Although the average spray tan is advertised to last up to 10 days, it really depends on how dark you’re trying to go.
- Lighter shades may last up to five days.
- Medium shades typically lasts seven or eight days.
- Darker shades can last up to 10 days.
This variability is tied to the tanning solution’s active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Darker solutions contain more DHA. The more DHA, the longer the color will hold.
The way you care for your skin before and after your spray tan also plays a role. Read on to find out how you can make your spray tan last longer.
A great spray tan starts long before you walk into the spa or tanning salon. Here’s how to prep for your appointment.
Schedule your appointment around your period
In a weird-but-most-likely-true turn, spray tanning the week before your period may not take as well as tanning after your period. There isn’t any scientific evidence to back it up, but a spray tan guru interviewed for marieclaire.com swears by the tip.
Exfoliate every day for three days before
Physical exfoliating techniques like body scrubs, loofahs, and dry brushing remove dead skin cells that cause streaking and flaking. Don’t have any of these options? A washcloth works great, too.
But don’t use chemical exfoliants or oil-based products
Chemical exfoliants use ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid to encourage exfoliation. Skip these for at least 24 hours prior to spray tanning to keep the exfoliant from taking off your spray tan, too.
Oil-based products are also a major no-no. The oil creates a barrier that can keep the tanning solution from absorbing into your skin.
No waxing within 24 hours of your appointment
While smooth skin is a do, waxing within 24 hours of your spray tan can leave you with an uneven tint. That’s because waxing temporarily opens your pores, leaving them larger than before.
Shower at least eight hours before your appointment
Eight hours seems to be the magic number when it comes to getting the best spray tan results. The skin has time to resume its post-shower pH balance while still enjoying the benefits of exfoliation.
Wear loose-fitting clothes and shoes to your appointment
Spray tans mean no tan lines — unless you put on a tight bra, strappy shirt, or other tight-fitting garment immediately after your appointment.
Plan ahead and opt for a loose-fitting shirtdress and slip-on shoes to prevent friction from creating unwanted tan lines.
Remove your makeup and deodorant after you arrive
If you don’t want to go without, bring a pack of unscented, oil-free wipes to your appointment. Remove all makeup and deodorant and allow your skin to dry before your technician sprays your skin.
Your spray technician will tell you what to expect over the next 24 hours. This includes what clothes to wear, when to shower, and what products you can use. Here are some general guidelines to help you preserve your shade.
Beware of VPLs
Many tanning salons give their clients paper panties to wear for the rest of the day. They may not be the most fashionable, but these bottoms help prevent visible panty lines (VPLs) and save your undies from unwanted tanner stains.
Apply baby powder to prevent streaking
Unfortunately, deodorant is still a no-go after your appointment. Sticks and sprays contain ingredients that may interact with your tanning solution and result in unwanted patchiness.
Sweating can also cause streaks and spots, so what’s a newly tanned person to do? Apply baby powder. Shake a generous amount onto all sweat-prone areas, such as:
- inner elbows
- back of your knees
- under your butt
Wear loose-fitting clothes and shoes for the first 24 hours
If possible, keep clothing loose for the first 24 hours after your appointment. This includes sleepwear. Friction from tight clothing can create streaks and leave indentation.
Don’t wash the solution off for at least six hours
You must wait at least six hours after your appointment to take a shower. This gives your skin ample time to absorb the solution and ensure an even shade. There are some newer products on the market that allow you to shower sooner with the same great results (ask your salon if they carry it).
You can leave the solution on for 12 hours at most. Any longer and you may actually develop streaking.
When it’s time, take the proper shower precautions
You don’t want to spend too much time in the water. Doing so could cause your color to begin fading before its public debut.
Use lukewarm — not hot — water, and avoid using any scrubs or soaps. Just let the water run over your skin.
If you have to wash your hair, it’s important to keep the products off of your skin. This may mean a slower, more methodical wash and rinse.
Nix the oil-based products and fragrances
Avoid oil-based products until after your tan has faded. Not only can they prevent your skin from initially absorbing the tanning solution, but they can also prevent your skin from retaining the product.
Lightly exfoliate every two to three days
Each exfoliation scuffs away the surface of your freshly-tanned skin, so keep it minimal until after the tan fades.
You can use a gentle exfoliator (usually containing round beads) every couple of days to help keep things fresh.
If you must shave, shave gently
If hairy legs aren’t your style, it is possible to keep your tan from fading with each swipe of your razor. Use slow, even strokes and press down lightly to prevent accidental exfoliation from your razor.
Use self-tanner to “top off” your spray tan
You may be able to extend the life of your tan by using a self-tanner or other gradual tanning product.
Although these won’t provide the same color and depth as your initial spray tan, they may add a few days to its lifespan while keeping your skin soft.
Apply highlighter to enhance your glow
Highlighters have shimmery components that can really set off a tan. Apply some shimmer wherever you want your color to pop — like your cheekbones and collarbones.
When it comes to getting your glow on, spray tans are the safest option available.
And with the right maintenance, a dark spray tan can last up to 10 days.
If you still have questions, talk to your spray technician about how you can make your color last and prevent streaking.