I got my first-ever spray tan last summer. The only piece of advice I had picked up prior was to keep my mouth closed, but beyond that, my knowledge of the spray-tanning process was minimal. For some reason, I thought I'd be able to cover my boobs while a complete stranger spray-painted me, but that pretty much defeats the purpose, so in I went into the booth wearing nothing but a provided paper thong, arms wide open à la Creed, pursing my lips so I didn't come out with tan teeth. It was cold, it was bizarre, but damn did I look like a bronzed statue when all was said and done.
I was in love with my new instant tan, but within a few days, I started to get weird splotches along my chest and near my armpits, like it was rubbing off. It was so bad that I ended up scrubbing the crap out of my skin with a loofa, hoping it would all rinse down the drain. Surely I'd made some sort of rookie mistake, and I was fairly certain I wasn't the only one who's inadvertently ruined their faux tan. That's why I enlisted the help of three tanning experts—Alyson Hogg, founder and former CEO of Vita Liberata; Sophie Evans, St. Tropez skin finishing expert; and Blair James, owner/director of Bondi Sands—to find out how to get the best bronze possible every time, no matter what. Read on for their best tricks.
Keep scrolling for the best, expert-approved spray tan tricks.
Eat the Right Foods Beforehand
Your diet may be the last thing on your mind pre-tan, but it's actually something you should keep in mind. Hogg recommends eating foods that are high in lysine prior to your appointment. "This is a really important amino acid for tanning and will improve the color you achieve," she explains.
In addition to upping your greens and other healthy foods, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water pre-tan.
Complete Proper Hair Removal
To ensure smooth skin and settled hair follicles, Evans recommends all waxing be completed 24 hours before self-tan application. If you shave, Hogg says to do so at least four hours before your appointment. On the note of hair removal, post-tan, you'll want to keep hair removal to a minimum, as this is a form of exfoliation that may cause your tan to fade prematurely if done too frequently. So, make sure to thoroughly remove any hair you'd like prior to your spray tan.
Clean Your Skin Pre-Tan
To get rid of dry patches and scaly skin, Evans suggests exfoliating the skin a few days before. She also says to remove products like deodorant and body makeup just before so the tan can adhere to the skin properly. When removing these products, opt for an unscented body scrub, like SkinCeuticals' Mirco-Exfoliating Scrub ($31). Use it in the shower and thoroughly rinse to ensure no residue is left behind as this may affect the results of your spray tan.
Avoid Moisturizing Pre-Tan
The one product you should never use pre-tan? Lotion. "You shouldn't moisturize 12 hours before your spray tan, as that can leave a residue film on the skin that can diminish the effectiveness of the tan," says Hogg. Who knew? As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to prep for a morning appointment the night before, and an afternoon or evening appointment the morning of—so long as it's 12 hours beforehand.
Take Your Time
When the spray tan is over, wait a few minutes, and then put on loose, dark clothing so as not to rub off your new glow.
Also, try not to be in a hurry to go to the gym or take a shower. According to Evans, most formulas take up to eight hours to set before your skin can touch moisture, so sit back, relax, and stay dry. During that time, James says to steer clear of sweating or getting the skin wet.
In fact, if you're especially fair-skinned, Hogg suggests not showering for 24 hours to ensure a darker hue.
Protect Your Linens
It's no secret that getting a spray tan brings the worries of potentially staining your sheets and clothes. If you're worried about the color transferring onto your sheets, Evans suggests dusting baby powder all over your body to keep the skin dry and the tan in place. Also, keep the temperature on the cooler side to avoid sweating that might cause your tan to transfer.
Aside from prepping your skin by exfoliating, it's also important to add regular, light exfoliation to your routine post-tan. "We always recommend lightly exfoliating every two to three days after your tan to guarantee that it's fading evenly," says Evans. She recommends using St. Tropez's Tan Enhancing Body Polish ($18), which is very gentle and promises not to rip or tear at your self-tan.
All experts also recommend moisturizing every day, especially after showering or bathing. Try Bondi Sands' Body Moisturizer ($15), which is specifically formulated to prolong your tan. This will keep your tan from becoming dry, which may result in patchy areas, particularly around the ankles, elbows, and knees. Exfoliating and moisturizing without the added sunless tanning boost might help your tan last between a week to 10 days.
You can also use another self-tanner to bolster your spray tan, every few days. This will help your tan to fade more evenly while also giving your faux bronze glow some extra life. Thanks to its gradual formula, you won't have to worry about any harsh lines of color overlap.
James recommends applying self-tanner with an application mitt to help eliminate any streaks and protect your hands from staining.
Protect Your Tan During Your Workout
We're all for following a dedicated (or even not-so-dedicated) fitness regimen, but a sweat session and spray tan don't exactly go hand-in-hand. The thing is, letting sweat sit on your fake tan for a long period of time—especially when trapped under garments like a sports bra—may cause your spray tan to break down and become splotchy. To avoid this, apply a bit of baby powder to areas that are prone to sweat—like your chest, behind your knees, and your elbows—prior to heading to the gym. (This can be a messy situation, so use this tip only when you're going for a light workout). The powder will soak up any sweat as its produced, keeping it from sitting on your skin and potentially ruining your spray tan.
Next up, take a look at these drugstore self-tanners with great performance value.