Spray Tan Most Asked Questions and How to Avoid the Problems Airbrush Tanning Techs Won't or Can't Fix

The Most Common Questions We Get About Spray Tans

  Q: Why do I have to wait 8 hours before I shower? A: The active ingredient in spray tan (DHA) does not start developing for about 2 hours. The color you see when your tan has been applied is "instant bronzer" and is not much more than make-up. It is a color guide to let the technician know they sprayed you evenly. Spray tan can continue to develop for up to 24 hours, and this is how you gradually get darker. We hit the ideal color at about 8 hours. Rinsing any early will probably leave you disappointed.  


Q. Why can't I get wet or sweat? A. This is only a rule during the time your tan is processing. You will neutralize your tan during your first shower, and afterwards you are free to do as you wish (almost.. no chlorine and such). When you shower, all areas stop developing; your instant bronzer washes down the drain and your real tan is what's left behind. But just as water neutralizes your tan during your first shower, it is also extremely easy to neutralize the tanning process unintentionally while you are still developing. As soon as liquid hits it, whether it be from the dew on the grass on the way to your car, sweat that starts to develop right before the AC comes on, or condensation that has dripped from your beverage, this "wet" area is now neutralized. The tan around the area will keep developing and getting darker, but the area that got wet will stop developing. This can lead to splotchiness. So we don't want you to get wet at all. Until you are ready to do it evenly.. which is during your first shower.  


Q: I just got my spray tan yesterday and it is already peeling...

A: If your spray tan is instantly peeling, it is due to the post and pre-spray, not the tanning solution or the technician. Most commonly- especially if this happens on the chest or under arms, the skin had a barrier on it blocking even penetration. This happens when residue is left behind from perfume, deodorant, bar soap, and certain moisturizers or make-up. The other reason this could happen is from sweating at some point while your tan is setting, especially in between the breasts. Make sure not to do anything "wet" or "sweaty" for at least 8 hours after your tan.   

Q: How dark can I get?

A: That depends on how attractive you plan on being to the public eye. In your mind, darker may be better. But all other people will see is a dirty or orange blob. Spray tans should be only a few shades darker than your natural skin tone and should have slightly more concentration on areas sunlight naturally hits, such as the tops of the shoulders. Notice the inside of your arm is not as dark as the outside. This is how your spray tan should also look. If you try to go unnaturally dark, and once again this means outside of your current skin color and not your summer color, two problems will occur. One, in a few days when dead skin cells start to shed, you won't be fading slowly and evenly like you should. You will be splotchy because of the contrast of the lighter color underneath shining through the much darker color on top. And two, DHA, the active ingredient in tanner, has a limit on skin. If your current skin color is likely to burn in the sun, stronger DHA is more likely to turn you orange. A higher concentration of DHA is designed for people who already have some color and are less likely to burn in the sun in their current state. So an experienced technician may advise against your request, and when you find someone else to do it for you, it is highly likely that you will be orange. Remember, spray tan is not intended to change your skin color. It is designed to give you a healthy and natural bronzed glow.  


Q: Can I go to the tanning bed before my spray tan?

A: If you want to' double dip' the tan, its best do visit the tanning bed after the spray tan and do a stand up bed (to prevent sweating). UV rays are one of the three things that can affect spray tan solution, so we don't want your skin exposed to these rays before your tan.  

Q: How long does a spray tan last?

A: 5-7 days depending on skin, post care, and prep. The better you prepare you skin for your tan (and not just the day before), and the better you take care of your tan afterwards (including proper tan care products and showering methods), the longer and more even your spray tan will last.


Q: Why do my feet look orange/ different than the tan on my legs sometimes?

A: This has do to with sweat and pH change. To prevent this, ask your technician for a warm towel to rub the body down and clean the skin as best you can. Avoid wearing older shoes to your tan and during your processing time. And definitely don't wear leather shoes/sandals.. After all, leather is tanned animal skin... that now has your pH mixed in as well. This can easily lead to orange feet.  

Q: Can I still get a pedicure after a sunless tan?

A: It is recommended to take care of this before your tan. You may use the barrier cream provided to cover your fresh nails when you are getting your tan. If you must get a nail service afterwards, wait until after you have neutralized the tanning process (showered), and then ask for a polish change or a non-exfoliating treatment. And if you do get a pedicure just before your tan, make sure there is no oil or moisturizer residue left behind or the tan will not penetrate and stain the skin.  


Spray Tanning is not an exact science. You must rely on yourself to read all the rules and do your research because things can get overlooked on busy spray days where the tech can't remember which parts she's already told you and what things she hasn't. Spray tan technicians will not have to fix anything if pre-tan instructions and post-tan procedures have been followed, (and hopefully provided). The harsh truth is simply this: many spray tan problems can't just be "fixed". And you can't just "redo" a recent tan. Tan stains the dead skin cells until they shed off. Tanning over a tan to "fix" a problem can make all areas darker- the lighter area will get darker, but so will the area that still has tanner on it. It is not necessarily going to blend like make-up. This is not meant to scare you off or deter you from getting a spray tan. Spray tans are awesome! But most people are getting them for an important event. And we want you to be well-prepared so you can have the perfect tan you imagined. So make sure you chose a technician or location with clear before and after instructions and ask your technician questions during your tan to clear up any confusion. Always do a trial run before an important event so you will know what to expect.  

Now go enjoy your next spray tan!


  -Casey Martin, Lead Esthetician

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