How To: Get a Great Spray Tan


{Image from Elle}

Do your research.We have all seen a bad spray tan. The tell tale Oompa Loompa orange color, the unnatural jaundice glow, the streaky, dirty looking tan. If you are in the market for a flawless spray tan, do some homework. Look for pictures on Google or Facebook of salons or companies that offer airbrush tanning. The proof is in the pudding, if you see orange, take your business elsewhere. Ask around for referrals, word of mouth advertising from (non orange) trusted friends and family is always an excellent bet.


Scrub a dub dub. Exfoliation is imperative to achieving a flawless spray tan. Exfoliate your skin with a non-oily scrub (I like Clarins Smoothing Body Scrub) and exfoliating mitts. Pay close attention to your hands, feet, knees, and elbows. These areas of thicker skin tend to absorb more self tanner, you want them as smooth as possible in preparation for your spray tan. Make sure you shut off the water in the shower so your scrub doesn’t  just go down the drain. Exfoliate the skin on your face and neck with a washcloth and a non-oily facial exfoliant, you can’t go wrong with baking soda.


Shave. Be sure and shave before your spray tanning appointment. If you don’t take the time to do so, you’ll take away from your new color by doing it later. Shaving is an exfoliation in and of itself, be sure and do it prior to your appointment to ensure the smoothest skin possible.


Moisturize selectively. Upon your shower and exfoliation session, only moisturize certain areas of your body. Namely, your hands, feet, knees and elbows. This helps prevent these areas of thicker skin from absorbing too much self tanner. Do not moisturize your face or the rest of your body, self tanner absorbs best (and more evenly) on clean, bare skin. Apply a light layer of lotion or cream to the soles of your feet to prevent them from absorbing the airbrush solution.


Go au natural. Don’t wear deodorant or makeup to your spray tanning appointment. Both will affect your tan-and deodorant will turn your armpits (temporarily) green.


Prepare yourself. If you use a prescription or over the counter retinol product, talk to your dermatologist about skipping for a week prior to your spray tanning appointment. These exfoliating products can affect how the DHA is absorbed by your skin, which can lead to an uneven, splotchy tan. Coat any recent cuts or scrapes with Un-petroleum Jelly to prevent them from soaking up too much self tanner. If you have recently gone in for any kind of waxing services, hold off for a few days as this may prevent the airbrush solution from absorbing evenly (freshly waxed skin is hyper-smooth). I always put a little natural oil on my eyebrows and cuticles to prevent them from absorbing the airbrush solution and potentially turning orange. If you are sunburnt, don’t schedule a spray tan. Sunburned skin tends to be sweaty skin, you don’t want to perspire and cause your tan to run and streak.


Put yourself on house arrest. Most airbrush tanning technicians use a tinted formula that allows them to see the product as its being applied. To that end, you may look really dark and unnatural as the color develops-and don’t forget you’re also skipping deodorant. I always advise scheduling your spray tanning appointment at the end of the day so you can simply go home and relax before going to bed.


Make your bed. Although most self tanners wash out of fabrics easily, err on the side of caution and make your bed with a set of old or dark sheets. I sleep on a dark beach towel after my spray tanning sessions.


Dress for the occasion. Now is not the time for your white jeans, expensive lingerie, or tight clothes. Wear dark, loose fitting clothes (yoga pants, UGGS without socks, black panties, and an old zip up hoodie is my airbrush tanning uniform of choice) to your appointment. You can go as bare as you dare for avoiding tan lines, or you can opt for a black thong or disposable, paper thong if one is provided for you. Dress-or undress- to your comfort level. Pull up your hair in a ponytail and use the disposable shower cap that is provided for you.


Color me tan. My advice on getting a spray tan is always to err on the lighter side. I personally, am not a fan of the 0 to 60 spray tan. I prefer a more golden, natural, sun-kissed look. More self-tanner doesn’t just mean a deeper tan-it’s also more likely to streak. Everyone’s skin absorbs self tanner and DHA (the main component in self tanner) differently so bear that in mind.


Follow instructions. A good spray tanning technician will be prepared and walk you through your tan every step of the way-whether it’s your first spray tan or your fiftieth. They want your airbrush tan to be as flawless as you do. To avoid tanning the soles of your feet, stand on the towel in the tent at all times. Upon leaving the tent, wipe down the soles of your feet on another towel to prevent them from absorbing the airbrush solution. Use baby wipes to clean off your nails as staining here is a dead giveaway of a sunless tan.


Use common sense. I know a lot of you are going to ignore this next bit, but I urge you not to. Don’t repeatedly look down to examine your new (and still developing!) tan. Bending down and contorting yourself to check out your tan will only lead to creases and smudges, all of which will leave you with an uneven, splotchy tan. You can’t get mad at your spray tanning technician for your own lack of judgment stupidity. Some airbrush tanning technicians may charge you extra to fix any mistakes, so please use common sense. Allow your skin time to dry, at least fifteen minutes before dressing. Skip the bra and socks for the next six hours. No exercise, going out in the rain, or doing dishes (duh). Your skin cannot get wet as the airbrush solution develops, every airbrush solution is different your spray tanning technician will tell you when it’s safe to shower. If you use the bathroom, do not wash your hands, instead use a baby wipe to clean the palms of your hands.


Stay golden. Moisturize to preserve the life of your tan, everyday from head to toe immediately upon bathing to trap in moisture and hydration. The more hydrated the skin the better the tan. Again, use common sense. Avoid: grainy scrubs, AHA and other chemical exfoliant products, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acids, shower poufs or loofahs as these will all fade or remove your tan completely. Instead, use a soft washcloth and creamy body wash in the bath or shower. You can shave but try to do it as infrequently as possible as it is a physical exfoliation. Chlorinated and salt water will fade your tan, so keep that in mind. You can use touch of sun self tanning lotions appropriate for your face and body to extend the life of your tan and give you a few more days. Spray tans typically last 5 to 7 days, but all formulas are different, you can ask your spray tanning technician.

Do you get spray tans? What are your tips?

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5 Responses to How To: Get a Great Spray Tan

  1. amyg says:

    Yes, Just had one today! I think your tips are all dead on! Thanks BB xo

  2. Teri Roughen says:

    these are such great tips. i miss those days of ignorance about sun exposure when I would lay out for hours and had a beautiful tan to show for it. darn, can’t do that anymore.

  3. Breanna says:

    @Teri I know what you mean. Those ignorant days are gone. I’m all about self tanner, I would glow in the dark without it!

  4. Breanna says:

    @Amy I’m so jealous! I have been a DIY diva for months. I need to get my spray on!

  5. […] For more on self tanning, check out How To: Apply Self Tanner and How To: Get a Great Spray Tan. […]

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