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  5. Spray Tans: How To Make The Right Choice?

Wishing to get that lovely, even, golden skin-tone for a beach vacation? Say hello to spray tans. Not only are they safer than tanning beds, spray tans are also better than staying out in the sun, just to get a tan.

But, does spray tanning have hidden consequences and side effects? Is it easily removable and hypo-allergic? We tell you all about this cosmetic solution. Get to know how to prepare for a tan, along with precautions you must take.

What Is A Spray Tan?

A spray tan is an artificial method of tanning your skin without being out in the sun. Also called a fake tan, it is a safer way to get an even tan all over your body, in a colour that you like. It is done by using a product best suited to your skin type.

Spray tans contain Dihydroxyacetone [DHA] [1], a carbohydrate, which is a derivative of sugar cane and sugar beets. On coming in contact with the skin, it reacts with the amino acids present in the skin’s cells and changes the colour of the skin, making it darker.

Some spray tans also contain Erythrulose [2], a derivative of red raspberries. It is used in combination with DHA in tanning products, to make the tan more effective and long lasting. Also, when it fades, it does so gradually, leaving you with an even skin tone. Depending on the concentration of DHA in the spray tan, the tan can last on your body for as long as five to ten days.

Benefits Of Spray Tanning

  • Spray tanning gives you an even tan all over your body, when done at a salon.
  • You get to choose not only the right colour for your skin type, but the right product as well. A salon with some level of expertise can even guide you on how to prepare yourself before the spray tan, how to maintain it and how to make the right choices.
  • A spray tan dries up quickly without leaving patches of untanned skin.
  • It is cost effective.
  • It is safer than getting a real tan in the sun. The latter may cause permanent damage to your skin, and result in premature ageing.

How To Choose Best Spray Tan For Your Skin Type?

If you wish to have a fake tan and save your skin some sun damage, you have to know your skin type and choose the product that is right for your skin. You can even ask your dermatologist or salon professional to recommend a good brand. Keep in mind the following tips:

1. Know Your Skin Type

If your skin is oily or prone to breakouts and acne, a spray tan solution that contains ingredients like vitamin E and aloe vera will work best. They are lighter and won’t clog your pores. You can opt for a DIY tan mousse or a spray tan as they are not thick and more suitable for oily skin.

For sensitive or dry skin, a spray tan that contains hydrating ingredients such as coconut water and argan oil will work because it will not aggravate the skin further. To know more about your skin type, take SkinKraft’s SkinID test for a personalised overview.

2. Choose The Right Colour

You also need to opt for the right colour base, which complements your skin tone. It is important to know whether your skin has yellow or pink undertones, before choosing a colour. Talk to tanning professionals and check which colour works best for you.

When it comes to choosing the shade, the golden rule is darker colours for summer and lighter ones for winter. If you are unable to decide the exact shade, take one that’s slightly lighter than your skin colour. It is always easier to add another layer of colour than removing a darker shade that doesn't match your skin.

3.Choose The Right Product

Products that contain skin brightening ingredients help to bring a glow to your skin. The product you choose should have a bronzer [3] built into it, so you don’t need to apply it separately. It should also be tinted, so that you can get an even tan.

Make sure your spray tan contains Dihydroxyacetone [DHA], which is colourless. Opt for a non-alcoholic brand of spray tan. This is because while the alcohol based ones act like thinners and help the tan to spread, they also make your skin go dry. Check reviews of self-tanning products before you buy.

4. Choose The Right Salon

Go to a salon that has daylight coming in and is brightly lit and well ventilated. If the walls of the rooms have tan lotion on them, then you need to find another salon. Check the quality of service and the reputation of the salon you intend going to.

Are Spray Tans Bad For Your Skin?

Given how popular spray tanning is, it is considered safe for cosmetic use by the FDA [4]. DHA has been approved for cosmetic use and spray tanning by the American Medical Association, and the Skin Cancer Foundation [5]. However, there are some inconclusive reports that say it is not safe to inhale DHA. While getting a spray tan, it is inevitable that you might inhale a little.

There is also the concern of how DHA affects the skin. Most of the formulations used for making a spray tan contain DHA at 3%-5% and its concentration determines the colour of the tan. However, DHA is absorbed into the skin only minimally because it reacts quite fast. Also, its reaction is limited to the epidermis or the topmost layer of the skin. So while spray tans are not bad for your skin, it is best to do it in moderation.

How Long Does A Spray Tan Last?

Salons claim that a tan can last upto ten days but the duration depends on the shade opted for. Darker shades last for up to ten days, medium shades for 5-8 days, and lighter shades for about five days. This is because the main active ingredient of Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) determines how long the spray tan lasts, and darker colours have more DHA. Your skincare regimen before and after spray tan makes a difference too.

How To Prepare For A Spray Tan?

1. Plan Your Tan

For a natural-looking tan, have a session at least two days before your big event. A fresh tan looks more orange than real and needs about 48 hours for the actual colour to show.

2. Dress Up Properly

Wear loose shoes and clothes for the session, so that there are no visible tan lines, which may be caused by a tight bra or tight clothes. Always wear old clothes for a session, as you could stain them when the solution is applied.

You can also ask your salon about disposable undergarments. These are helpful because they prevent the formation of panty lines and protect your regular underwear from stains due to the tanning solution.

3. Waxing/Shaving

If you have any fuzz on your limbs, shave or wax it off at least 24 hours before your tanning session. A shorter gap, such as 2 hours between waxing and tanning, can open up pores and irritate the skin. For those with sensitive skins, a short gap can even leave you with patchy skin or redness which causes discomfort.

