Spray Tan Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Tanning in 2022 (Includes How Long they Last, When to Shower & Much More)

Spray Tan 101 - Your Ultimate Guide to TanningYou don’t have to cause skin damage or risk cancer to achieve a celebrity-status tan. Just get your story straight about a luxurious island get-away and book your appointment at a salon for a spray tan!

But, you don’t dare try it? Afraid you’ll end up regretting the near-nude experience?

Well give your fears to us because we’re here to cheer you on and relieve you of your doubts.

We’ll spill the beans on everything the experts and the celebrities do before hand and after, even what kind of skivvies you should wear!

Tan Preparation

Don’t sucker punch yourself into leaving the salon with the ever-dreaded pumpkin shade – it’s not Halloween yet! To enhance your chances of getting the best tanning shade possible, the prep works starts long before your tanning date!

Follow all our steps to come out of the salon gorgeous and sun-kissed! No one would know the wiser!

How to Prepare for a Spray Tan

Patch Test Color

Weeks before your tanning date, you want to pay a visit to your tanning salon. Request a skin patch of your desired shade. If you don’t like it, patch another shade. This should be done in advance to ensure you have plenty of time to find a color, salon, and method you like best. You’ll be very sorry if you don’t patch test first to find you’re covered from head to toe in a color you more than hate.

Get Your Nails Done

Get your nails done before you get spray tanned. Spray tanning can stain your nails, and if you have a photoshoot or an upcoming event, everyone will know where you got your gorgeous tan with just one look at your nails. Plus, chemicals and products used in a mani and pedi can often strip the tan from around your nails and hands. Play it safe and get your nails done first! If you’re not planning on getting a mani done, give your nails a coat of clear polish to protect them.


There’s no point in getting a tan if your skin isn’t as smooth as a baby’s ass. We’re totally green with envy because they don’t even have to try. Exfoliate by showering first with a sugar scrub to buff dead skin cells. Pay extra attention to dry areas like the elbows, knees, knuckles, and back of your heels.

Hair Removal

Wax, shave, epilate – whatever it is you do, do it! It will further help to smoothen your skin, and it will prevent uneven skin tone. This applies to the eyebrows too, unless you want everyone to know your tan didn’t come from that fake trip to Tijuana.

Go Au Natural

Skip your makeup and deodorant routine for the day. Typically the salon should offer makeup remover wipes, but it’s best to go au natural beforehand, stinky pits and all. Wearing products during your tanning session can prevent the tanning solution from maximum absorption and can result in uneven skin tone.

What to Wear When Getting a Spray Tan

Wear a Skin Barrier

This means to apply a type of barrier cream to your elbows, knuckles, knees, and back of heels. You’ll also want to apply to your palms, soles, cuticles, and ankles. It will prevent the spray tan from gathering in those areas making them darker than the rest of your body. The salon should provide this before you step into your tanning session, but just in case, be prepared to bring your own. Apply some lip balm to your lips.

Wear a Primer

It’s exactly what it says it is. It primes the skin for tanning by lowering the skin’s pH levels and moisturizes at the same time.

Nude Up

During the tanning process, you want to be as nude as possible to prevent tanning lines. Many salons allow women to go butt naked – oh yeah! If you’re not quite comfortable with that (boo!), a bikini, swimsuit, or underwear will work. What works even better is a disposable G-string, something you mightn’t have seen since your bachelorette days, right? Be prepared to throw it out afterwards since they will stain, and the last thing you need is dirty G-strings going through the wash like you shat yourself. Unfortunately for guys, men are often required to wear some sort of underwear with any type of cut they wish. Time to get racy.

Go Baggy

After the tanning session, you’ll want baggy, loose, and dark clothing. It will prevent friction against the skin which rubs the tan off. Also, think flip flops. If the weather looks less than best outside, take an umbrella and wear loose, long sleeved clothing.

