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Spray tanning

A professional spray tan can look natural and last seven to 10 days before fading.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: May 18, 2020

Spray tans can be completed in two ways - either in an automatic spray tan booth or with the help of a spray tan technician, who manually guides a handheld airbrush device over your skin. Professional spray tanning can darken your skin one to five shades and, if done properly, without orange-ness.

All self-tanners have the chemical dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in them. DHA is a natural substance derived from the sugars of fruits and vegetables (like beets, for example), which is why skin feels sticky following a spray tan.

DHA reacts with the amino acids in your skin cells, producing a chemical response that darkens only dead skin cells. A higher concentration of DHA results in a darker tan. Multiple layers of a self-tanner with a low concentration of DHA can also result in a deeper tan. Your tan fades gradually as these cells naturally slough off. (You gain a new top layer of skin every 30 to 40 days through the natural shedding of dead skin cells.)

Many sunless tanners also contain the chemical erythrulos - just one to three percent is enough to dye dead skin cells too. Erythrulos is made from the sugar of raspberries. The concentration of the active chemicals determines the depth of the tan, so take care to avoid overtreatment when it comes to sunless tanning.

Spray Tanning Equipment

Spray tan booths

Spray tan booths provide a fast, private way to get an artificial tan. While some booths are enclosed, others are open air and may be better for individuals with a fear of tight spaces.

Spray tanning systems are generally engineered using a low pressure system that delivers a fine mist to evenly coat the body. The booths are constructed with an automated system that allows its user to choose from (usually) three tanning levels: light, medium, or dark. The tanning mist is delivered through mechanical airbrushes, which sway back and forth to so that every part of the body is sprayed.

Common spray tan booths are the Magic tan and the VersaSpa.

Extraction booths

Extraction booths are open-air spray tan booths commonly found in spray tanning salons. The stainless steel walls contain the mess of the spray tan. Extraction booths are built with fans that help to keep the spray tan chemicals from idling in the air.

Tanning tents

Tanning tents are portable pop-up booths that are easy to assemble and can be transported from client to client. They are typically fashioned with an open top and clear plastic windows, so the spray tan can be completed in natural lighting (and to avoid claustrophobia). Most feature an opening for a fan or filter to be inserted, which helps to circulate the chemicals.

Spray guns

Less violent than it sounds, the spray gun is a handheld, hose-like device that is used to spray the body with chemicals. These systems use compressed air that allows the tanning solution to be released in controlled amounts. Some are outfitted with a blow-drying tip, which speeds up the process.

How long it lasts: A professional spray tan can look natural and last seven to 10 days before fading.

Key benefits of spray tanning: Professional sunless tanning is more expensive than at-home gels and creams, but is much more likely to go on evenly and look natural.

Who's Done It?

Olivia Wilde, Katherine McPhee, and the entire Dancing with the Stars cast get their tans from Fiona Locke, celebrity spray tanner and rep for St. Tropez.

Victoria's Secret models Alessandra Ambrosio, Marisa Miller, and Miranda Kerr are also known to utilize spray tanning.