9 Essential Tips for the Perfect Spray Tan

A good airbrush tan can make you feel and look like a million bucks-it's better for you than baking in the sun, and it gives you all-over color without tan lines. But we've all heard horror stories of spray tans gone wrong, and no one wants to be the unlucky recipient of a bad tan. So how do you make sure you get a great tan and keep it looking that way as long as possible? Read on for our professional tips!


1.Scrub scrub scrub...

Only the top layer of your skin gets sprayed, so if you don't exfoliate to expose brand new skin cells, you're only tanning old cells that are going to slough off sooner. But don't use oil-based salt or sugar scrubs! Oils stick to your skin and prevent airbrush pigments from absorbing into your cells, making your tan uneven and blotchy. Instead, use an exfoliating mitt or loofah when you're in the shower. Exfoliating before will also help prevent build up of excess pigment on the skin, which can turn into the dreaded orange color. We love Vita Liberata Organic Airbrush Tan because it contains pigments that neutralize orangey tones and give you that golden goddess glow. 

The W Spa's own Stefani Papazaharias tanned by Mary Kate

The W Spa's own Stefani Papazaharias tanned by Mary Kate

2. Step away from the booth!

If you're looking for the most natural, maybe-she's-born-with-it tan, hand-spraying is the only way to go. Booth sprayers coat your skin with way too much pigment and apply the same amount of spray all over, so you end up looking like you've been painted. Go see a real human being with years of experience, who will talk to you about what you want and customize your look. Ask what brand of tan they use- we only use Vita Liberata Organic Airbrush Tan because it's safe for our bodies, safe for the earth, and gives the most natural olive tan. Never orange, never streaky- that's what we're going for!

2. Wax before you tan.

When you shave or wax, you open the pores of the skin, making them more vulnerable to attracting the airbrush pigment. Pigment gathers in the pores and can leave a speckled appearance on your skin. Waxing should be done at least a few days before you tan. Don't wax after your airbrush tan either- this will literally strip the tan off of your skin!

3. Nails first.

Viter Liberata Professional

Viter Liberata Professional

Schedule your mani/pedi at least a day or two before your tan. If you get your nails done after tanning, the time you spend soaking, scrubbing, and filing can remove the pigment from your skin. 

4. Come bare.

Remove makeup and deodorant with an oil-free baby wipe before your tan. They create a barrier on your skin that airbrush pigment can't penetrate, so you won't get tan in places where you leave them on.

5. Keep it loose!

Wear or bring loose-fitting clothes and flip flips to wear after your tan, and you might want to skip the underwear. Tight clothes can rub on the skin and remove pigment before it has a chance to develop, leaving you with tan lines. Best to bring dark-colored clothes and flip flops- airbrush pigments should wash out of clothing easily, but better safe than sorry.

We recommend Whish Body Butters for smooth moisturizing after a tan.

We recommend Whish Body Butters for smooth moisturizing after a tan.

6. Don't dry out.

Stay away from lotions and oils before your tan, but after you tan, slather them on generously to keep your skin from getting dry and sloughing off. This is probably the most important step to make your tan last WAY longer! Use a moisturizer than goes on smooth and absorbs quickly. Lots of rubbing- even if it's to apply moisturizer- can still remove your tan. Remember to stop moisturizing at least two days before your next airbrush to keep yourself oil-free for the new application.

7. Don't get wet.

Wait at least 8-10 hours after your tan to shower to give the pigment a chance to develop and absorb into your skin cells. When you do finally shower, the top bronzer will wash off and you'll be left with a golden glow that will last up to 10 days. If it's raining the day of your tan, bring an umbrella to keep from getting drops on your freshly sprayed skin. You can make your tan last even longer by avoiding swimming in chlorinated water and taking excessively hot showers. Both can cause your skin to dry out faster, and like we said before, dry skin= faster fading.

8. Give yourself a pat-down.

While you have your tan, avoid rubbing your skin dry with a towel. Instead, gently pat the skin dry. No exfoliating after your tan! This includes loofahs, sugar scrubs, AHAs, BHAs, retinols, and waxing. 

9. SPF is a must!

Airbrush tans do not contain any SPF, so you still need to wear sunscreen. We repeat: just because your skin looks darker now does not mean you're impervious to sun damage! Moderate or even mild sun exposure can damage and dry out the skin, shortening the lifespan of your tan.  



author: Juliana Burkhart