I was on a recent trip to L.A. when a friend of mine complimented my tan. "It looks so glowy and natural," she told me. It does look glowy and natural, I repeated in my head, baffled by how a spray tan I had gotten over a week earlier was still so perfectly intact. I am no stranger to spray tans, I get them quite often during the summer months, but the situation is always the same. I get sprayed, wait nine hours to shower, rinse off the extra bronzer, moisturize, and go on my way. Over the next five days or so, it fades. Such was not at all the case with this tan. But why? I went straight to the source to find out exactly what happened to keep my faux tan looking so good for so much longer than usual.
First thing's first: Prior to my appointment, I was told a few tips and tricks for getting the best possible tan. At first, I didn't even read them because I've done it so many times, assuming it just mentioned exfoliating and moisturizing before my appointment. But I was wrong. Rather than the cookie-cutter advice, it detailed a few things I hadn't ever heard before. You are supposed to exfoliate but not with a product that contains any oils. And after you shower, you're not meant to apply any products, especially oil-based products. Before, I was exfoliating with an oil scrub and using a body oil to moisturize. Tisk, tisk.
Another game changer: I got it in my apartment. A technician from Glow Custom Airbrush Tanning brought her portable machine and equipment to my Brooklyn home one morning and sprayed me in my living room (apologies to my neighbors, my naked body must have been quite the sight at 9 a.m.). The cost was $150, which, admittedly is more expensive than the usual airbrush tan (they usually range from $75 to $90). But for the amount of time it lasted, it was worth every penny. I would have had to get two tans during the course of those two weeks, so it ends up saving me time and money. Plus, you can get packages that cut down on costs per tan.
While it was certainly convenient, it also made the entire process so much more foolproof. She set up a tent by the window for helpful natural light and to keep the formula on me and none of my surrounding furniture or walls. Then, when she was done, I didn't have to change into clothes appropriate enough to venture into the outside world—I kept my robe on and had no muss, no fuss. Usually, a lot of the wear and tear to my spray tans happens during the journey home, clasping on bras, lugging my tote bag, brushing past people on the subway. The at-home aspect erased all of that, and I was able to let my skin dry and develop without messing anything up.
Then, when it was time to shower, I was instructed to just use a warm-water rinse—no soap. And they told me not to use a body wash with sulfates or parabens for the following showers. The same goes for moisturizers: Avoid oily products and bar soaps are not recommended. No one had ever told me this before—I was using all oil-based products every time I showered and hydrated my skin.
I continued to follow these rules throughout the next two weeks—and my color lasted longer than it ever had previously. I chalk it all up to my newfound product knowledge and the at-home aspect of it all. The salon is based in Westchester, but its mobile service spans Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons. If you're in town, I recommend it highly. If not, do a quick Google search to find a mobile tanning service in your area (and remember to nix any oily products before and after your tan).
Next up: Read about our editor who was "addicted" to spray tans, and how she's finally letting go.