How to Prep for and Maintain a Spray Tan

July 25, 2023
By: | by L'Oréal
Person with long dark hair smiling and wearing a black bra and underwear with a white shirt
Spray tans are a great way to get a gorgeous bronzed glow quickly and safely. Not only do spray tans last longer than self-tanner, they give you a sun-kissed look without exposing your skin to any UV damage. To make sure your spray tan goes on evenly and stays looking flawless, there are a couple important steps you need to take before and after your appointment. Here, we break down how to prep for and maintain your next spray tan.

Spray Tan Prep and Maintenance Tips

Tip 1: Shave and Exfoliate Before Your Tan

If you want your spray tan to come out streak-free and to guarantee that it lasts longer, you have to put in some work ahead of time. Exfoliation is the key to an even spray tan, as dead or flaky skin can leave you with patches and streaks. According to Sophie Evans, ST. TROPEZ Skin Finishing Expert and Celebrity Self Tanner, you should start exfoliating three days ahead of your spray tan and plan for your last exfoliation session to be 24 hours before your appointment. “Exfoliation should reveal fresh new skin cells and remove any and all old self-tan color,” she previously told 

Try the Kiehl’s Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub to slough away dead skin, focusing on drier areas like the knees and elbows, and be sure to shave at the end of your shower once your hair follicles have softened. Remember that shaving after your spray tan session will only strip away the color quicker, so it’s important to shave beforehand.

Kiehl’s Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub

Tip 2: Don't Shower Right Before Your Appointment

Showering the same day as your spray tan is fine — just be sure to do it at least four hours before your appointment. Your pores are enlarged after a warm shower or bath, so the tanning solution can sit in your pores and creates dark-looking spots.

Tip 3: Remember to Remove Your Makeup

If you plan on tanning your face as well, you shouldn’t wear any makeup during your spray tan session. Your foundation can act as a barrier for the solution, and once you go home to cleanse your face, the tanner will wash right down the drain. Most tanning salons will offer makeup-removing wipes, or you can bring some with you (we love the CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleanser Cloths). If you choose not to tan your face but you still want to match your body’s glow, try mixing the L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tan Drops into your moisturizer every day.

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tan Drops

Tip 4: Skip the Deodorant and Moisturizer (Except On Dry Areas)

Deodorant can also act as a barrier to the spray tan solution (and in some cases, can even react with the solution and turn a different color), which will result in patchy underarms. Avoid this potential blunder by skipping the deodorant before your appointment. You’ll also want to avoid moisturizer for the most part, as well as any other oils or fragrances that may cling to your skin and result in an uneven tan. “Moisturizer left on the skin dilutes the self-tan color, which is why we never apply lotion all over,” Evans told last year. 

Though it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, you should moisturize “problem areas,” meaning areas where the skin is drier, immediately before your spray tan (most salons will provide moisturizer for you to use). This includes your elbows, knees, feet and hands. The moisturizer will dilute the tanning formula in these spots, which are more prone to over-developing and getting too dark.

Tip 5: Wait at Least Six to Eight Hours Before Showering

Follow the salon’s instructions for when to shower post-tan so you don’t rinse off the solution too soon, but generally it will be somewhere in the six to eight hour window. Once you do wash up, you’re going to notice that the water looks muddy. This is just the cosmetic bronzing solution used in the tan that allows the technician to know where they are spraying. Make sure not to shave or exfoliate during your first shower. Only use body wash to gently cleanse and let the water run until it turns clear. Pro tip: Hot water will strip your tan faster, so it’s a good idea to shower with lukewarm water.

Once you’ve showered, you can usually go to bed without worrying about staining your sheets. However, every spray tanning solution is different, so check with your technician to know when you can safely tuck in without staining your PJs or bed.

Tip 6: Moisturize Every Day After Spray Tanning

After your first shower, moisturize daily to extend the longevity of your tan. Just be sure to stay away from oil-based moisturizers, as they can strip away your tan and leave you looking blotchy. Try the La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple repair Moisturizing Cream for a fast-absorbing finish.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple repair Moisturizing Cream
Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

Read more

Back to top