Self-tanning can get messy when left to your own devices, which is exactly why you may want to consider letting a professional handle your summer glow instead. But before you book your next spray tan appointment, there are a few things you need to know, like how to prep your skin the night before and how to maintain your tan long after you rinse off the guide color in the shower.
So, we asked the pros — Isle of Paradise founder Jules Von Hep and St. Tropez ambassador Sophie Evans — for all their top spray-tan tips. Read their advice, ahead.
How To Prep Your Skin Before A Spray Tan
The only thing more important than protecting your fake tan is prepping for it. Try to exfoliate your body from head to toe the night before your spray tan appointment; Evans recommends exfoliating exactly eight hours ahead of your tan application. Tanning solution — specifically dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in most sunless tanners — develops after reacting with the protein keratin in your skin cells. Buffing away any of the excess dead skin cells will ensure that the results last as long as possible.
What's The Best Pre-Tan Exfoliator?
There's no need to go out in search of the most abrasive scrub on the market. In fact, the only thing your exfoliator absolutely needs to be is oil-free. Evans and Von Hep say that oil in general is a huge no-no for fake tans: Not only can it leave a residue on the surface of the skin that may interfere with the self-tanner's development, but it can also break down the solution and cause awkward fading. Instead, find a gentle scrub that will buff away dead skin and prime your body for an even glow.
Shaving Isn't A Fake-Tan Necessity
Despite the self-tanning myths of the past, you don't have to be hairless from the forehead down to get a spray tan. "A beautiful glow looks just as gorgeous with body hair or without," says Von Hep. "However, if you are into hair removal, make sure to do so at least 24 hours prior to your tan." That way, if you find yourself suffering from minor nicks and cuts, your skin will have enough time to properly heal before hopping in the tent.
Be Patient: Fake Tans Can Take Hours To Develop
Spray tans will test your patience. Most traditional self-tanners work best when left to develop overnight. At max, you'll have to wait about eight hours before rinsing off the guide color coating your entire body. Why wait so long? Evans notes that sleeping in your fake tan ensures a longer-lasting, richer glow. Of course, if you opt for an express self-tanner instead, you'll only have to wait one to three hours until rinsing; even after you shower, your tan will continue to grow darker and darker as it develops.
Topical Skin-Care Products Are A Tan No-No
The biggest bummer about getting a spray tan is that you have to adjust — or fully sacrifice — your usual skin-care regimen. Unfortunately, most of the topicals you probably use (think: oils, petroleum-based balms, and chemical exfoliants) will only erode your fake tan faster.
If you regularly struggle with breakouts, you may also want to consider foregoing tanning your face altogether: Acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and medications like Accutane may dehydrate your skin, causing your tan to look patchy and dry.
Don't want to give up your beloved routine for a healthy glow? Von Hep says that it's all about balance, and once your spray tan is rinsed, dried, and developed, you can incorporate your favorite skin-care products back into your routine. However, you tan will fade faster than the tan on your body. Von Hep's solution? Face self-tanners, which you can add to your daily moisturizer or serum to recreate the sun-kissed effect.
Keep Your Fake Tan Hydrated — Without Oils
If you want your tan to last as long as possible, which Von Hep says is anywhere between six to eight days, you must keep your skin hydrated with oil-free body lotions.
Is regular exfoliation and shaving a part of your shower routine? Since both will likely fade your tan faster, consider investing in a gradual self-tanning lotion, spray, or drops to maintain your glow.
You Don't Have To Sacrifice The Gym For Your Tan
If you typically work out while rocking a full-coverage sports bra to the gym post-tan, you know that sweaty friction = a destroyed tan. Luckily, Von Hep and Evans have a few solutions, so you don't have to choose one or the other. First, wait for your tan to fully develop before hitting the treadmill. Second, wear a fabric that's breathable. Sweat is inevitable, but the right kind of material will help it dry faster before it wipes away all of your tan. Lastly, Von Hep suggests steering clear of those rough gym towels — the abrasive cloth will strip your fake tan fast.
Clear Self-Tanners Are An Affordable Alternative
Just in case you can't factor in a professional spray tan into your budget every couple of weeks, consider a more affordable, mess-free alternative: clear self-tanners. They don't smell, they don't stain your sheets or your clothes, and they make self-tanning beginners look like total pros — and isn't that all we're really looking for in our fake tans these days?
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