Tips to Prepare for Your Next Spray Tan

6 Tips to Prepare for Your Next Spray Tan

Spray tan appointment: Check! Now what?!?! How do I prepare for this spray tan?!?

Sound familiar?

There’s a spray tan artist heading your way in a few days, awesome!  Congratulations, I absolutely love spray tanning!  A good spray tan lasts about 6-10 days, so how do we get the most out of our session?  Here are the 6 tips you’ll need to follow to prepare yourself for your upcoming spray tan:

1. Moisturize

The most common active ingredients in spray tan solutions bind directly to your skin.  Once sprayed, these ingredients will begin to work their magic and bronze your skin.  The thing is; these ingredients work best on well moisturized skin.  In fact, these ingredients will often become splotchy, patchy, or uneven when they bind to dry skin. Using moisturizers that you are familiar with and are free of oily substances are a good idea to prepare for a spray tan.  I typically stick with a gentle daily moisturizer or a more intensive moisturizer depending on how dry my skin feels. For best results, be sure to moisturize the day before your spray tan… BUT stay away from any moisturizers on the day of your spray tan.

2. Shave/Wax

You’ll want to be sure that all of your shaving and waxing needs are done before your spray tan appointment.  Spray tan solutions bind to the top layer of your skin without penetrating deeply into the skin. This means that ANY activities like shaving and waxing will begin to fade away the results from the spray tan, as you are essentially exfoliating away the top outermost layer of skin.

Whether it’s my legs, armpits, bikini line, or whatever else I’m shaving – my favorite razors are these. They are super sharp, allowing for a close shave prior to the spray tan and a really good choice for shaving a few days after the spray tan. Having a sharp razor blade will make sure that you are getting a really close shave without having to drag the blade too intensely against the skin. Using a moisture rich shaving cream would be ideal too (remember step 1?). But to be honest, I have just started swapping out shaving creams with a nice moisturizing conditioner and absolutely love the results.

When it comes to waxing, I’ve tried it all.  Everything from generic ‘do it yourself’ waxing kits to high end at home waxing systems.  I’ve done all sorts of contortions with multiple mirrors, one foot on the ground, and the other on top of the tank of my toilet to trusting my husband with hot wax and those dreaded cotton strips.  While it’s funny to look back on now, my opinion is:  Just go to a salon.

For best results, you’ll want to limit the amount of waxing and shaving after the spray tan appointment to minimize any fading.

3. Exfoliate

Your skin has a turnover rate of about one week.  That means that your skin cells are shed from your body every five to seven days or so.  Since spray tan solutions bind to the top layer of your skin, you want to be sure that the skin this solution will come into contact with is as fresh as possible.  Proper exfoliating is the best way to achieving this goal.  Without proper exfoliating across your entire body, the spray tanned skin will most likely shed unevenly and in patches.

Using a good quality all natural body scrub is great for exfoliating your skin.  There are also various exfoliating mitts which work wonderfully in the shower with a scrub.  Personally, I like to create my own scrub using one of my favorite body washes and some good ole fashioned baking soda. I’ll use about ¼ cup of baking soda for every cup of body wash.  For best results, exfoliate on the day of your spray tan appointment (before the spray tan of course) and then lay off the scrubs and mitts for at least a week after the spray tan.

4. Dress Appropriately

To make this part super easy, we’re going to break this down into two separate categories. We have  a) what to wear before/after your spray tan and b) what to wear during your spray tan.

a. Before/After

Dark loose fitting clothes – yup it’s that simple.  And no, those cute yoga pants with a form fitting top don’t count as dark loose fitting clothes.  Spray tan solutions contain a cosmetic bronzer so that the spray tan artist can keep track of where they’ve sprayed you and where they need to spray you.  While the cosmetic bronzers in most of the spray tan solutions won’t stain your clothes – why risk it?

