how to prepare for a spray tan
Makeup + Beauty, Style

How to Prepare for a Spray Tan

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How to prepare for a spray tan: Tips and the ins and outs about how it works, how long it lasts, how much it costs, airbrush vs. machine and more!

Tips for a Spray Tan - Woman posing in street

How to Prepare for a Spray Tan

I LOVE a good spray tan. I have pale skin and there’s something about instantly glowing and feeling so much better about how you look in shorts and a swimming suit. (Speaking for myself of course… not saying that this determines someone’s beauty.)

I wanted to write this post to share all of the things I’ve learned over the years about spray tanning because I’ve heard from so many of you that you want to know more about how it works, how long it lasts, what’s the best way to make it last and so much more.

And although I’m no tanning connoisseur by any means, I did work in a tanning salon in high school, have tried the spray tanning machines, and have also tried the “by hand” technique. Now, I by FAR, prefer the “by hand” technique, but no matter if you’re using the machine or if you’re going for an airbrush spray tan soon, these tips will help you prepare for it and hopefully result in a longer-lasting glow!

Spray Tan Tips

I’m going to break down the tips in a “what you need to know”, “before”, “during” and “after” format, so you’ll be prepared for it from the get-go!

What to Know Before You Go…

How much is a spray tan?

Just like with anything, prices can vary. However, I’ve priced them in many different states, and the airbrush, custom, “by-hand” spray tanning seems to range from $25-$40.

How long does a spray tan last?

Depending on how you care for your tan and your skin tone, it can last anywhere from 5-10 days.

Do I have to get naked for a spray tan?

Chances are, if you’re female and the tanning artist is female, yes you will be naked.
If you’re male… you’ll more than likely have to keep your underwear or shorts on.
Is it awkward? Well, if it’s a professional salon, they do their very best to not make you feel awkward. But even so, it can be a bit intimidating, so what I do is tell myself:
“They see a lotta naked bodies… you’re just another body.”

  • After your tan, you’ll notice a darker color and you should continually get darker after a few hours. So know that you’ll be REALLY dark until you shower off that top layer of tan, 6 hours later.
  • Try not to schedule anything afterward, but if you do… it’s ok to go out and about (unless it’s raining!), just be cautious of what you touch/sit on, etc.
  • When you do shower, you’ll see brown/black wash off in to the shower/tub. Don’t worry! This is normal.
  • Spray tans fade quickly with activities like massages with oils, swimming in pools/lakes/hot baths, etc. So if you’re looking to really extend the life of your tan, it may be best to avoid what you can. But ideally, we get spray tans for when we are going to spend time in places like pools/ocean, etc.
    Just know that the tan may not last as long as it would without partaking in those activities… but it won’t remove it all at once and color the water or area around you or anything like that, so don’t let that be a concern!
  • Still use sunscreen! The spray tan will not protect from sunburns!

Pre Spray Tan Tips

When you make an appointment, make sure to think ahead of time (a couple of days) so you can plan and do a few things to help make the best of your spray tan. For instance,

  • Do the spray tan 2 days before your event/trip/etc. This gives the tan time to settle in and give that natural glow. (Although I even love the look of the tan, the day after!)
  • Do not apply makeup, lotions, or anything beforehand on the day of but DO moisturize the night before and even days before if you can. No deodorant (or the spray may react with it and turn your armpits purple).
  • Exfoliate within 24 hours with an exfoliating scrub (not oil-based), gloves, or even just use brown sugar!
  • Moisturize the rough areas beforehand and exfoliate! (Heels, elbows, etc.)
  • Shave the night or morning before, just try not to use an oil-based shaving cream. If you wax, do so at least 24 hours prior to your tan. If you’re currently undergoing laser hair removal, you should refrain from spray tanning all together!
  • Do you get manicures and pedicures? Do them at least a day in advance. Rubbing, exfoliating and other services can remove the spray tan from the areas they focus on if you do them after your tan.
  • Still feel unsure? Call and talk to someone at a spray tan location if needed. They are usually super helpful!
    If you’re in the St. Louis area, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Vegas Tan. But we just moved to Montana so I’ll be trying out some new locations and hope to have some reviews soon!

Tips When Going to Spray Tan

  • Wear loose clothing and try not to wear a bra afterward! So lose/baggy and dark clothing is ideal. I’m a goof and wore tight yoga pants on my first visit. It turned out to be ok, but I was a nervous wreck.
  • Don’t wear jewelry… but if you do, take it off before the tan.
  • Is it raining that day? Park close if you can, take an umbrella, and wear clothes covering your skin! (Long sleeves, pants, full-covering shoes, etc.) My husband and I went when it was raining and we had a few raindrop spots on our arms that weren’t horrible, but still showed and we wished they hadn’t.

After Spray Tan Tips

Spray tan 2 days after

Aftercare of your spray tan can be just as important as the pre-care if you really want to extend the life of your tan. Here are my tips for after…

  • Wait to shower, workout or do any activity that will cause you to sweat, until at least 6 hours after the treatment. (Unless your salon recommends a different time. Different tanning solutions and procedures can make this vary, but this is what I’ve commonly found.)
  • Try not showering AS much. I know that may sound “gross” but just don’t take a hot bath, just for the heck of it, if you want you tan to last longer. Or, even if it comes to your normal, regular showering… just taking care of the areas that need it may be a trick to getting around feeling clean, without scrubbing off the tan.
  • Try not to scrub or use rough cleansers or a loofah. Hand wash is ideal!
  • Stay moisturized after the spray tan to extend the life of your tan. Use an unscented moisturizer or moisturizer designed to prolong the life of your tan. Lotions from places like Bath and Body Works and Victoria Secret are not ideal and can break down the spray tan.
  • After your shower, don’t rub the towel super hard against your skin. Pat drying is best!

I sure hope this helps you if you’re preparing to go for a spray tan soon! If you’re scared (or still scared) to go try it, just remember that it doesn’t last forever and if you’re thinking of getting it done for a major event or trip, maybe go once a month or so before, to make sure you like it and want to have it done before something special!

Have you Had a Spray Tan Before?

Do you love spray tanning? What tips do you have that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear! DM me on Instagram HERE!

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