How long do spray tans last?

It is important we first get to know what a spray device is and how the whole tanning thing works. A spray device, as the name suggests, spray devices are tanning solutions contained in a spray like a device so that it can be sprayed directly on the body to get the desired color coated over your skin. It is a mist in a spray which contains a compound called dihydroxy acetone which interacts with your skin. The compound reacts with the amino acids found on the skin and by also combining with the oxygen in the air, makes the color of the skin change to brown.

There are two methods you can use to achieve the spray tan;

  • You can get spray tanned in a beauty salon or spa or
  • You can use an airbrush to spray the tan on your body yourself.

What everyone would like to know is how long the spray tan will last; this depends on your skin.

Generally, the skin regenerates i.e. it gets rid of its old cells from time to time. When this happens, the tan will start to fade. Usually, most spray tans will last for about a week, or at least 10 days. Simultaneously, the effect of the tan can be prolonged IF it is done the right way and if certain precautions are taken.

At the same time, do not fall victim to claims that say that any tan can last for a prolonged period because the color will last only until that time when the old cells of the skin remain. Once the old cells are out, the color too goes away with them.

There are a few things you can avoid to ensure your tan stays longer. Try to avoid hitting the swimming pool if you want to prolong your spray tan as chlorine can cause it, I mean your tan to fade. On the day of your spray tanning treatment, take along with you those loose-fitting dark clothes so you don’t lose color through contact with tight fabrics.

Showering can also remove color, so be aware that your washing routine will affect the longevity of your spray tan. Soaking in the bathtub is very much effective way of fading the color of your tan, so keep the bubble baths to a minimum if you truly want your tan to stick around.

Using a moisturizer will definitely make a difference when it comes to retaining your golden glow, so do apply daily. This also has the added bonus of keeping your skin silky smooth.

More tips to make the spray tan last longer

More tips to make the spray tan last longer

  • Take a good shower before you go for the spray tan. Exfoliate your skin well so as to remove all the dead cells. Once this is done, you will be spraying the tan mist on the new skin. This can help to keep the color a little longer than normal.
  • Do not use any lotion before the process. Avoid perfumes as well. Clearer skins will be able to absorb DHA better.
  • Don’t hit the shower for at least 10 hours after the tan procedure. The same instruction goes for makeup and lotions.
  • Do not make the error of applying multiple tans thinking it will make the tan last longer. You should know how much to apply if not, your skin will undergo a drastic change that you will end up not enjoying it.
  • If you are getting tanned in a salon, first wax the skin area before spraying the tan. Some areas of the body have the tendency to get darker. To avoid it, just apply a little moisturizer on these areas. They could be the palms, ankles, elbows, and knees. Do not also forget to wear a shower cap and protect your lips with a lip balm.
  • After the tan, ensure that the skin remains hydrated. A good moisturizer can help with this. Once the tan has been applied, keep it so for some time. Allow it time to dry; if you wear any clothes soon after, the tan will start wearing off right away.

Remember the color will take at least an hour or more to develop. So, do not panic if you do not see the results immediately. Wait.

Airbrush Tanning

Airbrush Tanning

Tanning occurs when your skin produces pigment to protect itself from UV rays and permanent skin damage. In airbrush tanning, the tanning solution is applied by a professional technician using a compressor and airbrush. These tanning solutions contain the active ingredient DHA that reacts with the outer layer of skin to produce a bronzing effect, similar to what a traditional tan does.

It should be emphasized that the pigments resulting from an airbrush tan do not provide UV protection. For most solutions, the color of the skin can continue to darken after the initial application, and the zenith color is reached within about a 12 hour period. Typical solutions have a bronzer that provides an almost immediate tan effect and help the technician to distinguish areas of the skin that have the solution already applied.

The majority of this bronzer will be washed off when showering after application.

The one thing you need to think about when wearing any type of clothing into the booth or during your airbrush session is how it’s going to affect your skin’s finish. Fabrics block color, so you can expect tan lines around the edges of your outfit.

The good news is that tan lines are a breeze to hide under everyday clothes, but it’s a whole different game if you’re taking your spray tan on a beach holiday. One of the best self-tanning tips for getting that bikini body without getting naked is to match your tan lines to your go-to bathing suit by wearing it to your session. Try and make sure not to get a shade lighter than black, dark brown or navy blue to protect your suit from staining.

If you would like to avoid tan lines during a spray tan session but are nervous about getting naked in front of a stranger, ask to meet the spray technician before the appointed time. Taking a moment to introduce yourself and chat with your spray tanner can remove your worries. The job of a spray technician is to make you feel relaxed and happy throughout your appointment, and they do it well.

Another point to note when it comes to avoiding stains is to wear dark, loose-fitting clothes after your appointment. Professional spray tans dry quickly, but it’s possible for a little bit of color to rub off on your clothes, most especially when your solution is tinted with wash-off bronzers. For a sure guarantee that your tan won’t stain or streak, most self-tanning tips suggest avoiding clothes with light colors and tight fabrics until your next shower.

How to maintain a tan while swimming

maintain a tan while swimming

Exposure to prolonged water submersion or swimming can fade a spray tan. However true the popular opinion on this is, it is NOT the chlorine, salt, or chemicals in the water that are responsible for cleaning out your tan. The bleach levels in pool water will certainly dry out the skin (which will increase fade over the next few days) and possibly lighten the tan a little, but they are normally not at a high enough percentage to remove tans on skin and clothing.

