Spray tanning can be an effective way to get a tan. In this article I will show you how to use it and give you lots of tips on how to get the perfect tan, but will also reflect on tanning versus keeping your skin pale.

Spray Tanning – Redefining what we perceive as beautiful?

For centuries women have struggled to fit into the beauty industry’s trends and expectations of the day. Women in the 16th Century applied white lead to appear beautiful and “milky white”. Now we are in the 21st Century and the “Hollywood glow” or “tanned look” is what most women are flocking to achieve, especially during the summer.

Luckily, with technology and progression in the cosmetics industry, spray tanning avoids any of the negative effects of baking in the sun. But what is it about spray tanning that’s so good? Is it only for the rich and famous and the young and restless? What ever happened to being comfortable in your own skin?

What is Spray Tanning

Spray tanning is sunless tanning. Just like self-tanning lotions, spray tanning is where a fine mist of tanning lotion is sprayed onto your body.

Tanning lotions all have an active ingredient in them called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This interacts with your skin’s chemistry, which in turn tans or bronzes your skin. Spray tans generally last anywhere from 3 to 7 days and are completely safe for your skin.

Most celebrities and models prefer spray tanning to anything else as they are able to control the colour of the tan they want.

The Process of Tanning

The spray tan mist can be applied from a variety of devices and machines. Usually there are two types:

  • A spray tanning booth or
  • Airbrush or air gun tan.

Spray tanning: a comprehensive guide

A spray-tanning booth is a specially designed booth, which has several jets that can spray your entire body with the spray tanning solution. It is a really quick process and is perfect for those who lead a busy life.

Alternatively, you can have your spray tan applied with an airbrush gun. These are similar to a paint gun for your house or the paint gun for spraying hobby craft or decorating cakes. They are small but mobile, so it means you can have your spray tan administered in the comfort of your own home.

What most women don’t know is that self tanning lotions or spray tans, whether they are from a salon, drugstore or an airbrush gun, all contain the same active ingredient, DHA. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results!

What’s involved before and after a spray tan?

When it comes to mature skin, you certainly need more effort to get the best results when tanning. The texture of the skin is different. We generally have drier areas than younger skin. Most of the time you won’t even know that some areas or regions are dry.

The problem with spray tanning is that if you don’t exfoliate extremely well beforehand, you will find that the dry areas will absorb more lotion and will come out darker. Fair warning: You may end up looking like a cheetah!

So how do you prepare for a Spray Tan?

1. Hair removal before your appointment

Depending on the type of lotion you choose, you should wax or shave 1-2 days before hand. It is best to check with the salon beforehand.

2. Exfoliate your skin

For best results, the day before try to exfoliate off as much dead and dry skin as possible. Trust me, you’ll get a better result!

3. Don’t apply any products

Head to your spray tan appointment without moisturizer, deodorant or makeup. Products that contain ingredients such as oils make it hard for the spray tan lotion to bind to your skin. This may cause you to end up looking like a spotted cat!

4. No Showering & No Moisturizing

For at least 8 hours or as best as you can, avoid showering especially with soap and applying moisturizer. The spray tan will start to develop its colour after an hour or two and will really be in effect in 3-5hours.

So, as you can see, the process is quick and simple. But it isn’t for everyone; some women simply don’t have the time to exfoliate every day. Nonetheless, if you ever do get a spray tan, here are some tips on making it last.

5. Don’t wear your best clothes

Don’t forget this isn’t like heading out for a Mani or Pedi, so don’t wear your best clothes. Always book your tan on a day you can handle being without your bra, makeup and moisturizer and make sure you’re alert. Nothing is worse than stepping out and finding you missed a few spots.

Tips for making your spray tan last longer

  1. Make sure you moisturize your skin with the correct product. Any product containing citrus will strip off your tan. So choose something like cocoa butter or coconut oil.
  1. You can apply self tanner in between your appointments if your tan starts to fade. This will especially be the case for your face area. It will just boost what sweat or chlorine in the pool has gradually removed.

Which color to go for and how to avoid spots?

