The beauty of a good spray tan is that it gives you the look of having spent days lounging in the sun—without the skin-damaging effects. The downside of a good spray tan is that it fades, often very quickly. With a pro tan costing anywhere between $50 and $75, you’ll want to make that faux glow last as long as possible. Here’s how to do exactly that.
Before the Tan
A quality spray tan should last anywhere from five to ten days—especially if you’ve properly prepped skin, says Natalie Cupid-Riley, owner of Glow the Spray Bar in New York City. “It’s extremely important that you exfoliate beforehand,” says Cupid. “You never want to scrub your skin raw, but you do want to give yourself a good scrub down.”
It’s usually our first instinct to grab the moisturizer after exfoliating—but lotioning up pre-tan is a definite don’t. “Moisturizers have agents that can prevent the tan from bonding with skin proteins,” says Cupid-Riley. “Lotions with alpha-hydroxy or lactic acids and other skin renewals should be avoided the same day of your spray tan.” Instead, she suggests exfoliating the night before, slathering on moisturizer, and taking a thorough shower using soap alone on the morning of your appointment. This will ensure you’re coming into your tan with fresh, clean skin.
It’s also a good idea to shave before your tan and to schedule any mani/pedis for before your appointment to avoid any unnecessary post-tan exfoliation.
After the Tan
Typically, a spray tan should dry in three to five minutes. “It’s normal to feel a little tacky,” says Cupid-Riley, who suggests waiting for the full dry time before slipping into dark, loose clothing. Once home, it’s best to wait eight to twelve hours before showering to avoid fading. When you finally do shower, Cupid-Riley suggests standing away from the shower head, never directly underneath, gliding the cascade over your skin until the water runs off skin residue-free. This first shower should be completely soap- and shampoo-free. Your second shower can include both—but all cleansers should be gentle and mild with no exfoliating properties, says Cupid-Riley.
Finally, moisturizing is absolutely key. “I can’t stress enough that moisturizing helps maintain the color,” says Cupid-Riley. “Be sure to do that at least twice a day.”
You can use a self-tanner to help extend the color, but Cupid-Riley suggests waiting at least two days post-tan and to stick to tanners that are light or light-to-medium to avoid looking too dark or too orange.