Could Your Period Make Your Self-Tan Last For Less Time?

Experts explain what role hormones and pH levels play.

Listen up: If you’ve ever gotten a spray tan or have applied a self-tanner at home only to find that it fades quickly or doesn’t give you the faux glow you desired, your period may be to blame. Yes, even if you prepped correctly and consistently slathered your freshly-bronzed skin in lotions (and avoiding hot showers and body scrubs, of course), your hormones could be working overtime to bring your tan down a notch.  

While there’s no research on the link between menstruation and faux tans, airbrush tanning expert and associate director at Blushington, Sloane Knowles, says there may be a correlation between the two. “I’ve tanned enough women on their periods to know that it does affect the longevity of a tan,” she says.

How does your period affect your self-tan?

Your hormones regulate your entire body, and when you’re ovulating, menstruating, pregnant, or menopausal, hormone levels fluctuate, and your pH balance shifts. “A normal pH of the skin is 4.5 to 5.5,” says Brittney Bennett, owner of BeBronze Studio in Los Angeles. “When a woman ovulates, the pH level and moisture level of the skin drops, which, in turn, dehydrates the skin and makes it harder for the tan’s DHA to attach to. Applying a self-tanner, or getting a spray tan, on this type of skin will result in a tan that doesn’t last as long.” 

Being on your period while you self-tan can affect the shade it gives off, too. Bennet says that when a client tells her that her tan isn’t as dark as usual, the first thing she does is ask them if they were on their period when they got their self-tan. “More often than not, that’s the case,” she says.

Depending on your skin’s natural exfoliation rate, a normal tan can last anywhere from seven to 10 days. On your period, though, Bennett says to be prepared for it to be 20 percent less dark and last between six to eight days.

When’s the best time to get a fake tan?

period could affect self-tan

The optimal time to get a tan is when you’re not menstruating—both for the longevity and darkness of the tan. Knowles notes that generally, a hormonal imbalance can lead to the overproduction of sebum, which, when combined with tanning, can trigger breakouts, too.

What’s the best way to make your fake tan long-lasting?

When it comes to a long-lasting tan, it’s all about prep and aftercare. Before you apply a self-tanner or get a spray tan, make sure your skin is properly moisturized. “Dry skin sucks up as much tanning solution as it can in an attempt to hydrate itself. This results in drier areas of the body becoming darker than the rest of the body, and dirty-looking hands, feet, and elbows,” says Knowles. Applying a light layer of moisturizer on areas prone to dryness will help your tan look as natural as possible.

Immediately after getting a spray tan or using self-tanner, be mindful of the clothes you wear while the solution develops and dries. Then, while showering, avoid using hot water as heat and steam can speed up the natural skin exfoliation rate and reduce the life of your tan. For day-to-day upkeep, be sure to keep your skin moisturized twice a day—keeping your skin hydrated is the number one consideration for longevity, says Bennett. Finally, avoid using a loofah. While exfoliating 24 hours before self-tanning is recommended, Bennett suggests using your hands to gently wash your body to avoid physically rubbing of your faux tan.