My advice on getting a spray tan is always to err on the light side. Enhance and embrace your skin and add just a glow with a spray tan. If you have any scars or scabs, apply a little Vaseline so it doesn’t cause a streaky tan. However, most importantly, if you use a Retin-A, Retinoid or Accutane it is best to consult your doctor one week before your appointment. These products can affect how DHA is absorbed through your skin and this can lead to a spotty tan.

Spray tanning: a comprehensive guide

My personal opinion on spray tanning

I am always asked what is my opinion of spray tanning and it’s truly hard to give one. There are pros and cons to each and every beauty treatment out there.

As we mature, age shouldn’t set us boundaries. Try and experiment, and make yourself feel good. After all, you only live once! But in saying that, I am a firm believer in embracing yourself, so a touch here or there to boost your confidence and appearance is all you need. There is nothing wrong with pale beauty.

I must say paler skin is creeping back into fashion and you will catch it within the fashion editorials, which grace our magazines, or in the latest runway looks. You can particularly spot the “no makeup” or “barely there” look. But there is no denying that ‘tanned’ and ‘healthy’ are synonymously connected.

You may know of someone who has been victim to the negative remarks handed out to paler or fair skinned women, prominently in summer time. But which is better – fair or tanned? Does one truly appear healthier than the other? What ever happened to being comfortable in your own skin? What about enhancing your natural colour tone? My clients will then ask me – so then what are the benefits of spray tanning? Is it safe?

Positives about Spray Tan

Spray tanning is easy and instant. There is no cancer risk involved as it is completely different to traditional tanning or visiting a solarium. You can also adjust how dark or bronzed you want to be by spray tanning more or less frequently. It also retains its youthful appearance for much longer, unlike traditional tanning where you end up looking like a piece of dried leather.

For most women, including myself, it’s less time-consuming than spreading a lotion all over your body. You don’t end up getting it everywhere, all over your bathroom and white towels, clothes, bed and even your children or partner. I also find that an even colour tone is much better with a spray tan than the DIY self-tanners. Here are some of my client’s opinions:

Veronica, 48, tells me a “spray tan just hides all your imperfections. It even makes you look slimmer. I hate my stretch marks and varicose veins and always feel I lack that healthy sun-kissed glow.”

Yessica, 56, feels “that a spray tan dramatically changes your appearance in a way that no other product could.” She is a regular spray tanner and opts for a package at her salon for the customer care she receives as well as convenience.

In my professional opinion, spray tanning is fine in small doses. Always follow the instructions given by the salon as well as using the protective equipment they give you.

However, if you still are concerned about inhaling a spray tan, I suggest sticking to self-tanners. They will just require a little more time and patience. These are the self-tanners I would recommend, whether it is for the first timer in tanning or for those more conscious about the application.

Negatives about Spray Tan

There has been medical research that has found that DHA (the active ingredient in spray tanners) can have “the potential to cause genetic alternations and DNA damage” if introduced into the bloodstream. Inhalation can allow DHA to enter the bloodstream and potentially cause these negative health effects and it is common to inadvertently inhale some DHA whilst getting a spray tan.

The FDA does recommend minimizing inhalation of tanning solution and keeping it out of your mucous membranes, which are your eyes and nose. Allergies to DHA are very rare and it is recommended that pregnant women should also be mindful when spray tanning.

Another draw back is the cost involved with spray tanning. Although, it can be reasonably cheap to spray (starting from $25), over time it can be more expensive than buying a bottle of self-tanner from the drugstore. Some of my clients also don’t like the inconvenience of either going to a salon or scheduling a mobile spray tanner for a home visit.

Debbie, 62, “ I am completely content with my so-called pasty skin. I was called moon face when I was young and now I am wicked lady. I would never expect my dark skinned friends to become my colour and neither would they in regards to me. Whether you call it nature or genetics – I was born this way. I love the names of the foundations I use – snow and pearl. Don’t they sound like a luxury?”

So what do you think?

What do you think about spray tanning? Have you ever tried or considered it?


Kelly is 40+Style’s makeup and beauty expert writer. She is a professional makeup artist currently residing in Singapore. For more information or bookings contact her through her website.

P.S. Note from Sylvia: spray tanning can be an effective way to get a tan but I personally believe in the power of beautiful pale skin which I wrote about in this article.

Spray tanning: a comprehensive guide

Feature image by European Tan

Photos by Page Six Style and Women’s Health

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