There’s just something about being tan that gives you an instant confidence boost. A tan can help hide imperfections, leave you with a lit-from-within glow, and give you leeway to try some seriously bold makeup looks. If you’re looking to get a tan ASAP sans UV damage (or want to avoid tan lines), you’ve likely considered a spray tan.
Most of us have heard horror stories from friends about bad spray tans, which is probably why you’re here and looking to gather all the spray tan tips you can—covering everything from what to do before a spray tan to how to remove spray tan formulas should you fall victim to a tanning disaster. Don’t worry—we promise getting a spray tan isn’t as scary as it seems! In fact, with the right skin care routine and precautionary steps, you’ll be a bronzed goddess in no time. Keep reading for 12 spray tan tips for pale skin, dark skin, and every skin tone in-between to ensure you leave your spray tan session with an extra skip in your step.
SPRAY TAN TIP #1: PREP THE RIGHT WAY
First and foremost, you’re likely wondering how to prepare for a spray tan. The proper prep is key to ending up with flawless, sun-kissed skin after your tanning session, so take note of our prep tips below.
Spray Tan Prep Tip #1: Shave beforehand. Don’t wait to shave until after you get your tan—this will cause your tan to be removed more quickly, not to mention lead to a less even tan. Grab your razor and shaving cream and shave any areas you normally would prior to getting your spray tan.
Spray Tan Prep Tip #2: Smooth your skin. Exfoliation is so important! Over time, dead skin cells can build up on your skin. If you skip exfoliating prior to your spray tan, you’ll more than likely end up with a patchy, uneven tan. You want your skin to be as smooth as can be!
Spray Tan Prep Tip #3: Moisturize. Once you’ve shaved and exfoliated, it's time to hydrate your skin. Apply a body lotion and face moisturizer to do just that. If you don’t moisturize prior to your tan, the spray tan will cling to dry patches of skin, resulting in a patchy look. Yikes!
Spray Tan Prep Tip #4: Be timely. All of the above-mentioned tips should be done prior to getting a spray tan, but it’s important to consider when you do them. You want to prep close enough to your appointment so no hair grows back and no hydration is lost, but also want to give your skin time to relax before your tan. As a general rule of thumb, prep the night before if you plan to get your spray tan in the morning. If you’re getting your spray tan in the afternoon or at night, prep the morning of.
SPRAY TAN TIP #2. PAINT YOUR NAILS IN ADVANCE
You should avoid getting a manicure or pedicure after your spray tan and instead plan ahead to paint your nails (or have them polished) before your tanning session. Think about it: Both of these nail procedures involve soaking your fingers and using nail polish remover, among other things that can cause your spray tan to become patchy or fade prematurely. If you’re ever in a situation where it’s already too late to get your mani beforehand and getting your nails done is still a must, make sure your nail technician skips soaking your hands any using lotions or creams.
SPRAY TAN TIP #3. WEAR LOOSE, DARK CLOTHING
Wondering what to wear to a spray tan? You’ll want to sport dark, loose-fitting clothing. This will prevent any staining and also keep your clothes from rubbing against your freshly-applied tan, which can cause it to become uneven before it’s had time to set. You’ll also want to avoid wearing any jewelry, which can leave you with funky tan lines!
SPRAY TAN TIP #4. SKIP THE MAKEUP
This may seem self-explanatory, but it’s worth mentioning—do not wear makeup to your spray tan appointment. This will prevent your tan from properly adhering to your skin, and if you’ve blended your foundation down your neck, it can leave you with an uneven spray tan.
SPRAY TAN TIP #5. AND SCENTED SKIN CARE
Yes, you should definitively moisturize before getting a spray tan—but not too close to your appointment! Lotions, creams, perfumes, and even deodorants can affect how your tan adheres to your skin. Head to your appointment with clean, bare skin.
SPRAY TAN TIP #6: LISTEN TO THE PROS
How do spray tans work? Well, it’s important to listen to the pros at your salon. If you’re getting an airbrush tan, someone will be personally spraying you. They’ll tell you how to position yourself—whether that’s bending slightly or holding your arms up—to get a flawless application. If you’re getting a normal spray tan, you’ll be going into a booth that will involve rotating at the proper times to get an even tan. Pay attention and take note of the instructions given to you prior to getting the spray tan, as you won’t have someone to guide you on what to do once you’re in the booth.
SPRAY TAN TIP #7: WHEN IN DOUBT, GO LIGHTER
Not sure which shade to get? It’s always better to go lighter! That’s because as your tan develops, it’ll appear darker than when it’s first applied. Trust us—if you’re on the fence, you’ll definitely notice a difference post-tan even if you go with a slightly lighter shade. This is one of the best spray tan tips for pale skin, but it’s advice anyone can heed!
SPRAY TAN TIP #8: KEEP YOUR SKIN TONE IN MIND
The right spray tan color for you might not be what works for a friend. Besides the fact that someone with paler skin will lightly want to go lighter than someone with a darker skin tone, the undertone of their spray tan should be different. Not getting a spray tan with an undertone that is realistic can leave you looking orange—not the look you’re going for. Those with pale skin should ask for a tan shade with peach undertones, medium skin tones should scope out green undertones, and deep skin tones should look for purple undertones. Who knew?
SPRAY TAN TIP #9: TEST IT OUT
Are you getting a spray tan for a special occasion like prom or a wedding? Consider going for a test run a few weeks before your major event to ensure you like the spray tan formula and color. The last thing you want is to try a spray tan for the first time for a special night only to end up hating the shade!
SPRAY TAN TIP #10: CONSIDER AN AT-HOME OPTION
Too afraid to put your tan in someone else’s hands? We understand. Luckily, there are at-home spray tan options available. We’re talking about the L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist Medium Natural Tan. The super-fine 360-degree continuous mist coats skin evenly with its wide-angled jet applicator. Even better, the self-tanning mist formula dries instantly, allowing for ultra-even application and natural-looking, streak-free results—even on the areas that are hardest to reach, like the back of your legs!
To use, follow the same preparation tips for an in-salon spray tan, then spray at arm’s length, covering your whole body with an even mist. Let the formula dry on its own—don’t rub it in—then put on loose-fitting, dark clothing.
SPRAY TAN TIP #11: KEEP YOUR SKIN HYDRATED
To keep your spray tan looking its best (whether you get one at the salon or do it at home), it’s important to keep your skin moisturized! Moisturize from head to toe daily to do just that.
SPRAY TAN TIP #12: HAVE AN EXFOLIATING MITT ON-HAND
Need to know how to remove a spray tan? Whether you’re a victim of a bad spray tan or are simply ready for a change, exfoliating is the best way to remove your tan. An exfoliating mitt, in particular, will make it easier to slough off the spray tan formula when you’re ready. Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to remove your tan in one go—time will be your friend! Make sure to be gentle on your skin and don't exfoliate too often, no matter how desperate you are to rid yourself of that tan.
Next up: Want more at-home tanning options? Here’s How to Use Every Type of Self-Tanner.
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