The “lit from within” glow is not easily achieved. For some, it means upping their water intake. For others, vitamin C and brightening serums are the only solution. And for those with little patience–including me– a spray tan usually does the trick. We tend to associate it with summer when we’re showing more skin, but there’s just as many people getting bronzed in the dead of winter when our skin tends to look duller. As someone who swears by it this time of year, I can tell you with confidence that it is a godsend.
To the contrary, there are still plenty who associate self-tanners with the color orange, stickiness and strange smells. So in an effort to dispel any myths, we chatted with St. Tropez Brand Ambassador Sophie Evans for a full breakdown of what to expect before, during and after a spray tanning sesh.
For starters, spray tans are nothing like the tangerine-colored ones you remember from the early ’90s. And they’re not just for white girls, either. That’s because the point of a spray tan is to give you a glow, and not completely alter your skin tone. Besides, it’s only temporary anyway.
“A high-quality self-tanner should give you a natural, superior bronzed glow with no streaks, no dehydration and a totally natural fade off,” says Evans. “It’s very important to choose your products right as the color will be applied from top to toe, so if you are nervous I highly recommend carrying out a patch test on your skin first.”
The final color you get with a self or spray tan is what really makes it a game-changing treatment. When applied the right way, it should dry down fast and elevate your glow in just one application.
“The sign of a good spray tan is that no one should know you are wearing one! Have a consultation, have a patch test and take the plunge!”
Ask any seasoned spray-tanner what they love about doing it in the winter and their answer will probably be its ability to take redness out of the skin. Think of it as a secret body armor that creates the illusion of warmer skin, even if you’re nursing a cold or other seasonal illness.
Evans also says, “When you are tanned you have a healthy glow, your contours are more defined, you appear to be more slim and toned. You will have more variety within your wardrobe as certain colors look so much better and less make-up needs to worn.”
Spray tans are also lightyears safer than traditional tanning beds, which carry health risks that can leave short and long-term damage, including skin cancer. Evans says that indoor tanning can raise a person’s risk for melanoma by 75%. So much so, that 13 states (and counting) have banned indoor tanning for anyone under the age of 18.
“People of all ages should avoid indoor tanning and use a self-tanning product that contains the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is found in all St. Tropez products, is safe to use and is approved by the FDA,” she says.
Pre and Post-Care
Now comes the fun part. If you’ve decided to take the spray tanning plunge, there are a few things you should do before your first appointment. According to Evans, they include not shaving for at least 24 hours before.
“Shaving is a form of exfoliation and will rid of all your dry skin before you are sprayed. It is important to do this at least 24 hours before and not any time after! If you do this after that time window, the self-tan will settle into your newly opened hair follicles and cause a pitted dark spot effect.” However, you should exfoliate (i.e. shower) 8 hours or just before the self-tan application. Evans says that your skin should have time to settle and resume its normal PH balance post-showering, but exfoliating just before is better than no exfoliating at all.
Additionally, don’t apply any body lotions or perfumes, as these (especially oil-based ones) can interfere with the spray tan developments. If you are wearing products, don’t panic. Instead, tell your spray tan artist and he or she should have wipes you can use for removal. And don’t be afraid to ask questions before they start spraying!
“Choose the correct type of self-tan that suits your skin and lifestyle,” says Evans. “St. Tropez has tons of formulas to choose from – classic, dark, express, gradual, etc.! So ask questions, consult with your spray tanner and have a patch test if in doubt. A spray tan treatment should be relaxing and comfortable and your solution can be bespoke and blended just for you.”
What you wear during the appointment is completely up to you. If you don’t want to go commando (which is absolutely fine), the spray artist should provide paper underwear that you can adjust so they’re just above your most intimate areas.
“A spray tanner is very comfortable with the human body and when they are spraying you, they are looking at micro areas of the skin rather than the bigger picture of you in your beautiful birthday suit,” says Evans. “Your spray tanner should make you feel comfortable and relaxed at all times.“
Afterwards, once the formula has had a few minutes to dry, Evans recommends wearing loose clothing so you can be more comfortable and not worry about it rubbing on your clothes.
The Lasting Power
How long your spray tan lasts depends on the brand, but St. Tropez formulas stay on for up to 10 days. Daily moisturizing is the key to keeping your natural tan intact, with an emphasis on doing it before bed when your pores open up more and allow maximum hydration to get in.
“I recommend using a gradual tanner like the Gradual Tan Plus Sculpt and Glow Everyday Multi-Active Toning Lotion every few days to boost your glow and skin’s hydration,” says Evans. “We also always recommend lightly exfoliating every 2-3 days to guarantee that your tan is fading evenly.”
Unfortunately, the face tan doesn’t last as long as the body’s, mainly due to heavy cleansing, toning and makeup. For this reason, Evans always recommends reapplying a face self-tanner every three days.
“If you want a product that will be your moisturizer, primer and give you a golden glow, I recommend using the Gradual Tan Plus Luminous Veil Face Cream. It can be used daily without the fear of skin turning too dark, is simple and easy to apply and is the perfect face spray tan maintainer. If you want a facial, relaxation plus a glow, you can use our Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet Mask.”
There are also a slew of body moisturizers that enhance a spray-tan, like the St. Tropez Finishing Body Gloss. The goal is to give you a shiny, glossy finish or even highlight certain areas, like the collar or cheekbones.
If you need more self-tanning tips, be sure to follow Evans on Instagram, stat.