How to prep for a spray tan

We’ve all heard horror stories from spray tans gone wrong, which can make even the most courageous of us hesitant to strip down in front of the spray gun. This post is designed to be the ultimate spray tan guide to guarantee you a perfect glow, every time.


Picture by Jakob Owens

First let’s answer some spray tan FAQ’s

Is it safe?

Compared to other tanning methods, yes. There are no UV rays used, instead the chemical DHA is used to stain your skin temporarily. I would recommend doing your own research into the affects of DHA on the body and form your own opinions. There are currently debates on the safety of DHA although no negative side effects on humans have been proven. Also like all cosmetics, it is important to do a skin patch test if you’re worried about allergic reactions.

How long does it last?

Generally tans last between 5-7 days, beginning to fade around day 3. Be sure to ask your technician about the wear time of the particular solution they’re using.

What do I need to wear?

It’s best to wear loose fitting, dark clothes to and from your appointment. What you wear during your tan is entirely up to you and your comfort level. If you’re planning on wearing your own underwear or swimwear into your appointment, be prepared that some overspray may occur. It is also important to note that spray tan technicians are used to nudity and really don’t mind you going nude. If you’re really worried about ruining your clothes after your tan, there are a number of companies that make post-tanning dresses such as Custom TanLittle Tanning Dress and Kaftanned.

What does the process involve?

Usually your technician will guide you into the room and ask you to undress while they step out. You will then stand in the tan tent or tanning area while your technician directs you how to stand, when to turn etc. The entire process is relatively fuss free and easy to understand. Your technician will then dry you or pass you the air dryer to dry yourself while they step out. Make sure if you have existing tan lines, you ask your technician to go over those with extra tan to help blend them in.

How much does it cost?

The price of spray tans vary on the salon you’re visiting. They range anywhere between $20-75 depending on where you go, it is important to note that price really isn’t a factor into quality of spray tan, tans are incredibly personal and what works for one person won’t always work for another.

Green vs Violet Undertones?

An undertone refers to the base colour of your tan, designed to counteract discoloration of the tan. The choice completely depends on your preference, but the general rule of thumb is that green based tanning solution is designed for those of us with cooler skin tones and paler skin. Violet is designed for warmer skin tones and suits those with an olive completion. If you’re unsure what base your technician is using, enqire beforehand as it can make all the difference in achieving that gorgeous golden tone.

What about my sheets?

Sheets are a tricky one, especially if you’re a fan of white. The best tip I have is to ensure your tan is completely dry before you go to bed, and use sheets particularly designed for fake tan such as those sold at Tan Pocket.


Picture by Aral Tasher

Now onto the ultimate spray tan checklist to achieve a perfect tan every time.

Before your tan

Step 1: Do your research

It is incredibly important to research your spray location before you book your appointment. Thankfully with the rise of Instagram, finding ‘before and after’ tan pictures are easy to find. Usually a spray tan provider will advertise the tanning solution they use online, which means you can check out the undertone and features of the solution online. I’ve included a map down below so you can have a look at the spray tan locations in your area.

Step 2: Book your appointment

It’s generally the safest option to book your tan a few days before your event, in case of any disasters that require emergency exfoliation. As you become a more confident tanner, the night before an event will mean your tan will be at it’s most even and darkest colour.

Step 3: Prepare your skin

You should begin preparing your skin in the day leading up to your tan/event. This means exfoliation, exfoliation, exfoliation. Find yourself a good non-oil based or dry scrub to use at least 3 days before your tan such as Frank Body. The reason the scrub should be non-oil based is that any oil left on the skin after the scrub can effect the way your tan develops on the skin. 3 days before your tan, begin your full body exfoliation. This will mean that by the time you reach your appointment, your skin will be in prime condition to take the tan pigment. To achieve optimum results, exfoliating the body daily in the weeks leading up to your tan will help you (and your arms) from a good thirty minutes of intense exfoliation closer to your appointment. Follow up with a rich, soothing moisturizer to soften the skin after each exfoliation session.

The day of the appointment

Step 1: Remove all oils/barriers on the skin

It is important that a few hours before your appointment that you shower, exfoliate again and make sure to wash away any soap, oil and sweat from the skin. After you exit the shower, make sure you avoid moisturizer, deodorant and perfume as these products can affect the way the tan develops.

Step 2: Prepare for weather and emotional outbursts…

If you suspect it might be raining when you leave your appointment make you’re prepared with an umbrella or rain poncho, as there is nothing worse than rain drop tan lines. Now when it comes to emotional outbursts, those are harder to plan for. If you re worried you might cry, make sure you have tissues around to try and avoid drips down your neck. As you can see from the pictures of myself below…tears are a tan’s worst enemy.

Photo by Ashley Wangmann

After your spray

Step 1: When to wash off

It’s important that you ask your spray technician for the correct timing when washing off your tan, some require 2 hours whereas others require 8 hours.

Step 2: Wash off your tan

Be assured, this process isn’t designed to wash off your tan completely, you’re washing off any access tan left on your skin. The best way to wash off a tan is with the luke-warm water of a shower so that the excess tan can wash off gently. Try and avoid any rough exfolators or scrubbing of the skin and use a nicely scented body wash or soap to help remove any tan scent

Step 3: Moisturise, Moisturize, Moisturise 

Find yourself a thick moisturizer that will keep your skin soft, supple. Moisturising will ensure that the tan will fade of naturally without flaking and will result in your tan lasting, and looking good for longer.

Step 4: Enjoy your tan!

Wether it’s for a special event or just because, enjoy that gorgeous healthy glow while it lasts!


Photo by Alex Blajan 

Tan Removal

Step 1: Oil up 

Slather on a thick, nourishing oil or moisturiser to the skin before you hop into the shower or bath. Doing this will help soften the skin before exfoliation and protect your skin during the scrubbing process.

Step 2: Exfoliate…what a surprise

Now is the time to muster all your strength and break out the exfoliation mitts. The only proven way of truely removing a spray tan is to remove the stained skin that the colour has clung to. You’ll find that once the skin is softened by oil or moisturiser, the tan will come away a lot easier than exfoliating dry skin.

Step 3: Moisturise again

After your exfoliation session, you’re definitely going to want to use a soothing, thick moisturiser on your skin to help it rejuvenate, as well as help any left over tan fade more evenly.

Step 4: Repeat everything again!

As most spray tan addicts tell you, the first spray will not be your last. So be prepared to repeat all these steps again in a weeks time.


Photo by Carrie Obrien 


Hopefully, this post has made you a spray tan expert and has taken away any worries you may have about facing the spray gun. Feel free to leave any unanswered questions in the comments below!

Ashley Wangmann


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