When it comes to spray tans, we’ve all heard – or experienced – the horror stories (if you’re having flashbacks to the nuclear orange faces and streaky legs of the 00s, you’re not alone). These days though, the dream of glowy, bronzed skin is more than achievable – it’s actually pretty easy. There’s just a few big mistakes to avoid to keep your sunkissed glow turning from tan to tan-goed. Don’t worry, though – that’s where we come in. From prep to post-tan, we’ve got all the do’s and don’ts you need to know to get that perfect spray tan. (And just in time for legs-out season too – you’re welcome).
By Beth Ryan
1 DO: Exfoliate before your tan
(But not too close to your appointment). Say it with us: prep is key when it comes to achieving a flawless spray tan, and exfoliation will be your best friend. You should try to exfoliate your whole body (but especially areas prone to dryness such as elbows and knees) around 48-24 hours prior to your spray tan. Getting rid of all of those dead layers of skin will mean a more even, less splotchy, and longer-lasting tan. Make sure you’re not buffing too close to your appointment, though, as the exfoliation will mean your pores are left wide open. Give them time (again, at least 24 hours) to close again so that the tanning solution isn’t able to sink into your follicles and leave little black dots (known as strawberry legs).
2 DON’T: Wear makeup, deo, or lotions to your appointment
When it comes to spray tanning, a clean slate is best. This means no makeup, deodorant, lotions etc. – these can all act as barriers to the tanning solution, and can stop it from absorbing into your skin properly. If you have to wear any of the above to your appointment – don’t fret. Your practitioner will likely be able to provide wipes or something similar so you can remove it there and then. If you want to be *really* prepared (or you just can’t imagine taking your makeup off with anything other than your fave products – bc same) – you can always bring your own. Just make sure they don’t include oils, as this can *also* act as a barrier to the tanning solution.
3 DO: Shave before your appointment (if you want to)
If you shave or wax, it’s best to do this prior to your appointment. Doing so afterwards can speed up the fading process, as it removes layers of skin (and in turn, your tan). Just like with exfoliation, you’ll want to aim for around 24-48 hours before your spray tan. Too close to your appointment and the pores may still be open – leading to ‘strawberry legs’. If you *really* want to prolong your tan, it could be worth considering switching to a longer-lasting method of hair removal, such as waxing, before your spray tan. That way, you won’t have to worry about shaving and affecting your tan in the days following your appointment.
4 DON’T: Get stressed about stripping off
Before your spray tan, your practitioner will leave the room whilst you get undressed. The idea of getting your kit off in front of a stranger might seem daunting (and it’s one of the biggest things that people fret over when it comes to spray tans) but trust us: it’s really not as scary as it seems. This is a judgement-free zone, and your therapist will have seen it all before. So, if you’re after a tan-line free look, don’t be afraid to bare it all. If you’re not ready to go the full-monty, you can also keep your underwear on if you wish. Just be aware that you’ll most definitely have tan lines, so it’s best to opt for something minimal like a thong, and make sure you position your underwear so that your tan lines aren’t wonky. Plus, forewarning – your underwear will likely be stained, so opt for dark (or old) underwear. Make sure to remove any jewellery, too, and you’re good to go.
5 DO: Have an idea of the look you’re after
At the start of your appointment, your practitioner will ask you what kind of shade you’re after. Just like having your hair or nails done, it’s a good idea to have a few examples in mind when it comes to your spray tan. Take some inspo pics with you – whether they’re of your fave celeb, or just of yourself on your hols with a tan. This will help your practitioner pick the best shade for you.
6 *But* DON’T: be surprised if it’s not the exact same shade and look.
Here’s the thing: spray tans aren’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of deal. If you want to get science-y, the actual result comes from a chemical reaction between the active ingredient in the tanning solution (DHA or dihydroxyacetone, if you want to get technical), and your skin. This creates compounds known as melanoidins, which give the skin a bronzed appearance. Sounds complicated, we know, but here’s our point: Just like alcohol has more of an effect on some people than others, DHA can have more of an effect on some people’s skin. This means that different strengths of solution can look different on each person. So, just be aware of this if it’s your first time having a spray tan. After a few visits, your practitioner will be able to adapt the solution to what suits you best.
7 DO: Wear loose-fitting clothes to your appointment
Yep, your spray tan appointment is one of those many occasions on which comfy clothes are *definitely* best. Opt for baggy, loose-fitting clothes that a) are easy to get on and off, and b) won’t rub off your tan post-appointment. This includes underwear (if you’re not opting to wear it during your appointment), socks, and shoes. Flip flops are a safe option, too. Again, it’s best to opt for old, dark clothes here, as the guide colour in the tanning solution can sometimes leave stains.
8 DON’T: Shower or bath for at least 8 hours after your spray tan
Your spray tan will take a little while to develop – usually around 6-8 hours, but your practitioner will tell you if yours is any shorter or longer. Whilst your tan is developing, don’t shower or bath, and try to avoid getting wet at all (this includes rain or heavy sweating). Make sure to wait for the full development time, or your tan may not reach its full effect. During this time, you’ll probably smell slightly like malty biscuits, and the colour may seem a little darker – don’t worry, that’s totally normal, and both will lessen with a shower. If you leave your tan longer than the development time, (overnight, for example) – it won’t develop any more than the maximum, so don’t fret. Just be aware that if your formula included a guide colour, it may stain your bedsheets (or fave PJs).
9 DO: Keep your skin hydrated
One of the best ways to make your tan last longer is to keep your skin hydrated and moisturised, to avoid the layers of skin from shedding and taking your hard-earned tan with it. Moisturise regularly to keep your tan locked in for longer. BUT…
10 DON’T: Use products that will strip your tan
So, keeping your skin hydrated is important, but there are certain products and ingredients that can strip your tan and make it fade much quicker. Oils, such as coconut oil, mineral oil, and grapeseed oil, are particularly guilty. It can be worth a quick google to check whether your fave products contain anything that will lessen your tan.