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12 Spray Tan Tips to Know for Before You Hit the Tanning Booth

The right prep is the key to a good spray tan.
August 29, 2022

There’s just something about being tan that gives you an instant confidence boost. It can help to hide imperfections, leave you with a lit-from-within glow and even condense your makeup routine (bye bye bronzer and highlighter). It’s hard to beat that quick and easy bronzed color that a spray tan gives you without harmful UV rays and at any time of year. 

If the only thing that’s holding you back from getting a spray tan is the horror stories (looking orange is a big one), let us tell you that there is power in the preparation and the aftercare. Prepping your skin before your spray tan is the best way to achieve an even glow and proper aftercare is the best way to ensure your tan fades evenly without getting blotchy. Take notes as we share top spray tan tips for dark skin tones, pale skin tones and everything in between to ensure you leave your spray tan session looking like the best-bronzed version of yourself. 

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How to Prepare for a Spray Tan the Right Way

The right preparation is hands-down the best way to ensure that you get a good spray tan so it’s important to know what exactly that entails. Once you’re sporting the faux-bronzed glow, the right aftercare is what will make your spray tan last and fade evenly. To keep you covered during every part of the spray tan process, check out our tips below. 

1. Shave, Exfoliate and Moisturize Before Tanning

As we said, the proper prep is key to ending up with flawless, sun-kissed skin and naturally, there are a few parts to it. The first and one of the most important steps is to shave beforehand. Shaving after your spray tan will cause the tan to look blotchy and fade quicker. Another important preparation step is head-to-toe exfoliation, which can make or break your spray tan. 

Over time, dead skin cells can build up on your skin, so if you skip exfoliating prior to your spray tan, you’ll more than likely end up with a patchy, uneven tan. To exfoliate your face, we love the L’Oréal Paris Pure Sugar Resurface & Energize Kona Coffee Scrub, which gently resurfaces the skin for a smooth, brightened complexion. 

The last step is moisturizing which is similar to exfoliating in that if you don’t moisturize in the days leading up to your spray tan, there’s a good chance it will cling to dry patches. With all of that prep, comes the task of timing it accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, prep the day before you plan to get your spray tan. On the morning of your spray tan, only moisturize problem areas like the elbows, feet and anywhere else with dry patches where the tan can stick. Moisturizing all over before your spray tan doesn’t bode well for its lasting abilities and will result in a lighter tan.

2. Paint Your Nails in Advance

Avoid getting a manicure or pedicure after your spray tan. Both of these services involve soaking your fingers and using nail polish remover, among other things that can cause your spray tan to become patchy or fade prematurely at your hands and feet. A good rule of thumb is to always schedule your nail appointment before your spray tan. 

Editor’s tip: If you have a light-colored manicure or pedicure like milky nails, make sure to wipe off your nails after your spray tan because your nail polish may stain.

3. Watch What You Wear

You’ll want to avoid wearing any jewelry that can leave you with funky tan lines, so leave those beautiful rings and decorative bangles home. After your 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 lead to uneven patches and blotchy spots if it hasn’t had time to set. 

4. Skip Makeup

This may seem like it goes without saying, 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. The only thing you’ll want to have on your face is a light moisturizer that has had some time to absorb.

5. And Skip the Scented Skin Care

You should definitively moisturize before getting a spray tan but not too close to your appointment. Scented products like lotions, creams, perfumes and even deodorant can affect the way your spray tan adheres to your skin. Head to your appointment with clean, bare skin and moisturize with a fragrance-free lotion the night before.

6. Listen to the Pros

Always defer to your spray tan artist, especially if you’re getting an airbrush tan because they’ll direct you on how to position yourself to get a flawless application. If you’re getting a spray tan in a booth, a machine will be responsible for your spray tan so pay attention and take note of the instructions given to you as you won’t have someone to guide you once you’re in the booth.

Editor’s tip: And we don’t advise counting "Mississippily" if you’ve been given a countdown for the process.

7. When in Doubt, Go Lighter

If you’re stuck between a few shades, it’s always better to go with the lighter one. Remember that as your tan develops, it’ll deepen in color. This is one of the best spray tan tips for pale skin, but it’s advice anyone can benefit from.

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 want to go lighter than someone with a darker skin tone, the undertone of their spray tan should also be different. 

Similar to the way you color correct your complexion, those with pale skin should ask for peach undertones to brighten the skin, medium skin tones should scope out green undertones to correct redness and dark skin tones should opt for purple undertones to correct yellow, sallow tones. 

9. Do a Test Run for Special Occasions

If you’re getting a spray tan for your wedding or prom, definitely test it out beforehand. 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.

10. Consider an At-Home Option

Take matters into your own hands and consider an at-home spray tan option. The L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist Medium Natural Tan and the L'Oréal Paris ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Mist Deep Natural Tan have a super-fine 360-degree continuous mist that coats skin evenly with its wide-angled jet applicator. The self-tanning mist formula dries instantly, allowing for ultra-even application and natural-looking, streak-free results. It’s especially great for areas that are hard to reach, like the back of your legs.

Follow the same preparation tips that you would follow for an in-salon spray tan. Spray at arm’s length and cover your whole body with an even mist. Let the formula dry on its own — don’t rub it in and when you’re finished, throw on your loose-fitting, dark clothes.

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 really important to keep your skin moisturized with oil-free products. Oil breaks down self-tanner so you always want to avoid those. Once a few days have passed and you notice your tan fading, reach for a gradual tanning lotion like the L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion Medium Natural Tan to extend your faux bronzed glow.

Editor’s tip: The tan on your face will fade the quickest due to daily cleansing, skin care and makeup so grab a self-tanner that’s formulated for your face to do easy re-touches. The L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Water Mist, Vitamin E is a great option and will leave you with a gorgeous, bronzed complexion sans unwanted orange tones. 

12. Have an Exfoliating Mitt On-Hand

All spray tans must come to an end and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you’ve hit the seven to ten day mark, you’ll start to see signs of fading and know it's time to scrub it. At the end of your shower, grab an exfoliating mitt and start to scrub your skin, the skin will be soft and moisturized and you’ll start to see the self-tanner buffing away. 

You may not be able to remove your spray tan in one go so exfoliate, moisturize and repeat the process until it’s fully removed and you can start fresh. This is especially important if you’re trying to remove a fresh, spray tan mishap. Always be gentle on your skin and don’t over scrub as that can lead to irritation.

Next: Can You Mix Tanning Drops With Sunscreen?

Edited by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo, iStock

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