Tan Process

Ah, the day has come and you’re not sure whether you should be excited or nervous. Do you have to go nude? Will someone be exposed to every wrinkle and dimple in every crevice and crack of your body? Is a cheap price an omen of a bad tan? Don’t fret. We’ll give you the insider info on what to expect right here!

tanned woman in bikini

How do Spray Tans Work?

Think of a spray tan like a mist of brown goodness that coats your body in the sexiest shade possible without all the damage that comes from the sun or a tanning bed. The mist contains a vital ingredient called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that’s a colorless sugar derived from plants such as beets. This is what interacts with your own unique skin chemistry to take you from sickly pale to a beautiful bronze being. This is why a patch test it important to see what the eventual shade will be. The DHA reacts with your skin when it’s exposed to oxygen the same way an apple turns brown when it’s been sliced up.

DHA does take approximately 3-5 hours to fully work its magic on your skin cells, however, many spray tans contain a temporary dye or bronzing agent to provide instant results. A spray tan is temporary, and it can last anywhere between 3-7 days. A good tip is not to sweat excessively or shower for at least 12 hours to ensure maximum absorption has occurred.

The barrier cream that you’re wearing on extra dry areas of your body is protected from the DHA from gathering and over-tanning. The result is a well-blended tan. You can simply wipe off the barrier cream with warm water after the tanning session is over.

You’ll be given a hair cap for the session to prevent unwanted hair from getting in the way. It will also protect the hair from being stained. You’ll want to push the cap slightly behind the hairline to prevent a white, un-tanned line on your forehead.

How is a Spray Tan Applied?

There are three methods in which you can be given a tan: booth, artist, or self-spray.


This is what you would consider a professional spray. You’ll stand in a rather roomy chamber that’s ventilated and discrete. The machine then releases the mist to spray the entire the body within a few minutes. This is a very popular method since you can tan naked without anyone actually seeing you. Again, think about your made-up story of where you got your tan. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself – it’s the only place you can get away with indecent exposure!


For a very detailed tanning session, you can opt for an airbrush artist that leaves little room for error. They literally paint the tan onto your body. They can even provide detailing for muscle contours and the like.


It costs less than the professional methods, but it can be very messy. When choosing a self-spray tanning product, ensure the main ingredient is DHA. You’ll also want to check for included botanicals and perhaps a temporary dye to kick off the process. The downside is you literally have to cover up every surface in the immediate vicinity of your tanning session. It will stain flooring, furniture, and walls. If you don’t apply the tanning spray correctly, you might end up with a pumpkin shade versus a sun-kissed tan.

How Much is a Spray Tan?

Spray tan sessions can vary with the availability, competition, and expertise offered in your area. As a generality, DIY over-the-counter products might only cost between $5-$40 dollars. You’ll also have to remember the costs of protecting your tanning area from staining.

For a spray tanning session in a booth, it should cost around $25-$60. The better the machine and the higher quality the product, the more expensive it will be. For an airbrush tan, it will cost you approximately $35-$80. These prices can vary for an artist since it will depend on their expertise and any special contouring you may wish like on your breasts or abs.

If you want to maintain your tan, you might want to consider package deals, membership discounts, or a free session after “x” amount of sessions. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than your “week long vacation to the Bahamas”, wink wink.

How Long do Spray Tans Take?

tanned woman on beach in mauiSpray tanning is far less time consuming than lounging in a tanning bed or sun-bathing at the beach. It’s also far more safer since it doesn’t penetrate layers deep causing long-term damage.

The gist of it is, spray tanning is fast and practically immediate. Doing it yourself might take the longest since you have all the prep and clean up work. You’re also applying the spray yourself and having to rub it in long strokes. This can take up to 20-30 minutes.

Getting it done by an airbrush artist can take around 15 minutes. What you’re left with is an even tan and contoured shades without all the cleanup afterwards! The booth is an even faster method of only a few minutes. It’s cheaper and you don’t have to do anything more than step out and get dressed.

