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How Does Spray Tanning Work?

If you’re looking for a sun-kissed glow without the potential for skin damage, spray tanning might be the perfect option. If you’re new to spray tanning, how does spray tanning work? Why should you try spray tanning over other types of false tan? Keep on reading to find out!

How Does Spray Tanning Work?

How Does Spray Tanning Work?

Spray tanning is a popular method for achieving a sun-kissed glow without exposing oneself to the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays.

This cosmetic technique utilizes self-tanning products that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a naturally derived compound that reacts with amino acids in the skin to produce a temporary tan.

Some spray tanning solutions also include erythrulose, another natural ingredient, which helps to enhance and prolong the tanning effect.

To ensure a flawless, even tan, it is essential to prepare the skin adequately before receiving a spray tan.

This preparation typically involves exfoliating the skin to remove dead skin cells and shaving or waxing at least 12 hours beforehand.

It is also advised to avoid applying lotions before the tanning session, as they can act as barriers and cause uneven tanning results.

When it comes to the actual spray tanning process, there are various options available, such as using automated tanning booths or opting for manual airbrushing with a handheld device.

Regardless of the method chosen, the key to a perfect tan lies in allowing sufficient time for the solution to develop on the skin.

This generally means avoiding water exposure for at least 4-6 hours post-tanning, whether it is through showering or sweating during a workout.

Once the tan has fully developed, rinsing off the excess product in warm water and moisturizing the skin regularly can help to maintain the tan and ensure it fades evenly.

With proper care, a spray tan typically lasts for about 5–7 days, providing a safe and effective alternative to sunbathing or using tanning beds for those who desire a bronzed look.

How Much Does A Spray Tan Cost?

In general, professional spray tanning sessions can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per session.

The higher end of the spectrum usually includes services offered by high-end salons, mobile tanning bed and services, and personalized spray tanning sessions.

It is important to note that prices can vary based on your location, with urban areas generally having higher prices than rural locations.

For those looking for a more budget-friendly solution, self-tanning products such as sprays, mousses, and lotions can be purchased for home use.

These products usually cost between $10 and $30 and can last for several applications.

While they can be a cost-effective method for achieving a sunless tan, it may take some practice to master proper application techniques to ensure an even and natural-looking tan.

If you are seeking to save money on spray tanning, it’s helpful to be aware of special offers, discounts, or package deals that some salons and mobile tanning services may offer.

Investing in a spray tan machine or gun can be a cost-effective solution for those who want to maintain a year-round tan and are willing to learn the proper application techniques.

How to Prepare For A Spray Tan

How to Prepare For A Spray Tan

To begin, it’s crucial to focus on exfoliating and hydrating the skin several days before the appointment. This helps to create a smooth canvas for the spray tan to adhere to, providing the best possible results.

In the days leading up to the appointment, use a gentle exfoliating scrub to remove dead skin cells and rough patches, concentrating on areas such as elbows, knees, hands, and feet.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate a moisturizer specifically designed for sunless tanning to help lock in hydration.

The night before the spray tan appointment, carefully shave and avoid waxing or other spa treatments that may irritate the skin.

It’s also important to shower and thoroughly cleanse the skin to remove any lingering products or oils, which could interfere with the spray tan’s absorption.

After showering, avoid applying any lotions, oils, or perfumes to ensure even tan development. Opt for loose, dark clothing to wear to the appointment and remove any jewelry to avoid staining or uneven results.

At the salon, consider applying a barrier cream provided by the technicians to areas like nail beds and knuckles, which tend to absorb more spray solution.

This will help to even existing tan and prevent uneven or extra-dark patches. After the spray tan session, follow the technician’s guidelines for waiting before showering or engaging in activities that might cause sweating or rubbing off the tan.

Keep in mind that proper hydration and avoiding excessive showering or swimming will help prolong the life of your tan.

How Long Do Spray Tanning Sessions Take?

Spray tanning sessions are a popular and efficient way to achieve a sun-kissed look without exposure to harmful UV rays.

The length of a spray tanning session varies depending on the method used, but it generally takes between 5–20 minutes for the actual application, plus an additional 5–10 minutes for drying.

One of the most common methods of spray tanning is using an HVLP (High-Volume, Low Pressure) system.

These devices promise a quick and effortless application, often taking just around 5 minutes to cover the entire body.

Following this, you’ll need to allow for about 5–10 minutes of drying time, which can be sped up by using direct air from the air hose or a hairdryer.

On the other hand, airbrush tanning, which was once the dominant form of spray tanning application, tends to take a bit longer.

With this method, the application time could be over 20 minutes, depending on the equipment used.

However, some high-quality airbrush systems can achieve similar coverage to HVLP systems, taking around 5–10 minutes for application.

Whichever method you choose, your technician may also apply a tanning prep spray, which can be done quickly using a spray mist or spritzer bottle.

How Long Does Spray Tanning Last?

A spray tan can last between 5 and 10 days, depending on factors such as your skin tone, overall skin health, and the level of care you take before and after the session.

The longevity of a spray tan starts with proper preparation. It is crucial to exfoliate and shave your skin at least 4 hours before the spray tan work during the session, and avoid using oil-based exfoliators or moisturizers.

This ensures that the tanning solution adheres to your skin and helps your pores close to avoid discoloration.

