful tan that enhances your natural beauty.

Recommendations for fair, medium, and dark skin tones

Determining the appropriate spray tan shade for your skin tone can be challenging, but with the help of a tan artist, you can achieve beautiful results. 

For fair skin tones, a light to medium tanning solution is typically recommended, as it provides a subtle, natural-looking tan without appearing too overpowering. 

Individuals with medium skin tones often achieve a sun-kissed glow with a medium to dark tanning solution. 

Dark skin tones can benefit from a darker tanning solution, enhancing their natural beauty with a deeper, more intense tan. 

If it’s your first spray tan, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns and preferences with your tan artist, who can provide expert recommendations for achieving a happy tanning experience.

Post Spray Tan Care

After getting a spray tan, it’s crucial to follow the best practices for post-spray tan care to maintain the longevity of your tan.

Best Practices to Extend the Life of Your Spray Tan

Consistent care and proper moisturization are crucial in maintaining the radiant glow and color of your spray tan. 

Following best practices, such as daily moisturizing, can significantly prolong the life of your tan. Understanding and adopting the right post-tan skincare routine can effectively extend the longevity of your spray tan, ensuring a natural and long-lasting result. 

By incorporating these essential practices for tan maintenance, you can preserve the natural color and radiance of your spray tan, enhancing your overall experience in the beauty industry.

Things to Avoid Immediately After a Spray Tan

After a spray tan, it’s crucial to steer clear of activities that lead to excessive sweating, which can affect the tan’s evenness. Avoiding tight clothing is essential to prevent the tan from streaking or smudging. 

Being aware of what to avoid immediately after a spray tan ensures optimal results and long-lasting effects. Understanding these post-tan precautions is vital in the beauty industry, especially for first-time tanners. 

How to Fix Uneven or Patchy Areas in Your Tan

Struggling with uneven or patchy areas in your tan can be frustrating, especially when you’re aiming for a flawless, sun-kissed glow. Fortunately, correcting these imperfections is simpler than you might think.

These are some effective techniques to fix uneven tanning, ensuring your skin looks beautifully even and naturally bronzed.

Exfoliating before getting a spray tan to prevent patchiness

Achieving the best results in the beauty industry involves proper spray tan prep. Using a body wash and exfoliating mitt preps the skin for a flawless tan, ensuring beautiful results. Wearing loose clothing post-exfoliation prevents tan solution from rubbing off, contributing to an even application. The natural color of your skin plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of the tan, especially for first-time tanners.

Using a tanning mitt or blending brush to even out the tan

After a spray tan session, a skilled airbrush tan artist employs a blending brush to create a seamless and even tan. Additionally, they use a tanning mitt to blend any tan lines, ensuring a flawless finish. To avoid tan streaking, it is advisable to wear loose clothing post-spray tanning. Even application of the tanning solution is crucial for an evenly bronzed appearance. Furthermore, the tan expert provides guidance on post-tanning skincare to maintain the glow, emphasizing the importance of proper aftercare in the beauty industry.

Applying moisturizer or barrier cream to dry areas before tanning

Before tanning, it’s crucial to hydrate the skin with moisturizer, ensuring an even application of the tan solution. Consulting a tan expert for proper tan prep advice is essential. Using minimal lotion before spray tanning prevents any interference with the tan. Spray tan solutions contain dihydroxyacetone as the active ingredient. For optimal results after spray tanning, consider using sunless tanning lotion. These steps are vital in the beauty industry and for first-time tanners.

Using a self-tanner remover to fix any mistakes or buildup of product

If you experience uneven tanning spots after the application, consider using a self-tanner remover to correct them. Professional tan spray specialists provide helpful stain removal tips. Additionally, information about tan solutions and their removal processes can be found. The timing of showering post-tanning can also affect the development of your tan. Many Instagram tanning influencers often share helpful tips about removing tan stains.

