Spray Tanning: What Is It, How Does It Work, & Is It Safe?

Get that summer glow without worrying about soaking in the harmful UV rays.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Aanand Geria, MD Dr. Aanand Geria Dr. Aanand GeriaMD insta_icon
Written by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Edited by , BA, MSc Eshna Das BA, MSc linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature), Certified Skin Care Coach Shiboli Chakraborti MA (English Literature), Certified Skin Care Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
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You don’t have to soak up the harmful UV rays to get the much-desired sunkissed look. You can skip the part, save your skin, and flaunt a glorious tan with spray tanning. It is an easy process, and now, spray tans are available in different staying powers to give you a natural-looking sun-kissed glow without causing much damage to your skin. This article discusses everything you need to know about spray tanning, safety, cost, procedure, time frame, and more. Keep reading.

What Is A Spray Tan? How Does A Spray Tan Work?

A professional using a tanning spray body paint
Image: Shutterstock

A spray tan is an artificial way to get the classic bronzed sun-kissed look. You can think of it as a fake bake.

Spray tanning products contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a single active glycerin derivative. DHA triggers the amino acids of your skin, resulting in melanoidini  A brown compound usually found in malts and malt products that replicates the natural melanin found in the deeper skin layers. formation. This imparts a beautiful summer glow and offers the perfect tan you desire.

There are a few different types of spray available. Check them out below.

What Are The Different Types Of Spray Tans?

Tanning at home
Image: Shutterstock
  • DIY Spray Tan: Ready-to-use spray tans are available in the market for you to get a tan without visiting the salon. They are super easy to use and can simply be applied by following the instructions given.
  • Tanning Booths: Spray tanning booths have become a popular choice for their effectiveness and long-lasting results. These machines are used for the tanning process to automatically calculate the amount of spray needed. Usually, a technician is present to guide you through the whole process and adjust the amount of tan dispensed.
  • Airbrush Tanning: Airbrush tanning features an airbrush machine to evenly spread the spray tan all over the body. This method of spray tanning can be the most time-consuming and require the help of another individual.

We will address the burning question of whether spray tans are safe or not in the next section.

Is Spray Tanning Safe?

Yes. Spray tans are relatively safer than tanning in the sun or a tanning bed. This method does not expose the individual to UV rays and prevents the risk of skin cancer. However, spray tanning is a relatively new concept, and the scientific community is yet to form a solid opinion about the safety of spray tans.

Confused if this process will work for you? Read on to find out.

Is Spray Tanning Right For Me?

People with sensitive skin should do a patch test before getting a spray tan
Image: Shutterstock

The spray tan results depend on the health and condition of your skin. People with sensitive skin types may break out in response to tanning products. Hence, conduct a patch test to know how your skin will react during the process.

You also need to determine the strength of the DHA to gain the perfect shade. For instance, those resistant to DHA may require it in greater concentrations. The intensity of light or dark spray tans depends on the skin’s response to DHA exposure.

Cost is another factor to consider when it comes to spray tanning.

How Much Does A Spray Tan Cost?

The cost of a spray tan varies as per the salon location and the professional’s experience. However, it can range between 25$ to 50$. If you want to avail salon at-home or mobile tanning services, it may range between $40 and as high as a few hundred dollars. Subscribe to a package deal if you are open to spray tanning frequently.

Check out the pros and cons of spray tanning in the following section to make an informed decision.

Is Spray Tanning Worth It?

When done correctly, spray tanning offers a glowing and healthy appearance. Spray tans come with the following skin care benefits.

Advantages Of Spray Tans

Spray tan can help conceal hyperpigmentation
Image: Shutterstock
  • Spray tans provide a darker skin shade without direct exposure to the sun rays, preventing the risk of photodamagei  Skin changes like freckles, pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, and roughness, that occur due to exposure to harmful UV rays. , premature aging, and skin cancer. They are a viable option for regions or seasons where the sun does not shine bright and long enough to color the skin.
  • Spray tans are suitable for all skin tones and types. Beauticians can customize the solution and provide the perfect glow regardless of your skin tone.
  • Spray tans can mask skin blemishes, hyperpigmentation, freckles, and sunspots.
  • Spray tans are quick and effective. You can enjoy the long duration of tanning results that dry in just a few minutes.

