11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before Getting a Spray Tan

Augusta Falletta
11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before Getting a Spray Tan
Photo: Getty Images

Warmer weather means less clothing, which means more skin on display—and for some people, that means a fake tan is in order so as to avoid shining like a pale beacon when exposed to the light of day. But it’s 2017, folks, and we all know that baking our skin for real is out and aa faux tan is in—and we’ve go plenty of spray tan tips.

There are a few other means of getting some color—easy at-home self-tanner, for one—which can be effective but runs the risk of turning your skin (and sheets) orange. Spray tanning is definitely where it is at.

Here, eleven spray tan tips you must know before you hop in that spray tan booth. (Number 11 goes unsaid, but for the love of Ross Geller, don’t forget to put on the goggles.)

Try self-tanner at home

If you’re totally new to self-tanning, using a facial self-tanner at home will help you feel comfortable going for the glow. Once you decide you like the results, you’re ready to commit to a full-body tan.

Spray tans last about a week, give or take

This can vary from person to person, but they typically last about five to seven days from one application.

Shower and exfoliate before you tan

Use a body scrub head to toe to slough away any dry, flaky skin before you get a spray tan so that the pigment will adhere smoothly for the most even results (as in, least streaky). Avoid using any body oil or lotions with body oil prior to your tan, as it will cause blotches.

The color won’t just wash off

self tan removal mitt image 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before Getting a Spray Tan

Sun Laboratories.

The pigment that spray tans leave behind is meant to slowly fade as your top layer of skin regenerates, so it’s not the kind of thing you can just scrub off. That’s why it’s able to last up to a week—and why you should approach with caution to make sure you won’t be stuck looking unnaturally tan for a full seven days. If you find you’re seeing patches and want to remove your tan, gently exfoliating your skin with a self-tan removing mitt will do the trick.

Apply lotion every day

Keeping your newly tanned skin hydrated is the best way to make the color last longer, because it won’t dry out and need to be exfoliated prematurely.

It’ll get darker after application

Similarly to standard self-tanner, spray tans will get darker from the time they’re applied and as the day progresses. The color takes a little while to fully develop, so don’t be alarmed if you leave feeling like it’s too light—it won’t be for long.

Pat, don’t rub, your skin dry

To preserve your tan, pat yourself dry rather than scour with a towel after getting out of the shower. The idea is to not exfoliate for as long as possible so that you don’t slough off the tan. Avoid using loofahs or coarse washcloths for the same reason.

Wear nail polish

Even if it’s nothing more than a clear coat, wearing polish into the booth will help to protect your nails from the spray tan. If you do have a full manicure, don’t worry about it getting ruined—your nails will be wiped off afterwards.

Think about your bathing suit

While many people decide to get a spray tan while wearing nothing (no tan lines!), if you do wear a bathing suit, wear an old one you don’t mind ruining, since the tan can stain the fabric.

Apply barrier cream

spray tan barrier cream image 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before Getting a Spray Tan


Naturally drier areas of the skin, like the elbows, ankles, and knees, will absorb more pigment, so always apply a protective barrier cream before the tan so that they don’t go too dark. Most spray tan salons will provide the cream for use, so make sure you don’t skip it.

Look for a discount deal

Spray tanning can be expensive, but plenty of salons will offer deals on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial—if you’re apprehensive about the process but still want to give it a shot, at least make sure you’re not paying out the nose for your first time.

Originally published July 2016. Updated February 2020.