Pros & Cons of Spray Tans

What is it that “tannies” like about spray tans? Here’s all the thumbs up from the masses!

  • Easy process
  • Fast application
  • Applied by someone else
  • Reaches all areas of the body
  • Fast drying
  • Natural-looking

It does take some experimenting to find the right shade for you since DHA works with your own unique skin chemistry. Here’s the thumbs down.

  • Price
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Wearing clothing afterwards if going to a salon

Post Tan Care

After all of that, what are you supposed to do after? Is there a protocol to follow? You know it! It’s just as important to pay attention to post tanning methods as it is to prep. Here’s the low-down to keep your tan looking its best.

woman showing spray tanned stomach

How Long to Wait to Shower After a Spray Tan

Your salon should give you an approximate time to wait to shower after your session because it depends on the type of product that was used. It typically varies between 2-12 hours post tanning session. However, most salons will ask you to leave it on overnight if you can.

You should also avoid swimming with your new tan. The chlorine from the pool can quickly cause a premature fade, as can prolonged water exposure. If you can’t resist showing off your new tan in a bikini, then ensure you use a waterproof sports sunscreen to create a water barrier to protect it. This is only after your first shower.

How to Shower After a Spray Tan

If you’ve waited for as long as you can to shower and you can’t stand it any longer, here’s the dos and don’ts to protect your tan.

  • Do expect to see color washing off in the shower, but remember it’s not your tan. It’s just the bronzer or dye that’s coming off while the DHA gives the lasting results. This is normal.
  • Shower with warm water for a quick wash. Avoid long, hot showers and baths as it can cause your tan to fade faster than you’d like.
  • Do feel free to use your hands to wash up. Loofahs and cloths will rub the tan off prematurely.
  • Do use gentle and mild soaps and body washes. Don’t use perfumed, fragranced, and harsh products on the skin that can cause excessive skin dryness.
  • It’s okay to shave every once in a while, but don’t overdo it with daily shaving. Also, don’t exfoliate in the shower until your tan is fading away. The rough texture will literally scrub the tan away.
  • Do pat dry yourself after your shower. Don’t rub yourself down with your towel.
  • Do moisturize liberally! Doing this twice a day will help to enhance the life of your tan. Don’t use products that contain mineral oil or that are heavily scented.
  • Avoid band aids, acne spot treatments, face washes containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, and resist the temptation to double up your tan with self-tanning lotions. All of the above can negatively impact your tan and can strip away or change the color.

How to Take off Spray Tan

If you tried to DIY it and you were left with streaks and patches, you’ll want your tan off! If a spray tan helped you discover that you appreciate your original, pale glow, there’s an easy way to banish the tan.

Visit The Spa!

Who said removing a tan has to be boring? Pamper yourself with a visit to the steam room to unwind and open your pores. The opened pores will release the tan allowing it to be rubbed off with a towel afterwards.

Take a Dip

Go for a lap or two around the pool. Everything taboo to keep your tan now has a green light to get rid of it. Get wet, splashing, and completely soaked in chlorine to help strip the tan without streaking.


Do it in the shower every day especially on the knees and elbows. Use loofahs and scrubs only on the body while using a gentler exfoliator on the face. You can even up the ante with exfoliator gloves – nifty idea!


Create DIY at-home remedies to help speed up the process of fading your tan. Use ingredients like raw aloe vera, coconut water, and produce high in Vitamin C like tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes. Try baby oil and baking soda, an oil bath, hydrogen peroxide, baby wipes, or hair removal cream.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Everyone loves this saying. Why? It really hits home that you need to prepare correctly in order to get the best results, and this is ever more true of spray tanning.

Avoid the tell-tale streaks and blotches of an orange hue of a bad spray job. Instead, smooth your way into a brown, flawless tan that you got from a mini vay-cay in Cancun, right? Right!