How to Prep for a Spray Tan: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Lasting Glow

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Whether you’re a tanning newbie or a seasoned pro, we all share one goal when we go in for a spray tan: get an even, long-lasting glow. To achieve this, you need a solid pre-appointment routine to minimize any chances of streaks and ensure that your sun-kissed finish lasts beyond a few showers. With the help of a tanning expert, we'll guide you through the proper prep for a spray tan.

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Meet the Expert:

how to prep for a spray tan woman exfoliating her skin
Design Art By Paula Boudes

1. Exfoliate Your Skin

The first step to prepping for a spray tan is exfoliating, which helps remove dead skin cells from the surface, so you're less likely to get streaks or uneven patches. Evans recommends exfoliating three to five days prior to your appointment, but if you forget and have to squeeze some scrubbing time in at the last minute, she suggests doing it at least eight hours before your tan. “You want your skin to be at its most neutral pH level,” says Evans. “If you just exfoliated, your skin’s pH will be lower and your tan may not develop as deeply,” she explains.

Grab a body scrub (or your handy dry brush) and gently buff it over your skin in small circles, so you don’t cause irritation. Don’t forget to focus on any areas that tend to be drier and soak up the most product (i.e, your elbows, hands, knees and ankles).

how to prep for a spray tan an x around shaving cream and razor
Design Art By Paula Boudes

2. Skip Waxing (or Shaving)

When it comes to getting a spray tan, you should skip shaving or waxing—or at least time it out so you do it 12 to 24 hours before your appointment. This will give your skin time to calm down and will reduce the chances of causing irritation after your tanning session. The same goes for aftercare. “Please note that waxing and other hair removal creams can remove self-tanner, as they take away the very top layer of the epidermis, so plan any of these services accordingly. Shaving will also do this, but it won’t remove the self-tanner as much,” says Evans.

how to prep for a spray tan a woman showering
Design Art By Paula Boudes

3. Shower the Night Before Your Appointment

Aside from exfoliating, showering the night before will ensure your skin is clean and prepped for your spray tan. If you’re on the sweatier side, a quick rinse before your spray tan can also help. “You want to be applying [tanning spray] on clean, exfoliated skin so that your tan will last as long as possible, and even when your tan starts to fade, it will do so evenly,” says Evans. 

how to prep for a spray tan an x on a lotion bottle
Design Art By Paula Boudes

4. Skip Your Post-Shower Moisturizers

It’s common to indulge in some body care after a shower, but hold off on using products like lotions, oils and moisturizers before your appointment. Evans tells us that oil-based products can prevent the tan from absorbing and developing properly on the skin. Your tanning specialist may also provide a barrier cream for the driest areas like your hands, toes and behind the knees to ensure the most even finish. 

how to prep for a spray tan an x over a deodorant
Design Art By Paula Boudes

5. Skip Deodorant, Perfume or Makeup

You also shouldn’t apply any deodorant, perfume or makeup before a spray tan. Again, your skin should be free of any products for the service. According to Evans, if you leave your deodorant on, the tanning solution can turn your underarms green (and no one wants that). Once you get the go ahead from your specialist, you can resume use of those products.

how to prep for a spray tan a woman wearing a swimsuit
Design Art By Paula Boudes

6. Bring a Swimsuit (or Old Undergarments)

To get ready for your appointment, consider wearing a swimsuit (or old undergarments that you mind staining during your spray tan). Keep in mind the type of bathing suit you’re wearing (aka straps vs. bandeau) so you can prevent unwanted lines.

According to Evans, some places offer disposable underwear, which is usually a small paper thong that makes tanning easier. “If you wear the paper underwear provided​, it makes it easier for the specialist to remove any ​unwanted tan lines versus when you wear your own swimsuit or underwear, which may be tighter and harder to work around. ​Although ​some people ​do want actual tan lines to mimic a vacation tan,” says Evans. There is also the option to wear your birthday suit to the session to avoid lines altogether. Bottom line: Do what makes you feel most comfortable during your spray tan. 

how to prep for a spray tan a woman wearing loose clothing
Design Art By Paula Boudes

7. Bring Dark, Loose-Fitting Clothing

When you’re headed over to your tanning session, make sure you’re wearing dark, loose-fitting clothing (or pack some with you). You’ll want to avoid wearing anything tight or light colored that can rub off your fresh tan and stain the fabric. If you’re comfortable with it, consider going bra-less and commando to avoid pesky tan lines and rubbing altogether. 

how to prep for a spray tan a tanning specialist talking to a customer
Design Art By Paula Boudes

8. Communicate With Your Tanning Specialist

The most important tip is to communicate with your tanning specialist. Before you begin the spray tan, disclose any allergies or skin sensitivities you may have. You also should discuss which shade would work best for your skin tone and all the areas you want tanned. At the end of the day, you want to have a good experience and a seamless glow to match.

And with that, it's glow time.

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...