Even if you’ve tried your very best to block it from your memory, it’s hard to completely forget your first spray tan experience. Perhaps it was for your freshman year homecoming dance, and thanks to Facebook photos, you’re still reminded today of the blotchy orange outcome. Alternatively, your initial introduction could have been a positive one, and visions of your bronzed goddess self are all you know about getting a faux glow. But regardless of what your previous experience may be, it’s a good idea to brush up on these spray tan tips prior to booking your next appointment so that you're left with a streak-free finish all summer long.
To start, it’s important to make sure your skin is ready and prepped first. "Spray tans look evenly applied and last longer if you have recently exfoliated and moisturized skin," Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City tells TZR. "The pigment is deposited on newer skin, which holds it better and keeps it longer before sloughing it off naturally, which is how spray tans fade."
And that's just step one — but with even, glowing skin in your future, the work is worth it. Below, see the top 10 tips you need to know as well as products to snag before your spray tan appointment, according to the pros.
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1. Use A Gentle Exfoliator
It’s crucial that prior to applying any tanner product you scrub your entire body to slough off dead skin and soften dry patches. Dr. Nazarian recommends a gentle exfoliator, like Dove's Exfoliating Body Polish Scrub. "Gentle, circular motions in the shower work best to remove surface dead skin cells and create the most ideal smooth skin surface for the pigment to be applied," the dermatologist says.
2. Shave Prior To Your Appointment
Always wax or shave (everywhere) before your appointment — even the smallest amount of stubble can cause buildup at the follicle. "Shaving is essentially a form of exfoliation and removes a lot of skin cells," Dr. Nazarian says. "It also removes the hair which can block the spray tan from being applied correctly. Shaving after a spray tan will actually remove the color and cause it to fade faster."
3. Moisturize Days Before — & After, Too
"You should be moisturizing leading up to the spray tan two or three days before to ensure skin is well hydrated," Dr. Nazarian notes. But not immediately before, since many oils and creams will block the color from penetrating and absorbing well. As for post-appointment, "moisturizing should be done regularly after the spray tan to prolong the length of time it is effective," she says. "Try to moisturize daily following the spray." If you skip this step, dry skin will flake and you'll lose your color quicker.
4. Remove All Your Makeup
The technician will tan your face, so make sure you remove all makeup before your appointment. At the very least, throw a few makeup remover wipes in your purse just in case there aren't any at your salon.
5. Prepare To Strip
You'll more than likely be asked to get naked according to your comfort level — but you can wear underwear or a bathing suit if you'd prefer. Just keep tan lines in mind, and wear clothing that you don’t mind getting stained.
6. Don't Wear Accessories
Remove all necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings to avoid the pigment staining your precious jewels and leaving you with a tan line.
7. Paint Your Nails Before
Paint your nails before your spray tan appointment, even if it's just a clear coat. This creates a barrier to keep your nails from staining with the tanner formula.
8. Wear Something Loose
Avoid wearing white or tight clothing just after your spray tan. Light colors tend to stain, while tight pants or boots can rub against your skin and remove color on those areas. Your best bet? A loose printed dress.
9. Don't Make Social Plans Afterward
It's important to note that most spray tan products are purposely ultra-pigmented to ensure even coverage. Since you have to wait a minimum of five hours before showering, you'll typically get an initial layer that looks deep — but eventually wears off. You'll also experience a chemical smell courtesy of the product (depending on what formula is being used). With that all being said, it might be wise to head straight home after your appointment and see friends the next day after everything is dried and set.
10. Skip Your Workout Class
It might be hard skipping your SoulCycle class, but it’ll save you from becoming a streaky mess. "Wait at least 24 hours to allow for the pigment to settle and fully form before washing the skin or sweating heavily," Dr. Nazarian explains. The bronzed glow will be well worth it.
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