Seeking professional help for more stubborn patchiness or blotchiness

Consider seeking advice from a professional in the beauty industry, such as a spray tanning salon. An experienced tanning expert can offer guidance on tan maintenance and streak prevention, as well as provide valuable information on spray tan prep. Yelp reviews can aid in identifying the best spray tanning salon to visit. Additionally, a professional spray tan artist can carefully explain the tanning process, especially for those getting a spray tan for the first time.

Tips for Maintaining Your Spray Tan

Extend the life of your spray tan by following simple maintenance tips. After your first shower post-tan, apply a hydrating moisturizer to keep your skin supple. Avoid long baths and hot showers, as these can fade your tan. Pat your skin dry after showering and avoid activities that cause excessive sweating. Be cautious when using skincare products, and always wear sunscreen. Lastly, remember to exfoliate lightly before each tanning session to ensure an even fade.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Showering After a Spray Tan

After getting a spray tan, it’s crucial to avoid any activities that may compromise the result. Do shower after the recommended time to allow the tan to set. Use mild, moisturizing body wash and pat your skin dry with a towel. Avoid hot showers, as they can strip away the tan. As part of your spray tan prep, remember not to soak in a bath, swim, or use a tanning bed immediately after your first time getting a spray tan. Always remember to shave before your spray tan session to achieve an even application.

Extend the Life of Your Spray Tan with These Simple Tips

To prolong your spray tan, consider using moisturizer daily to keep your skin hydrated and maintain your tan. Avoid activities that cause excessive sweating and exfoliate gently when needed to prevent uneven fading. Choose products specifically designed for sunless tanning to extend the life of your spray tan.

Protect Your Tan: How to Avoid Fading and Streaking

Protecting your spray tan from fading and streaking is essential for maintaining its beauty and longevity. Here are a few ways to ensure your tan stays flawless:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from UV rays, as sunburn can cause your tan to fade more quickly.
  • Avoid excessive sweating, as it can lead to tan streaking or smudging. Try to stay cool and avoid strenuous activities that may cause excessive perspiration.
  • Opt for loose clothing that won’t rub against your skin, as friction can cause your tan to fade or become patchy.
  • Regularly moisturize your skin, as hydrated skin holds onto color better and helps maintain your tan’s glowing appearance.
  • Following these tips will help protect and prolong the life of your spray tan, allowing you to enjoy a beautiful glow for longer.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During and After Your Spray Tan

While spray tanning is a straightforward process, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that can affect your tan’s results. In the next sections, we’ll discuss the most common mistakes individuals make during and after their spray tan sessions. By avoiding these pitfalls, you’ll ensure a flawless tan without any unexpected mishaps. Let’s dive into the common mistakes so you can confidently navigate your spray tan experience.

Mistake #1: Skipping Exfoliation and Shaving

One of the biggest mistakes you can make before your spray tan is skipping exfoliation and shaving. Exfoliating your skin with an exfoliating mitt or scrub helps remove dead skin cells, creating a smooth surface for the tanning solution to adhere to. Shaving at least 24 hours before your spray tan appointment ensures that your skin is smooth and free of any unwanted hair, allowing for an even tan application. By exfoliating and shaving, you’re prepping your skin for optimal spray tan results and minimizing the chances of a patchy or uneven tan.

Mistake #2: Wearing Tight Clothing

Another common mistake is wearing tight clothing immediately after your spray tan. Tight clothing can rub against your skin, potentially causing the tanning solution to smudge or stain. To avoid this, choose loose-fitting clothing that allows your skin to breathe and the tan to set properly. Opt for dark-colored clothing, as any minor tan transfer is less noticeable on darker fabrics. By wearing loose clothing, you’re minimizing the risk of interfering with your freshly applied spray tan, ensuring a flawless and even tan color.

Mistake #3: Not Following Instructions

One of the most critical mistakes to avoid is not following the instructions provided by your tanning salon or tan artist. Each tanning salon may have its specific guidelines tailored to their tanning process, and it’s crucial to follow these instructions for the best results. Whether it’s advice on prep, aftercare, or how long to wait before showering, these instructions are designed to optimize your tanning experience and ensure a beautiful, flawless tan. Always communicate with your tan artist if you have any questions or concerns about following instructions for a perfect tan.

