How to prep for and maintain a spray tan, so you can soak in the sun without the damaging rays

It’s officially summer and, if you’re like us, you love a good spray tan (as opposed to baking in the sun for hours with little protection). As someone who has been spray-tanning for years (and even had a spray tan booth situation similar to Ross Geller’s), I know how vital it is to get the real-deal information on exactly what you’re supposed to do not only after your spray, but before. Below are the best prep and maintaining tips, straight from two top spray tan experts.

Start with super clean skin.

Arriving with clean skin (i.e. with no moisturizer or oil on you at all) is key when it comes to spray tan prep. “Never apply any products like body moisturizers or cellulite creams on the day of your spray tan,” explains Sophie Evans, a celebrity spray tanner who works with St. Tropez. “Certain products left on the skin can affect how the spray-tan develops.” That said, Evans notes that deodorant, makeup, and perfume are all okay to wear day-of and can be removed easily prior to your spray tan with a cleansing wipe.

Exfoliation prior to your spray tan is essential.

Exfoliation, by definition, is the removal of the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface. According to Courtney Claghorn, founder of the airbrush tan and sugaring chain Sugared and Bronzed, making sure that you have your “newest” skin (i.e. freshly exfoliated skin) is crucial because “new” skin will hold your spray tan, and therefore hold the longevity of the spray tan. “It’s ideal to do this the evening before your appointment, rather than just a few hours beforehand,” tells Claghorn. This lag time between exfoliating and your spray tan appointment will also “allow time for your skin to neutralize and be at its most natural Ph. Balance,” explains Evans. “This will ensure that the self-tan develops to its deepest and darkest full potential.”

And, if you prefer waxing versus shaving…

You will want to always wax 24-hours before the spray tan. According to Evans, “waxing can open up your hair pores and you need to allow the skin to settle after your wax so that your spray tan does not come out with a spotted, pitted look.”

Hydrate and moisturize your entire body.

“Most people think moisturizing is important post-spray, but it’s actually just as important pre-spray,” tells Claghorn. And, in fact, your body being dehydrated (even mildly!) can be the sole culprit of a cut-short airbrush tan. “Since DHA (the active sunless tanning ingredient, which is derived from sugar beets) slightly dries out skin, hydration is an essential (both pre- and post-spray tan).” So drink up that water the day of your spray.

Wear dark, loose-fitting clothing.

You always want to make sure that you wear something dark, that doesn’t rub too much against your skin. And go bra-less, if you can. Tight clothing can rub and cause unwanted lines immediately after your spray tan appointment, especially on a hot day.


To maintain your spray tan, you should:

Follow the directions from your spray tanner or salon.

It seems simple to say, but each spray tan salon uses a slightly different formula. so it’s important that you follow the directions that they give you based on the type of spray you get and what time you get it. “You will typically have to shower after eight hours if using a traditional formula, or you might also shower one to three hours after for an ‘express’ solution,” explains Evans. “But do not ever exercise or swim for about 12 hours after any spray tan.”

Moisturize after your first shower.

Like we mentioned in the prep section, keeping your skin hydrated both pre- and post-spray tan is key for extending your tan for as long as possible. “Be gentle with your skin and always PAT to dry, never rub,” says Evans. You will also want to use a moisturizer that’s non-oil based to lock in hydration.

Try a facial mist for the body parts that will fade the fastest.

According to Evans, the face and hands will fast the quickest. She recommends using St. Tropez Purity Facial Water Mist to help keep those fast-fading body parts keep their bronze glow. “This is the easiest way to tan the face and it’s also formulated perfectly for the delicate hand area.”

Use a gradual self-tanner to extend your spray tan.

No one said you had to be spray tan-exclusive. Evans suggests using a gradual self-tanning lotion for “when you need to boost your glow and add some hydration (to your skin).”

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