Ever worried about trying spray tan? Have a bad experience with spray tan in the past? Here are the expert tips to guarantee deep, flawless, airbrushed looking results every time
7. Not too dry, not too wet!
Too oily or recently lotioned skin can create a barrier, not allowing absorbtion of the active bronzing ingredient (DHA). However, overly dry skin is even worse. It not only creates uneven results, as dry skin exfoliates unevenly, the dry skin can actually prevent absorbtion as well. Think of the dry desert that floods when it rains as the ground is too dry to absorb the fast falling rain water. The key is to keep your skin healthily moisturized daily, but not immediately before the spray tan. The spray tan should be done with freshly exfoliated, clean, and unlotioned skin.
“Too dry of skin is just as bad (if not worse) than skin that is overly moisturized.”
6. Barrier Cream! But only where you need it.
If you’ve ever wondered what that bottle of lotion in the room is, or the white lotion in the dispenser, it is barrier cream. Barrier cream blocks the absorbtion of the spray tan and is used to protect those places that should never look tan (palms, heels, etc.) from getting brown by the spray. Most people apply one big glob of it to their palms and feet, but you should actually apply 2 layers for the best look. Do one light layer on your whole hand (the top and palm from the wrist to the fingers) and another light layer on the feet (from the ankles down). Rub this in like hand lotion until it’s fully absorbed. Since the tops of your hands from the wrist down, and the tops of your feet from the ankle down are naturally lighter than the rest of your body, this light layer rubbed in will create an under the skin layer that has a natural blending effect in these trouble areas. After the light layers on the hands and feet, do a second top layer on the palms and heels. This will give you a second over the skin barrier in places that should get NO color whatsoever.
Once your spray tan is over and you are about to dry off, make sure you wipe all barrier cream off first before drying off your body as getting that barrier cream anywhere but where you wanted it (hands and feet) could spell trouble for wherever it touches. Use one towel to get the barrier cream off, and a separate fresh clean towel for your body!
“Most people apply one big glob of it to their palms and feet, but you should actually apply 2 layers for the best look.”
5. Wipe from the bottom!
Gravity is great and all, but when it comes to beauty it is often blamed for a lot! Spray tanning seeks to tarnish gravity’s reputation even further. Once you have sprayed (particularly Mystic Tan) you will have excess solution on the skin when you get out. These lovely little clear or brown droplets will normally just sit there waiting patiently to be toweled off. However, occasionally they can collect and due to gravity can turn into a downward river of liquid droplets running down a leg or arm. This is what is called ‘streaking’. It isn’t common, but definitely not fun when it does happen. To avoid the drip tan leg look forever, when you get out don’t dry your face first and work your way down (this is the most common post-shower practice) but should be done the opposite when spray tanning. Start with the bottom of your legs and wipe upward to prevent dripping. After your legs do your arms starting from the wrists going upwards to the shoulders, then do the torso, back, and finally the face last. This may seem backwards to how you normally dry off (face-first) but remember you are fighting gravity here and time is of the essence!
4. Use an accelerator! It’s like Miracle Grow for your tan.
Most people think that spray tanning is a dye, stain, or body paint. Actually it is a completely clear, sugar-derived extract that reacts with amino acids in the skin to change the color of your cells. There are several amino acids the active ingredient DHA (dihydroxyacetone) uses to make you look bronze, and a deficiency in any of these amino acids can yeild less than desirable results, or lighter than desired color. A spray tan accelerator puts the exact amino acids used in this process directly onto the skin right before you spray ensuring you get the darkest, most natural color imaginable. It can also increase the longevity of your spray tan (by bringing the solution deeper) as well as accelerate the development time! Out of all of our sunless products, our most popular accelerator is the CT Sunless Maximizer ($24), a customer and staff fave. Other available accelerators include Mystic Tan’s Accelerator (HyperTan), and VersaSpa’s Pre-tan intensifier.