Waxing or having other beauty treatments should be done a day before the spray tan appointment.

During the spray tanning process, it is essential to wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid wearing a bra or undies, which can interfere with the even application of the tan. 

It is necessary to protect your tan from moisture, including rain and sweat, immediately after the appointment.

After the session, appropriate care plays a vital role in making the tan last longer. Waiting at least 4 to 8 hours post tan care before showering, avoiding lotions and liquids, and using gentle, oil-free moisturizers can help prolong the life of the tan.

Avoiding using skin care products with retinol, alpha hydroxy, or salicylic acid is advised, as these can cause the tan to fade faster.

How To Find The Perfect Place For Spray Tanning

Begin your search by asking friends, family, or co-workers for recommendations.

Word of mouth or reviews from people you trust can be valuable in finding a reputable salon or mobile service.

Leverage the power of the internet by reading customer reviews and checking out social media pages of prospective spray tanning salons.

Prioritize safety and hygiene during your search. Look for salons that have well-ventilated rooms, use high-quality tanning equipment and solutions, and follow all necessary safety protocols.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the full body tan, equipment, the DHA concentration used in the spray tanning prep solution, and the staff members’ experience with spray tanning.

Consider the cost of the local spray tanning salon as well. The price may differ depending on the salon’s location, the expertise of the professional, and any additional services provided.

Shop around to compare prices and, if possible, look out for package deals that can save you some money in the long run.

Lastly, schedule a consultation before committing to a specific salon or service.

This will allow you to discuss your desired tan shade, any concerns you may have, and the overall process to ensure you have the best experience possible.

How To Find The Perfect Place For Spray Tanning

Why Is a Spray Tan Better than A Self-Tanner?

One of the main benefits of a spray tan is the professional application, which ensures an even, streak-free finish.

When you opt for a spray on tanning booth, a skilled technician applies the tanning solution to your body, taking care to cover all areas evenly.

This reduces the risk of uneven coverage or missed spots, which can be common with self-tanning products.

Another advantage of spray tans is the customization they offer. A professional technician can tailor the tan to your specific skin type, tone and desired shade.

This flexibility allows for a more natural-looking result that complements your complexion and preferences. On the other hand, self-tanners typically come in limited shades, which may not perfectly suit every individual’s skin tones and needs.

As well as delivering a more consistent, personalized result, spray tans can also save you time. The process is quick and efficient, with many appointments taking as little as 15 minutes.

This is especially appealing for those with busy schedules who want to maintain a sun-kissed look without investing a lot of time in the process.

Self-tanning products, on the other hand, require careful and time-consuming application to achieve the best results.

Is Spray Tanning Safe?

Spray tanning has emerged as a popular alternative to traditional sun tanning and tanning beds, as it is considered to be a safer option.

The primary reason behind its safety is the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is a colorless sugar compound that reacts with the proteins on the upper, outer layer of skin of the skin, producing a tan-like appearance.

DHA has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for external use on the skin, making spray tans a more secure choice.

However, despite its relatively safe nature, spray tanning is not entirely risk-free. The main concern arises from the method of application, particularly when it comes to commercial spray tanning booths.

The FDA has not approved DHA for use in such booths due to concerns about inhaling or ingesting the spray and contact with eyes, nose, mouth, or lips.

To minimize these risks, it is crucial to ensure proper protection for the eyes, lips, and mucous membranes during the spray tanning process.

Some individuals may experience skin sensitivities or allergies to fragrances contained in spray tanning products.

It is essential to be aware of any adverse reactions and consult a dermatologist if any issues arise.

Drawbacks Of Spray Tans

One of the primary drawbacks of spray tans is the potential health risks associated with exposure to the active ingredient, DHA.

In some cases, individuals may experience redness, inflammation, and dehydration as a result of the tanning process.

During the spray tanning session, some people have reported difficulty in breathing, necessitating the use of nose filters for safety purposes.

Another disadvantage of spray tans is the difficulty in finding a reliable salon offering the service at affordable rates.

This may require extensive research and time investment, which could be inconvenient for those looking to achieve that sun-kissed glow quickly.

Attempting to perform a self spray tan at home can be quite messy, often resulting in streaks and stains, further highlighting the importance of seeking professional help.

Plus, the lasting effects of spray tans can be a significant concern for some users. The color provided by the spray tan tends to fade relatively quickly, making frequent applications necessary to maintain the desired shade.

This can be both time-consuming and costly, especially when considering the price of salon visits or purchasing multiple at-home tanning products.



Spray tanning is one of the most popular methods for achieving a sun-kissed glow without exposing oneself to the harmful effects of UV rays.

This cosmetic technique utilizes self-tanning products that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and erythrulose, which react with amino acids in the skin to produce a temporary tan.

To ensure a flawless, even tan, it is essential to adequately prepare the skin before receiving a spray tan by exfoliating, shaving or waxing at least 12 hours beforehand, and avoiding lotions before the session.

Professional spray tans typically last between 5–7 days with proper care, while home applications usually last up to 10 days. Prices range from $25-$100 depending on location and type of service.

When searching for an ideal spray tanning salon service provider, it’s important to prioritize safety and hygiene, as well as investigate reviews and customer feedback online.

Plus, take special precautions during preparation and after-care, such as waiting at least 4 hours before showering post-spray tan.

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