Drawbacks Of Spray Tans

Exposure to spray tan may cause side effects like redness
Image: Shutterstock

Here are a few points that may discourage you from giving spray tanning a shot:

  • Exposure to DHA might have potential risks, such as redness, inflammation, and dehydration.
  • People who undergo spray tanning have experienced difficulty in breathing during the session. They have to wear nose filters for safety purposes.
  • Finding a reliable salon at affordable rates can require heavy research and consume time.
  • Self spray tans can get messy and leave behind streaks and stains.

You need to keep certain things in mind before your first spray tan session. Find out what they are below.

Preparing For A Spray Tanning Session

Drinking plenty of water before and after a tan helps it last longer on the skin
Image: Shutterstock
  • Identify the skin tone that you wish to achieve after the spray tan. Always book your spray tan session two days before the event. Spray tans take about 48 hours to settle in and develop. This 2 day interval also leaves enough room to fix any mishaps.
  • Exfoliate properly to slough off any dead skin cells as dirt and debris can lead to uneven spray tan results. It eliminates any natural oils that may prevent the adhesion of tanning agents.
  • Shave your skin at least 24 hours before the tanning session for the best results.
  • Avoid any self-tanning products, especially if it is your first time.
  • Have a cold shower before a spray tan.
  • Drink enough water before and after the spray tan session as tanning products stay for longer term on hydrated skin.
  • Wear dark and loose-fitted clothes during your spray tan spell to avoid smudging.
  • Apply nail polish, even if it is a clear coat, to protect your nails from staining.
  • Do not use makeup, deodorant, or perfume, which can act as a barrier to your skin.

Miss Kris, a blogger, shared her experiences with fake tanning, emphasizing the importance of doing a trial run before getting one done for a significant event. She writes, “The lesson I want you to take from this is to trial the tan before your big day. When you decide to get a fake tan, have it done 2 to 3 days before your wedding so it has time to mellow. You would hate to look back and hate the way you look because of a bad fake tan job (i)”.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You can save your hands from getting over-tanned by applying moisturizer. Immediately after applying tan, wipe your palms and in between the fingers with a cloth soaked in micellar water.

Spray tanning requires planning, right from choosing your salon to planning the session dates. Here’s what you need to look for in a spray tanning salon.

How To Find The Perfect Place For Spray Tanning

  • Choose a well-ventilated salon to minimize your DHA inhalation. If airy salons are not available, go for one with exhaust fans to suck away the excess spray.
  • The salon should have alcohol-free spray tans to prevent skin dryness.
  • Discuss your concerns or requirements with the beautician as it gives you an idea of how they treat their customers.
  • Check for low volume, low pressure (LVLP) equipment and if the establishment offers protective gear.

You may wonder how long do spray tans last. Scroll down for your answer.

How Long Does Spray Tanning Last?

Well, spray tanning seems cool, but do you know how long a spray tan lasts? Typically, the lifespan of DHA-based tanning products is about 3-10 days. The tan fades as your skin follows a cycle where it sheds its outermost layer and new skin cells replace them. Hence, the turnover rate depends on how quickly your body produces new skin.

Although not scientifically proven, the addition of erythrulosei  A yellow-reddish sugar in red berries that reacts with the amino acids present on the dead skin layer and produces a brownish tint. in tanning products helps enhance the longevity of your spray tan. Erythrulose helps even tone your skin and boosts its attractiveness even while the tan fades.

Check out these spray tan tips for every stage of the process to achieve successful results.

Tips And Tricks For Spray Tanning

During Spray Tan

  • Strip only to your level of comfort. It is not necessary to go nude for a spray tan session.
  • Take off any jewelry item.
  • Apply a barrier cream to the rough areas of your body.
  • Wear protective gear, such as a hair cap, nose filter, lip balm, and eyewear.
  • Cover sensitive regions with cotton balls.