Mistake #4: Showering Too Soon After Your Spray Tan

Showering too soon after your spray tan is a common mistake that can impact your tan’s development and longevity. It’s important to wait the recommended amount of time, usually around 8-12 hours, before showering to allow the tan solution to fully develop. Showering too soon can cause the tan to fade prematurely or become uneven. Follow the specific showering guidelines provided by your tanning salon, and when you do shower, use lukewarm water and a gentle body wash to preserve your tan’s color. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing, as rubbing can potentially remove the tan solution.

Mistake #5: Neglecting to Moisturize

Moisturizing your skin after a spray tan is essential for maintaining its color and glow. Neglecting to moisturize can cause your tan to fade more quickly and unevenly. Hydrated skin holds on to color better, so make moisturizing a part of your daily skincare routine. Choose a moisturizer specifically formulated for spray tans, as these are designed to nourish and extend the life of your tan. Apply moisturizer generously, paying attention to dry areas of your body, such as elbows, knees, and ankles. By moisturizing regularly, you’ll ensure a longer-lasting tan that looks beautiful and radiant.

Mistake #6: Going Too Dark

When it comes to spray tanning, it’s important to start with a natural color and gradually build up if desired. Going too dark on your first spray tan can result in an unnatural or overly intense color, which may not suit your skin tone. Opt for a shade that enhances your natural beauty and allows your tan to look more sun-kissed than artificial. Communicate your preferences to your tan artist, and they can advise you on the best shade based on your skin color and tanning goals. Remember, it’s always better to start with a lighter shade and gradually increase if desired.

Mistake #7: Not Asking Questions

Asking questions is crucial to ensure you have all the necessary information and feel confident about your spray tan experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your tan artist or tanning expert if you have any doubts or concerns. They are there to help and provide valuable information about the tanning process, aftercare, and any other queries you may have. By asking questions, you’ll gain a better understanding of what to expect, how to best care for your tan, and any recommendations specific to your needs. Clearing any doubts will allow you to enjoy your spray tan experience to the fullest.

Mistake #8: Using Harsh Products on Your Tan

Using harsh skincare products on your tan can negatively impact its color and longevity. Avoid using exfoliating scrubs, body washes, or soaps that contain harsh ingredients, as these can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause your tan to fade more quickly. Additionally, certain skincare products, such as those containing alcohol or retinol, can also cause your tan to fade or become patchy. Opt for gentle, skincare products specifically formulated for spray tans, as these are designed to nourish and maintain the integrity of your tan. By using the right products, you’ll help your tan last longer and look its best.

Mistake #9: Not Protecting Your Tan from Water

Failing to shield your tan from water, particularly within the initial 24 hours post-tan, can hinder the full development of its color. Activities causing excessive sweating or water exposure should be avoided as they can negatively impact the tan and lead to streaking. It’s crucial to protect your tan from moisture to maintain its allure and prolong its longevity. By steering clear of water-related activities that compromise its color, you can keep your tan pristine.

Mistake #10: Not Maintaining Your Tan Properly

Neglecting proper maintenance can lead to a faded tan. It’s crucial to follow your tanning expert’s aftercare routine for long-lasting results. Consistent skincare, moisturizing, and sunless tanning solutions help preserve a beautiful, natural tan. Adhering to the prescribed aftercare routine from your salon maintains your tan’s glow. Regular use of sunless tanning products can extend the tan’s life between sessions, preserving its beauty. Proper maintenance is essential for the longevity of your sunless tan, ensuring it looks flawless for longer.

Demystifying Common Spray Tan Concerns

Is Spray Tanning Safe?

Spray tanning, performed professionally, is generally considered safe. By addressing misconceptions and promoting informed decision-making, individuals can feel confident in choosing spray tanning as a sunless option. It’s important to understand the safety measures and best practices associated with spray tanning to alleviate concerns about potential risks.

Can You Achieve a Dark Tan in Your First Session?

