Spray Tanning Basics

If You Choose Spray Tanning: Tips

There are things you can do to make your tanning more successful.

  • Clean that skin: Take a shower or bath, and do not apply lotions or perfumes when finished.
  • Exfoliate: Use a soft cotton washcloth to remove dead skin.
  • Shave: Women should shave their legs. If your skin is at all sensitive, however, shave a day ahead of time.
  • Moisturize (maybe): Some products advise against applying any lotion. But some tanning businesses offer moisturizing before spraying to help the process. Read directions, follow instructions and act accordingly.
  • Dress carefully, if at all: Some people wear nothing while spray tanning. If you don't want to go that far, think about where you want tan lines. Wear something that exposes what you want tanned.

There are also possible problems to keep in mind, at the spa or at home.

  • Skin problems: Dry skin and thickened skin, such as that on knees or elbows, absorbs more spray. It may be necessary to blot those areas.
  • Don't look like a freak: The palms and soles of the feet don't normally tan. Keep spray off of them, or remove it quickly. These areas might turn orange if they're left to tan.
  • Little flaws: Moles, freckles and other imperfections will likely get darker.
  • Be realistic: Choose a color that won't make you look scary. Light to medium tones work better.
  • Protect yourself: At home, have good ventilation. Follow directions. At a business, ask about ventilation and protection for eyes, lips and mucous membranes. Do not inhale or swallow the fumes.

Even after you're all sprayed, you're not quite finished. If things aren't quite right, try fixing the problem with a hydrogen peroxide or baking-soda solution, dabbed on with cotton balls. This might also help to remove color from palms and soles.

Make sure you're dry before you dress. Otherwise, you might stain your clothes.

And don't hop in the shower right away -- follow directions as to how long to wait before you bathe.

But the No. 1 most important thing to remember is that you don't really have a tan. You may look good and feel good, but your artificial tan does not protect you from the sun. If you're planning on sporting your faux tan in the outside, use a good sunscreen.

Want to know more about tanning? Look over the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Bahama Bronze Instant Tan Spray. "How does Bahama Bronze spray tan in a can work?" (Sept. 17, 2009) http://bahamabronze.com/directions.htm
  • Bank, David, M.D. "Ask the Expert: Can sunless tanners cause cancer?" The Skin Cancer Foundation. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.skincancer.org/ask-the-expert-can-sunless-tanners-cause-cancer.html
  • Bounds, Gwendolyn. "True Colors: Grading Spray-Tan Salons."The Wall Street Journal. June 25, 2009. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://online.wsj.com/article/
  • Brody, Jane. E. "A Healthy Glow That's Truly Healthy." The New York Times. June 1, 2009. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.skincancer.org/a-healthy-glow-that's-truly-healty.html
  • Conroy, Erin. "Tanning Industry, bartering, holiday shopping." Seattle Post Intelligencer. Sept. 15, 2009. (Sept. 20, 2009) http://www.seattlepi.com/business/
  • Mayo Clinic. "Sunless Tanning: A safe alternative to sunbathing." (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sunless-tanning/SN00037/
  • Mystic Tan. "In the Shade." (Sept. 17, 2009)http://www.intheshade.net/ITS-mystictan.htm
  • Personal Care Products Council. "Dihydroxyacetone: What Is It?" (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient_details.php?ingredient_id=1481
  • PR Newswire: MagicTan, Mystic Tan Merger Announced. April 21, 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009) http://www.lookingfit.com/hotnews/magictan-mystic-tan-merger-announced.html Quenqua, Douglas. "Rub On, Spray on, or Not Tan at All?" The New York Times. Aug. 13, 2009. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/fashion/13SKIN.html
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Cosmetics: Sunless Tanners and Bronzers." (Sept. 17, 2009) http:www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm13406
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "For Consumers: Sunscreens and Tanning." (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/FreePublications/ucm132684
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Sunless Tanners and Bronzers." (Sept. 17, 2009)http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-tan4.html
  • Verspa Systems. "What Is VersaSpa?" (Sept. 25, 2009)http://www.versaspasystem.com/consumerintro/
  • Winterman, Denise. "A tan to die for." BBC News. Nov. 1, 2006. (Sept. 24, 2009)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/