There are however exceptions, of course, some public pools may maintain very high chlorination levels which could be for public health reason (higher than home pool owners would use because eye discomfort is involved),  which will add in an additional contribution to the tan fade.

Water seeps under the dead skin cells, and into the skin layers, causing the skin to swell and fill with water between the cells. As water fills pockets between cells, skin gets pruned and wrinkled looking, after prolonged water submersion. This soaking also loosens the attachments, holding dead skin cells against living cells beneath. The dead skin cells are spray tanned brown, so as soon as they lift, the tan will lighten, because less “brown” cells are on top, lightening the color.

This will happen with fresh, salt, or chlorinated water, from pools, streams, even a prolonged tub soak. This is one reason why a long tub soak is a recommended method of tan removal. Do keep in mind, however, that if you are swimming or hot tubing daily, your tan will fade faster. The steps below can help, but they will never completely prevent excessive fade off.

Use these tips when swimming to help slow down your tans fade rate, and even swim for hours at a time while on vacation snorkeling.  These tips are more as a guide to help ones’ tan last longer when they are swimming, but not a guarantee your tan will last “just as long” when you are regularly swimming, as when you are not swimming.

Proper Exfoliation

Skin Exfoliation For Better Tan

If you exfoliate your skin well before tanning, and apply airbrush tanning solution to clean dry skin, and then shower before any sweating activity, you tan will not sweat or run off. We recommend an exfoliating mitt or gloves used with a mild nonmoisturizing gel cleanser for exfoliation.  Look for a clear and translucent type shower gel.

N.B When holding the bottle up to the light it should look transparent, and allow light rays to easily shine through. Product brand and color do not matter. Avoid a milky, opaque creamy type lotion shower gel product as these, most times contain added moisturizers, and conditioners, that can coat the skin surface, and should not be used before you tan.

Many exfoliation scrubs can leave a moisturizing or lubrication coating effect on your skin which may cause tanning solutions to apply unevenly, rub off, or fade faster. Unless the scrub is made specifically for pre tanning use, please cleanse skin after use with a mitt and clear shower gel to remove residue.

Fresh Tans will fade less

A freshly applied tan will fade less in the water than one a week old. This is because its overall color is darker, and there are less loose cells to separate in the water. So try and plan your spray session a day or two before a pool event. We also recommend a trial run first i.e. when testing how well your tan will stay while swimming.  

Do not plan your first test during an important pool event with a crowd of friends and family, where you would feel quite uncomfortable if your tan does not hold up as well as you hope.

It is generally recommended that you do not tan using a super dark color, rather you should aim for a light to light medium tan.  The darker the tan (and the paler you are naturally) the more visible any fade will be. This is because you will have increased the contrast between light and dark tanned skin. Instead, opt for a slightly lighter color.  If your tan holds up well in a lighter version, then you can go a bit darker next time, if you choose.

Tan Protection while swimming slows the cell separation

Tan Protection while swimming

In order to lessen tan fade from swimming, limit swimming sessions to shorter periods of say 15 minutes or so, rather than a long soak. Pat your skin dry upon leaving the pool, rather than rubbing viciously. A freshly applied tan, used on well-exfoliated skin, will fade less than an older tan of a few days or more, or one applied to the poorly exfoliated skin.

A thick waterproof lotion based sunscreen can help slow tan fade and wear related to water submersion from prolonged swimming. Look for sports sunscreens, made for water sports use; such products like these adhere better during prolonged water submersion. Lotions will normally waterproof the tan better than gels. You should find such products online at Amazon and may be found at your local Walgreen s or another large chain drugstore.

After exiting the water, while the skin is still filled with excess water, the tan WILL look lighter. But this is because the skin is swollen with excess water, and stretched out over a larger surface area. The tanned cells are spread out more, allowing one to see pale skin gaps between tanned cells.
This is why fingertips may look wrinkled after swimming, due to excess water absorption.  

As the skin surface dries, and water evaporates out, the skin will return back to its normal size, and you will see the tan darken closer to its normal coloration, and depth. It will normally also even out, and look less blotchy. But any areas of rubbing (for example, strap marks from scuba gear) will often be much lighter, as the water submersion, combined with the strap rubbing will have increased exfoliation/skin separation in those areas.


Rebuild any faded color- the Topper Coat

After your pool session, gently cleanse off any sun screen and pool water, rinse, and pat the skin till it dries, then reapply a self-tan product to rebuild any faded color.  If you scrub the skin with your towel, you can increase the skin exfoliation, so patting will better preserve your tan.

We personally like this mousse but you can use any mousse, aerosol, lotion etc of your choice. You only need apply a light fresh coat head to toe before bed and wake up with a renewed tan to start the day.

If you would hit the club or go dancing later in the evening and don’t have enough time to wait for your mousse to develop color, fake it with a water resistive bronzer. It is terrific when your feet, hands or chest are fading a bit too fast, and you want to spot refresh color. This is a temporary, water resistant, low transfer, Body Makeup. It washes away with soap and water.

Can you tan in the sun with a spray tan

Protecting your spray tan in the sun

Most definitely. Having a spray before basking in the ambiance of the sun is good. It stops you from going pale and wanting to overcompensate. In fact, getting a spray tan can actually provide some protection from sunburn. Spray tanning is the safe way to tan without doing any damage to the skin.

With all this information, you need not worry about your tan wearing off. Do enjoy your tan.

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