Achieving a deep tan in your first spray tan session depends on factors like skin type and tanning solution. The active ingredient in the spray tan solution reacts differently with each skin type, so results may vary. Following proper prep, application, and aftercare can optimize your chances of achieving a darker tan. Professional tanning experts can provide guidance tailored to your needs and help you achieve the desired results. Understanding variations in skin color also plays a role in achieving your desired level of darkness.

Exploring Home Based Self Tanning Options

As the beauty industry continues to evolve, many individuals are opting for at-home self-tanning options. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned tanning enthusiast, exploring home-based alternatives can be a convenient and cost-effective choice. From self-tanning lotions to sprays and mousses, the options are diverse. Understanding the pros and cons and comparing them to professional tanning bed sessions can help you make an informed decision. Prioritizing spray tan prep, such as shaving and exfoliation, is crucial for achieving a seamless and natural-looking tan.

Embarking on the journey of at-home spray tanning provides individuals with the autonomy to oversee their tanning process and its outcomes. A comprehensive understanding of the tanning process is fundamental in achieving optimal results within the comfort of one’s abode. The meticulous preparatory measures, nuanced selection of tanning solutions, and precise application techniques are pivotal in attaining a flawless tan. Thorough research and discerning choice of tanning solutions play a vital role in yielding the desired outcome. Incorporating exfoliating mitts and body wash into the pre-tanning ritual significantly contributes to achieving impeccable results.

Tips and Tricks for a Flawless Self Tan

For a flawless self-tan, ensure thorough spray tan prep with proper exfoliation and shaving. Post-tanning, opt for loose clothing to preserve the tan artist’s work. Prevent uneven results by moisturizing hands, feet, and elbows before application. Safeguard your tan’s integrity by using colorless deodorant and sunscreen after the process. At-home airbrush tanning demands meticulous application for optimal outcomes. These tips and tricks will help you achieve a perfect, natural-looking tan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is Exfoliation Crucial before a Spray Tan?

Exfoliation is essential before a spray tan because it eliminates dead skin cells, resulting in a smooth surface for the tan to adhere to. Without exfoliating, the tan may appear uneven or streaky. It also helps the tan last longer and fade evenly. Remember to exfoliate at least 24 hours prior to your spray tan session.

2. How Long Should You Wait to Shower After a Spray Tan?

It is recommended to wait at least 8 hours before showering after a spray tan. During this time, avoid sweating or getting wet as it can affect the results. When you do shower, use lukewarm water and mild soap, and pat yourself dry instead of rubbing to avoid rubbing off the tan.

3. What Determines the Longevity of a Spray Tan?

The duration of a spray tan depends on several factors. Factors like your skin type, skincare routine, and the quality of the spray tan solution play a significant role. Exfoliating before the session can help extend the tan’s lifespan, while regular moisturizing afterward helps maintain the color. Proper care can make your spray tan last up to 7-10 days.

4. Are There Any Clothes to Avoid Wearing After a Spray Tan?

It’s important to avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes or anything that may rub against your skin immediately after a spray tan. Dark-colored clothing is recommended to prevent staining lighter clothes with the tanning solution. It’s best to steer clear of white, silk, or nylon clothing for a few hours after your spray tan appointment. Loose-fitting, breathable attire like a sundress or loose shorts are ideal post-spray tan.


To achieve a flawless spray tan, it’s important to understand the process and follow the necessary steps. Whether you opt for a professional spray tan or choose to do it at home, there are certain factors to keep in mind. Start by preparing your skin through exfoliation and shaving, and choose the right shade for your skin tone. After the spray tan, follow post-care instructions such as moisturizing and avoiding certain activities. In case of any uneven or patchy areas, there are methods to fix and blend the tan. To maintain your spray tan, shower properly, moisturize regularly, and protect your tan from water. Lastly, avoid common mistakes like skipping exfoliation, wearing tight clothing, or neglecting to moisturize. By following these tips and tricks, you can achieve and maintain a natural-looking and flawless spray tan that lasts.

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