3. Use the right products at home!
What you do before you come in and after you leave will make a huge difference on how much you love your results and if you can keep them up! Using products that contain heavy oils before coming in (body washes, scrubs, lotions, and even shaving creams) will create a barrier between you and your tan. It may also cause the dripping issue we mentioned above (#5). Yikes! Stay away from oils before you come in. In fact, many oils may strip your tan after the fact as well. Ironically, some lotions designed to give you sunless color (we are looking at you Jergen’s Natural Glow) contain these tan stripping oils in order to make you have to use and buy more and more of them!
Check ingredients for these common tan stripping ingredients:
Mineral Oil: It is a petroleum (yes, Petroleum!) based skin softener that not only strips your tan but also clogs your pores and has been known to have extreme effects on the skin. This is a common ingredient in cheap lotions (coco butters, suave, etc.) and is also found in Jergens Natural Glow and others. Avoid it like the plague if you don’t want to have to spray every single day. We have seen customer’s almost double their tan’s life by scrapping just this one ingredient!
Petrolatum: Also a petroleum based skin softener that clogs the pores and strips the tan. This is used much less than the aforementioned Mineral Oil, but is prevalent in body butters mainly and really rich body creme washes as well as the Jergen’s. Again, avoid it not just for your tan, but for your skin. It’s a cheap ingredient that doesn’t lock in moisture, but just makes your skin feel soft. Hydrated skin and soft skin are not always the same thing.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate: Also known as SLS, this is the most common ingredient in body washes as it is a pretty strong detergent and lathers well. However, It will strip your tan quicker than anything. Look for products that contain the less harsh Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or a more natural coconut derived sulfate. Our favorite is the Expose Luxe Body Wash ($23) as it is completely SLS-Free, has Shea and Pumpkin butters and smells unbelievably decadent.
“Ironically, some lotions designed to give you sunless color (we are looking at you Jergen’s Natural Glow) contain these tan stripping oils in order to make you have to use and buy more and more of them!”
Each location sells at-home sunless products guaranteed to not just be tan-safe, but to help extend the life of your tan, keep it looking natural, and prepare you for your next tan. These are usually pretty inexpensive. You can also look for products that are not going to strip your tan…usually somewhere at the higher end lotions at your pharmacy. The cheaper you go the more Mineral Oil and Petrolatum will be in them.
2. PH Balance!
So much of the color of your tan has to do with your PH Balance. This is a delicate balance that can be easily thrown off by extras on your skin. The main culprit is fragrance lotion. As we mentioned above, make sure not to use a regular lotion before spray tanning as it creates a barrier, but also the fragrance can throw off your PH balance which can adversely affect your tan. Spraying cologne or perfume on the skin before or immediately following a spray tan will have the same effect as the alcohol will dry the skin and the fragrance will alter the PH as well. If you must spray on perfume to smell good, mist on your clothes or in your hair for the day and avoid the skin. Using an accelerator (as mentioned above) will neutralize your PH balance directly before tanning as well.
“If you must spray on perfume to smell good, mist on your clothes or in your hair for the day and avoid the skin.”
1. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate!
This is the #1 recommendation for all spray tanners! Exfoliating before spraying is the best step you can take to make sure you are working with an even canvas to apply color to. Your skin is not naturally smooth and even. It is naturally jagged, and the dryest skin is on the outermost layer. Dry skin (see #7 above) is bad, as is jagged skin textures. If you apply color on uneven skin, than as the tan fades, it will fade unevenly. If you’ve ever experienced this uneven tan look it’s from not exfoliating. No need to rush out and buy a sugar scrub just yet (actually most of those contain oils you want to avoid). Just a good loofah and some elbow grease wil do the trick usually. Speaking of elbows, remember to get those good as well as other particularly dry areas. Sunless exfoliants that won’t affect your tan and require much less scrubbing are available at your salons in many different brands. Our favorite is Califonia Tan’s Body Buffer Exfoliator for Sunless Tanning as it actually lathers (most scrubs do not) and smells amazing. If you spray often, don’t skip the scrubbing in between sprays (it will not lessen your results)! You don’t want buildup. Exfoliating in between will only enhance your next spray, not take off your last one. Exfoliate every time!
“Exfoliating before spraying is the best step you can take to make sure you are working with an even canvas to apply color to.”
Instructions on doing Mystic Tan & VersaSpa