After Spray Tan

Your spray tan aftercare plays a crucial role in how long a spray tan will stretch. Here is what you can do to maximize and maintain the results:

  • The spray tan takes about 4-6 hours to become effective. Hence, avoid bathing, exercising, or indulging in any physical activity, like going for a run, that makes you sweat during this period.
  • Do not swim in chlorinated water as it will neutralize the tanning products.
  • Moisturize your skin daily with tan-friendly skin care products.
  • Stay away from products that contain harsh chemicals, fragrant oils, exfoliating agents, and soap.
  • Apply sunscreen to protect your skin and maintain the glow.
  • Avoid the use of bandages, pore strips, and exfoliants.
protip_icon Quick Tip
You should avoid alcohol intake after tanning as it may fade the skin due to dehydration.

Infographic: Important Things To Know Before Spray Tanning

Spray tanning is the safest and most effective way of getting that perfect sun-kissed look. Though there are self-tanning solutions out there, it is best to get it done by a professional if it is your first time. However, there are some things you need to know before getting a spray tan. Check out the infographic below to know more!

important things to know before spray tanning (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Spray tanning is a safe and effective way to get the much-desired golden glow without harming the skin. However, if you are a beginner, you should avoid spray tanning products at home, as improper application techniques may give you blotchy results. Instead, you can visit a salon to get your first spray tan. The article will be your guide and help you understand how to prepare for the tanning session, aftercare measures and provide other necessary information. Also, always do a patch test to avoid the risk of allergic reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does spray tan wash off? How to wash off a spray tan?

Yes. Apply a generous layer of baby oil to your skin and sit in a warm bath for 30 minutes. Rinse off the tanners with a cold shower.
For relatively older tans, apply a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda to your skin. Wipe it with a wet tissue after 5 minutes.

How often can I go for a spray tan?

The best time for repeating your spray tan session is about 9 to 12 days.

Can I shave after a spray tan?

You can shave after getting a spray tan. However, wait 8 hours before shaving to lower the risk of stripping off your tan. It is also better to use a mild, oil-and alcohol-free body wash than regular shaving creams or foams.

Does spray tan come off on sheets?

Yes. Spray tans may come off on sheets and transfer to your clothing. Therefore, let it set properly and dry for the recommended time, and use darker clothes and sheets to avoid mishaps.

Does spray tan age your skin?

No, getting a spray tan will not lead to premature skin aging, as there is no evidence to suggest the same.

Do spray tans go patchy?

Spray tans can get patchy if over-applied or applied over an existing tan without proper exfoliation. A regular and careful skin care routine involving cleansing with an oil-free wash, moisturizing with oil-free products, and exfoliating gently can help prevent spray tans from fading in a patchy manner.

Will a spray tan come off if you sweat?

A freshly sprayed tanning solution will come off if you sweat and attempt to wipe off the sweat. Therefore, avoid activities that might make you sweat after using a spray tanner. You must let it set and dry thoroughly.

Do all spray tans smell?

Most spray tans have a musty and yeasty smell that fades away gradually within 2 days of application.

Key Takeaways

  • The process requires spraying the skin with DHA, which reacts with the skin’s amino acids to produce the natural-looking tan.
  • It is safer than sunbathing or tanning beds as it does not expose the skin to UV rays.
  • Tanning may cause redness and inflammation.
  • Exfoliate your skin and shave your skin 24 hours before your tanning session.
  • The tan can last anywhere from 3-10 days and requires touch-ups.


Get an enviable sun-kissed tan without exposing your skin to the sun’s harmful rays. Learn all about spray tanning and how it works by watching the video below.

Personal Experience: Source

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Dr. Aanand Geria is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Geria Dermatology in Rutherford, New Jersey. With 12 years of experience, he is an expert in ethnic skin, minimally invasive cosmetic injectables, body contouring, and lasers.

Read full bio of Dr. Aanand Geria