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Sunless tanning

Contrary to popular belief, sunless tanning doesn't alter the pigmentation of your skin. Sunless tanning uses chemicals that darken only dead skin cells.

What To Expect

A bikini bottom or underwear can be worn at the time of your spray tan. Others may choose to expose their whole body to avoid tan lines. You may also wear protective eyewear and nose plugs. The entire spray tan process should take 15 to 30 minutes.

For the first day or two after a spray tan (basically until you shower) your skin may be darker than expected. That’s because many spray tans also include the use of a cosmetic bronzer—a tinted foundation that gives you a tanned look until the DHA (and possibly erythrulos) has time to chemically react with your skin. For this reason, it’s a good idea to schedule your appointment 48 hours before an important event.

What is that smell?

DHA chemicals are decidedly malodorous. Fortunately, most brands mask this chemically odor with pleasant scents, like raspberry, coconut, and almond. Yet despite this attempt to prettify the self-tanner smell, every product is different from the next, and many still stink until you shower.

Avoid the “orange” look

Orange skin is typically the result of an overabundance of DHA, either by applying too many coats of a product containing DHA or using too high a concentration of the chemical.

Beginners who aren’t sure how their skin is going to react to the chemicals in sunless tanning products should start conservatively, whether getting a professional tan or investing in DIY sunless tanners. A test patch may also be a good way to anticipate the way your skin will react.

When using self-tanning lotions at home, follow the instructions on the bottle, and don’t use more than is recommended. Two ounces is usually enough, and if it’s your first time using a self-tanner, wait 24 hours before reapplying the product, giving your skin time to respond to the DHA. Also, if you have fair skin, don’t choose a self-tanner intended for olive complexions. You want to gradually darken your skin.

When getting a professional spray tan, start with a light layer, and never apply more than two coats in a single session. Avoid any spray tan solutions with more than 10% DHA. Results may be too dramatic, especially if you are fair-skinned—a Fitzpatrick type I or II. Using a spray tan with erythrulos can also help avoid a pumpkiney outcome, since this raspberry-derived chemical tends to turn your skin reddish and bronze rather than orange and copper. Some tanners, like certain St. Tropez products, also contain green pigment, which helps to counteract the orange hue.


Shower, shave, and exfoliate three hours before sunless tanning. Manicures, pedicures, waxing, and hair appointments should be scheduled at least 24 hours beforehand.

On the day of a spray tan, avoid lotions, depilatories, shaving creams, deodorant, makeup, and perfume. Even though the tanning solution can be washed off of fabric, it may be sensible to wear dark, cotton clothing. Avoid getting the skin wet directly after treatment.


Wear loose clothing that won’t rub against your skin. Do not wear bras, thongs, socks or tights. Wait at least 12 hours before washing or showering, since DHA can take 12 hours to settle into your skin, and erythrulos can take up to two days. Avoid hot tubs, swimming, and sweating for the first 24 hours. You’ll also need to stay away from products with petroleum and mineral oil for the duration of your faux tan. Avoid exfoliating, which peels away dead skin cells prematurely, leaving your skin uneven.

Following instructions after a spray tan can help prolong your results. Disregarding any of the given advice can result in an early or uneven fade. The best way to maintain your newly tanned skin is to moisturize regularly. Make sure you continue to wear sunscreen.