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Spray Tan: Your Guide to Sunless Beauty

Welcome, readers! In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of spray tan and provide useful information to help you achieve a natural-looking sun-kissed glow. Spray tanning, or sunless tanning, utilizes a topical application of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to darken the skin without the damage caused by UV radiation from tanning beds or the sun. The result is a bronze tone that looks as if you just returned from a tropical beach getaway. Read on to learn the science behind spray tans, how to prepare for your session, what to expect during your appointment, and tips for maintaining your sunless tan.

image of woman sporting a self tan
Spray tanning is a convenient and effective way to achieve a beautiful, sun-kissed glow.

I. The Science Behind a Spray Tan

Spray tanning works by reacting the active ingredient, DHA, with the amino acids in the top layers of your skin. DHA is a colorless compound derived from glycerin that binds to proteins on the outermost layer of skin, resulting in a browning effect. The pH level of your skin impacts the success of your sunless tan.

More alkaline skin tends to develop darker tans, while acidic skin is prone to patchiness and streaking. Many myths surround spray tanning, including beliefs that the solution stains skin or has a foul odor. In reality, spray tan solutions use an odorless and cosmetically-approved form of DHA that, when properly applied, does not stain the skin.

II. Preparing for Your Spray Tan

Preparation is key to achieving an natural-looking and even spray tan. Exfoliate your entire body, especially elbows, knees, and ankles, the day before your session. Use a body polish or scrub to buff away dead skin and unclog hair follicles.

Moisturize any dry areas thoroughly. Shave or wax at least 24 hours in advance. If possible, avoid deodorant or perfume before your appointment, as these products can create barriers preventing the spray tan solution from fully developing. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid bringing valuables.

III. Choosing the Right Spray Tan Salon

Do some research on salons in your area that specialize in spray tans. Check online reviews from sites like Yelp and Read reviews to determine factors such as the hygiene standards, experience and expertise of technicians, quality of tanning solutions, and customer satisfaction.

Discuss the options with your technician to select a solution best suited for your skin tone and type. Higher end salons typically offer solutions with natural and organic ingredients tailored to different skin types, including options for sensitive skin.

IV. What to Expect During Your Spray Tan Session

A typical spray tan session lasts around 15 to 20 minutes. You will enter a private room and be instructed to undress to your level of comfort, while wearing the provided disposable underwear and foot protection. Your technician will ask you to stand in various positions while they spray your entire body with the tanning solution using a special spray gun.

The solution dries almost instantly. After receiving the initial tan, you will wait a few minutes for it to set in before getting dressed and leaving. You may notice a slight odor from the DHA reacting with proteins in your skin, but it will wash off during your first shower. Your spray tan will continue to develop over the next few hours, so avoid showering during this time.

V. How is Spray Tan Applied?

Spray tans are typically applied using a spray tanning machine or system. There are two main types of machines commonly used in the industry: airbrush systems and HVLP (High-Volume Low-Pressure) spray tan machines.

  1. Airbrush Systems: Airbrush systems are handheld devices that resemble an airbrush gun used in artistry. These systems are operated manually by a trained technician who controls the flow of tanning solution using a trigger mechanism. The technician sprays a fine mist of tanning solution onto the client’s skin, ensuring even coverage and a natural-looking result. Airbrush systems offer precise control and are often favored by experienced technicians who can customize the application based on individual body contours and specific client preferences.
  2. HVLP Spray Tan Machines: HVLP spray tan machines are automated systems that use high volume and low pressure to deliver the tanning solution. These machines consist of a compressor, a spray gun, and a hose. The compressor generates a high volume of air, which is then directed through the hose and spray gun. The tanning solution is mixed with the air and sprayed onto the client’s skin in a fine mist. HVLP machines are efficient and can cover larger areas quickly, making them ideal for busy salons with a high volume of clients. They also provide consistent and even application, reducing the risk of streaks or patchiness.

Both airbrush systems and HVLP spray tan machines are effective in achieving a beautiful, natural-looking tan. The choice of machine often depends on the preference and expertise of the technician, as well as the specific needs and demands of the salon. Ultimately, the skill and technique of the technician are key factors in achieving a flawless spray tan, regardless of the machine used.

VI. Maintaining Your Spray Tan

The longevity of your sunless tan depends on properly caring for it in the hours and days following your session. Avoid contact with water for at least 8 to 12 hours. Take a warm shower once the waiting period is over, using a gentle body wash and washcloth to remove the excess tanning solution from your skin.

Pat yourself dry instead of rubbing vigorously with a towel. Apply a daily moisturizer and avoid abrasive scrubs which can fade a spray tan. Limit sun exposure and pool time, as UV radiation and chlorine can cause your tan to fade rapidly. Exfoliate gently 2 to 3 times a week to maintain an even tone and fade tan evenly.

VII. Troubleshooting and Tips

If you notice streaks, patches, or an uneven tan after your first shower, don’t panic. Issues with a spray tan often result from improper preparation or aftercare. Gently exfoliate any streaky or patchy areas and re-moisturize. The color should even out within a day or two. Pay extra attention to joints like elbows, knees, and ankles which often appear darker.

Applying a thinner layer of moisturizer to these areas can help fade them to better match the rest of your tan. For the most natural sunless tan, choose a shade slightly darker than your natural skin tone. A tan that looks too dark will be obvious that it came from a bottle and not the beach!

VIII. Last thoughts

We hope this guide provides useful information to make you a spray tan pro! When done properly, spray tanning is a safe and effective way to achieve a golden glow that looks as natural as a day at the beach. Remember, do your research to find an experienced technician, thoroughly exfoliate and moisturize, select a shade suited for your skin tone, and follow all aftercare instructions carefully. Your sun-kissed skin will make you the envy of all your friends this summer! Now go forth and glow!