This cosmetic bronzer isn’t what actually changes the color of your skin; that’s done by the active ingredients.  The active ingredients in a spray tan are generally clear and work slowly as they dry and bind to your skin.  Depending on the spray tan solution being used, this could take 12 hours or more.  Tight, form fitting clothes will smear, smudge, and remove the active ingredients from your skin and give you a funky looking tan.  Even wearing something like your bra can distort the final look of your spray tan. Your best bet is to go with a simple, black, loose maxi dress. It’s really the perfect go-to post tan outfit because it allows airflow to help dry your fresh tan. AND it doesn’t have many direct skin contact points which prevents the likelihood of any weird tan lines.

b. During

To tan line or not to tan line – that is the question.  Basically, this one boils down to your comfort level and the comfort level of your spray tan artist.  So let’s think about this, it’s a spray tan right?  Well, how do you want your spray tan to look?

If you want the bikini tan line look, no problem – just wear a dark bikini during your spray tan.  If you’re looking for a more risqué tan line look, that’s easy too – choose underwear that will give you that look like a thong, g-string, or something similar.  Earlier we talked about wearing dark colors, the same applies here.  Choose dark colors and garments that you wouldn’t mind having stained by the spray tan solution.  If you don’t have any items that you can spare, consider using some disposable undergarments which are designed specifically for spray tanning.  Going topless is perfectly acceptable and is the most common practice in my experience.  Full nude is also perfectly acceptable, and honestly, it’s the second most common practice in my experience.  It’s very rare to have a client who wishes to wear a bikini top and bottom.  However, if you’re interested in going nude, have a talk with your spray tan artist about it first. Just to be on the safe side.  Oh, and if there are any fellas reading this, the full nude option does not always apply to you.  You will definitely want to talk to your spray tan artist about your wishes before you decide to go full monty during your appointment.

5. Start with a Clean Canvas

This one is so obvious it’s usually the thing that gets overlooked the most.  A spray tan will develop on your skin because a spray tanning solution will be misted all over your body.  Makeup, moisturizer, sun block, deodorant, or any other substance that you have on your skin as the spray tanning solution is being misted may yield unwanted results.  There may be streaky patches, a splotchy and uneven look, or even sections of your skin that are untanned.  For best results, you should try to be squeaky clean right before your spray tan.  The next best thing as you prepare for your spray tan would be to use makeup removing wipes followed by PH balancing wipes to remove anything from your skin that you might be wearing.

Ok, if any of you are saying “No makeup?  You’re crazy!” then fine – here you go:  things like eye-liner, mascara, or lip balm could be considered an exception to this rule.  Why?  Well, because these types of makeup items are generally not on places of your body that will need to be tanned.

6. Stay Dry

Once the spray tan solution has been misted onto your body, the clear active ingredients will start to go to work.  In order to do so, they will need to dry onto your skin smoothly so that they can bind to your skin and begin the bronzing process.  Dry – is the key word here.  As this drying process is occurring, any moisture that comes into contact with your skin will completely remove the active ingredients.  For best results, we will want to stay as dry as possible for the next 12 or so hours.

This includes rain water, sweating, crying, water balloon fights, anything really.  So activities like going to the gym, dancing in the rain, or watching The Notebook should be off of your to-do list for now.


So, now that we have listed the very basics to prepare for your next spray tan, you are one step closer to having a full on, flawless glow. Here are our 6 most important tips for ensuring that your skin is perfectly prepped and ready to receive the tan;

  1. Moisturizer, but remember just NOT the day of!
  2. Shave and Wax!
  3. Exfoliate, exfoliate, and EXFOLIATE!
  4. Dress Appropriately!
  5. Start with a CLEAN canvas!
  6. Stay DRY!

We know a lot of this is common sense but let’s be real about one thing, we all have busy, busy lives! Sometimes adding just one extra something onto your already crammed scheduled can throw you for a loop and make your brain run circles around the outside of your head. It’s cool though, I have literally shown up at the vet’s office for an appointment without my dog so… yeah, you are not alone here! Hopefully this little guide can help you out in a big way and make looking and feeling good a little less stressful!

Interested in learning more about the do’s and don’ts of all things spray tanning? Head over to our most inclusive article The Ultimate Spray Tanning Guide for all the goods!

Have any more tips you use when you prepare for a spray tan? Share some below!

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