Spray tanning has become increasingly popular as an alternative to lying out in the sun. However, with various spray tan options on the market, it can be tricky to choose the right one. This guide will help you understand spray tan types, picking the perfect shade, skin preparation tips, what to expect during your session, how to care for your tan, common mistakes to avoid, and deciding between a salon tan or doing it yourself.

Different Spray Tan Types

There are a few different types of spray tans to consider. The most common are:

  • DHA Tans: This uses dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to react with the skin’s amino acids to develop a tan. DHA tans develop over 1-3 hours and last 5-10 days. They provide a natural-looking glow.
  • UV & Infrared Tans: These spray solutions contain ultraviolet light and infrared rays that stimulate melanin production. The tan develops more quickly but only lasts 3-5 days.
  • Airbrush Tans: An airbrush machine sprays a fine mist of DHA or bronzer solution. It allows for precise application and an even result. However, it requires more skill from the technician.

Choosing the Right Shade for Your Skin

When booking your appointment, discuss your natural skin tone and desired darkness level with the technician. They can recommend the best shade for you. Lighter shades like “medium to tan” work well for fair skin. “Dark to tan” suits medium tones. And “ultra dark” matches deep complexions. It’s better to start slightly lighter as the tan will develop darker. You can always go back for another layer.

Preparing Your Skin for a Spray Tan

Preparing your skin correctly is key to achieving the most flattering results from your spray tan appointment. Exfoliating with a natural scrub 1-2 days beforehand removes dead skin cells so the tan can develop evenly across your fresh complexion. On the day, it’s best to avoid moisturizers, deodorants or perfumes that could affect how the tan solution is absorbed. Opt for a gentle shower with just a mild cleanser to cleanse without irritating bare skin. Well-hydrated skin allows the tan to take fully for a long-lasting, natural-looking glow. With the proper prep, you’ll ensure the tan pigments bond beautifully to your skin for what’s sure to be your best spray tan outcome yet.

What to Expect During a Spray Tan Session

Most sessions only take 10-20 minutes. You’ll stand or lie naked in a private room and the technician will carefully spritz the solution using long gloved hands. Fans speed drying. You’ll dress right after in dark, loose clothing to avoid rubbing off the wet tan. Invisible to the naked eye at first, the color develops over 1-3 hours as your natural moisture activates the DHA. Resist the urge to shower until it’s fully developed for best results.

Aftercare Tips to Extend Your Tan

To make your tan last 5-10 days, follow these tips. Gentle exfoliation every few days with a soft mitt removes dead skin and reveals deeper color beneath. Apply a daily body moisturizer without showering to seal in hydration. Wear loose, breathable fabrics and avoid swimming which can cause fading. Exfoliate and moisturize your hands and feet which see more wear. Reapply every 5-7 days for a continuous glow.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Spray Tans

  • Exfoliating too close to your appointment. This can cause patches.
  • Applying any body products before your session like deodorant or lotion which block even coverage.
  • Not moisturizing your skin daily after to lock in the color and prevent flakes.
  • Washing or exercising straight after before the tan has fully developed, which rubs it off prematurely.
  • Not exfoliating every few days to reveal more color underneath as outer layers fade.

Benefits of Professional Spray Tans

  • They provide a natural, sun-kissed look without exposure to harmful UV rays.
  • Salons use high-quality professional equipment and tanning solutions for even, flawless results.
  • Technicians are trained to match shades perfectly to your skin tone and spray skillfully in all areas.
  • You avoid the mess and potential streaks of doing it yourself at home.
  • Salon tans last longer with quality products and experts who know how to prep and maintain your color.

DIY Spray Tan Tips

  • Practice on your legs/arms before spraying your whole body to get the technique down without messy fails.
  • exfoliate your entire body at least a day before to ensure even coverage.
  • Apply the solution section by section using smooth, sweeping motions.
  • Use a mitt or tanning gloves to avoid bronzer building up on your hands.
  • Have someone check your back for any missed spots afterwards.
  • Moisturize intensely afterwards since you won’t receive the salon’s professional products.
  • Your first DIY tan may not look as flawless as the salon’s, but you’ll get better with practice.


Properly preparing your skin, starting with a light shade, avoiding common mistakes, and daily moisturizing are keys to enjoying spray tans that develop naturally and last up to two weeks. Booking professional appointments ensures the most even, long-lasting results, but with practice DIY tanning at home can work too. Choose the option that fits your budget and needs.

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