4. Shower up

Take a shower 8 hours before you plan to get the tan. If you want your tan to last longer, shower with lukewarm water before and after getting a spray tan.

This gives the skin enough time to revert to its natural pH levels and is still clean enough for the tanning lotion.

5. Exfoliate

Scrub the dead skin cells off your body before the tan. New skin makes it easier for the tanning lotion to stick. Exfoliating your skin every day for three days prior to the tanning session, can make a remarkable difference. Instead of exfoliating with a scrub, rub your skin with a loofah or a dry brush.

The oil in an exfoliating scrub can leave a film on your skin, which won’t let the tan last long. Avoid using exfoliators with chemical ingredients like glycolic acid or retinol for at least one day before your tanning session. These don’t let the tan stick on well.

6. Moisturize And Hydrate

Use a water-based moisturiser and apply it all over your body before you go for a spray tan. Avoid heavy body lotions or body butters. Keep yourself hydrated from within, before and after you get a spray tan, to make the tan last longer.

7. Go Make-Up Free

Keep your skin free of make-up and deodorant when you go for the session.

8. Patch Test

Always ask for a patch test over a smaller area of your skin before going for a tanning session. No matter what your skin type is, this is especially important if you have sensitive skin.

How Much Does A Spray Tan Cost?

The cost varies due to factors like the city you live in, the brand of spray tan and the salon you visit. While the usual range is between Rs 1800 to Rs 4000, prices can go higher.

Self-tanning products that are available online start from Rs 500 onwards. These are cheaper, but unless you have someone to help you do it, you may not be able to get a uniform tan over your body. You can also opt for tanning oils or tanning gels which are easier to apply. However, how long they last or how natural they look depends on the brand and the colour.

Dos & Don'ts After A Spray Tan Session

While salon professionals will advise you on how to prepare for a spray tan that stays for longer, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.


  • Wear loose shoes or go barefoot for 24 hours after your tanning session. Avoid tight bras and underwear as it can cause lines in the tan and make it uneven.
  • Shower after 8 hours or so with lukewarm water and keep the shower short. Being in the water for too long can make the shade lighter. Avoid using shower gels, soaps and body washes the first time you shower after a spray tan.
  • When washing and conditioning your hair, do it with your head bent forward, so these products do not come into contact with the skin where the spray tan has been applied.
  • If your body hair grows back quickly and you need to shave, do so with light and slow swipes of your razor and minimal pressure to minimise exfoliation.
  • If your tan is too dark or you are not happy with the final result, generously apply body lotion all over yourself and soak in a bathtub of warm water for half an hour. The water will make the tan lighter in colour.
  • Ask the professional to apply a tan finishing spray on areas like the shoulders, as the tan tends to fade away faster here than elsewhere on the body.
  • Using a highlighter to enhance your tan can give it a nice glow. The shiny ingredients in highlighters can show your tan off properly, especially on areas like your cheeks, neck and shoulders.


  • Do not exercise or swim for a minimum of 12 hours after your tanning session.
  • Don’t use baby powder all over your skin as it can cause uneven streaks on the tan. Only use it on areas where you sweat more such as your underarms, and elsewhere.
  • Don’t use deodorant in any form for a day at least as it can cause patches where the tan comes off.
  • Don’t wash off the solution for at least six hours and a maximum of 12 hours. It needs a fair amount of time to get absorbed by the skin and give it an even tone.
  • Avoid products that are oil based. They will not let the tanning solution get absorbed well and may even reduce the time it lasts on your skin.
  • You can put off exfoliating till the tan fades. When exfoliating, use a dry brush or a loofah only once in two or three days after a spray tan. Avoid exfoliating for 24 hours immediately after a session.

How To Remove Spray Tan From Your Skin?

If you wish to remove your tan for any reason, the main thing to keep in mind is not to scrub it off. This may result in uneven removal of the spray tan. Also, if you are regular at getting a spray tan, always ensure that you remove remnants of your older tan before you get a new one. A few ways to remove spray tan from your skin are listed here:

1. Body Polish And Oil

A body polish mixed with any massage oil applied all over the body can help in tan removal. This can be repeated as required and can help remove the tan in an even manner. Here, the oil breaks down the DHA component in the spray tan. In fact, a tip to keep in mind if you have had a spray tan and wish to keep it for longer, is not to moisturise your body with an oil-based moisturiser.

2. Swimming

Swimming in a pool can also help the tan to fade, as the chlorine in water will help break it down. Follow this with a shower and some exfoliation. Going to a sauna or steam room can help weaken the tan too. It helps to consider that swimming can leave you with a patchy tan fadeover due to the costume.

3. Home Remedies For Tan Removal

There are some effective kitchen remedies that might be effective too.

  • Make a paste of two tablespoons of baking soda and water. Rub the paste over your hands and feet or any area you wish to remove the tan from. Leave on for a few minutes and wash off.
  • Fill a bucket or tub with warm water and a bath oil and take a bath with that water. Using an exfoliating glove in a circular motion will ensure that any leftover tan patches also come off.
  • A lemon and sugar scrub used on any tan patch will also help in fading it away.

Wrapping Up

If you wish to have a spray tan, make sure you do your research well. From the brand and formula suitable to your skin type, to the salon and its expertise in spray tan services, all can make a difference. You also need to know how long it will last and ways to take it off evenly.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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