Spray tanning is often called ‘sunless tanning’ or ‘UV-free tanning’ – sometimes even ‘airbrush tanning’, but all of these terms mean the same thing; you get a lovely looking tan effect that comes from spray applied to your skin rather than a sun bed or sitting in the sunshine.

Spray tan is applied directly to your skin in a salon or spa by an esthetician. Spray tans are widely available in salons and there’s a wide range of different tanning products available to choose from, so you can opt for a subtle glow or a darker, deeper tan depending on your preference.

How does a spray tan work?

The active ingredient in most spray tans is a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which is a chemical that reacts with the amino acids on the outer layer of your skin to change its color. The DHA usually starts to work within about two hours of the spray tanning solution being applied, and it carries on developing for around twelve hours.

Therapists are trained to be careful while applying a spray tan but it shouldn’t cause any harm if you accidentally breathe in any of the spray tanning mist. It’s a good idea to keep your eyes closed as well, although if you do get any solution in your eyes it’s not thought to be dangerous.

If you haven’t had a spray tan before, you should have a patch test before tanning.

How long does it last?

Depending on your skin type, a spray tan can last for ten days or more, and if you treat your skin well in between treatments you’ll get better results from the tanning treatment.

Keeping your skin properly moisturized will help it to last longer.

The color will start to fade naturally along with he upper layers of your skin, which naturally wear away and are replaced over time. If you need to remove the color faster, you can try scrubbing gently at it with a wash cloth but the changes to your outer skin cells are permanent – it will still take a week or so for the spray tan to disappear completely.

Before your session

  • Shower and exfoliate your skin – you won’t be able to shower for around twelve hours after the session.
  • Get your nails done – even if it is just a clear coat, it prevents your nails from staining. Spray tan doesn’t ruin acrylic or gel nails.
  • Shave or wax the day before you have a spray tan. You should also avoid waxing or shaving for a few days after the tan so it’s a good idea to take care of hair removal before you step into the tanning booth.
  • Don’t wear perfumes, lotions or deodorants as they can leave a barrier on your skin which prevents the spray tan from sinking in, and take off watches and jewellery.
  • Wear dark underwear and loose dark clothing to avoid stains on lighter fabrics.
  • Avoid the gym for at least 24 hours after a tan – and any other activities that might make you sweat!

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