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10 Things No One Tells You About Spray Tanning
We don't need to tell you that you should be wearing sunscreen every. Single. Day. (Right?) Given that any darkening of the skin indicates some sun damage has occurred, it's smart to make a habit of slathering on the SPF—which makes spray tans an appealing alternative. But how much do you really know about the sunless stuff? We asked Beautisol founder Sinead Norenius to spill the secrets you need to know to get a believable bronze—and make it last.
Sugar Scrubs Are Bad News
You'll definitely want to exfoliate pre-spray tan to get even glow; sloughing off old skin cells creates an even base for the tan to adhere to. But if you don't choose the right scrub, it may cause your tan to streak. Norenius says that the oils in popular sugar scrubs coat the skin and cause the tan to run right off. Instead, use an exfoliating mitt and skip applying lotion afterward; spray tan formulas stick best to dry skin.
You Should Shave At Least 12 Hours Beforehand
It may seem like common sense to shave before a spray tan, but shaving immediately prior to your appointment can cause the product to irritate your skin. Shaving is a mild exfoliant that exposes new skin cells, which are extra sensitive. DHA (the pigment in spray tan) reacts with those sensitive cells and can cause some serious redness and discomfort. Norenius says there should be a 12- to 24-hour window between shaving and your appointment.
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You Want to Go Alcohol-Free
...on the ingredient list, that is. Alcohol is a common ingredient in many spray tans; the liquid acts as a thinning agent, allowing the tan to flow into the fine mist necessary for application. But Norenius warns that alcohol is actually really damaging to your spray tan, causing a crackling effect of the color and making your skin look crazy-dry. While it’s hard to find a spray tan that’s totally alcohol-free, be sure to check the ingredient list and verify that alcohol's not the first or second thing mentioned, says Norenius.
Well-Ventilated Salons are Safest
Since inhaling spray tan prodcut can pose safety concerns, you'll want to pick your salon strategically. Norenius suggests choosing an airy salon with equipment that has a ventilation fan designed to suck away any overspray immediately. Pay attention to the room you'll be in, too: If there's spray tan formula on the walls and things just look generally dirty, that's a sign that the salon is poorly maintained—and poorly ventilated. Make sure to ask your technician for an LVLP machine (that stands for low volume, low pressure, and it means you're less likely to get overspray that you could inhale). Finally, always request protective nose pieces and eyewear.
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It Is Not a Base Tan
The concept of getting a “base tan” to prevent sunburn is bogus to begin with—but you should definitely know that a spray tan has no effect on your body’s melanin, which is what causes your skin to tan naturally. “Just because you look tan doesn’t mean you’re not going to burn,” says Norenius. She recommends using a lightweight sunscreen to protect your skin and your faux-glow.
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Chlorine Bleaches Your Bronze
While taking a quick dip in the pool won’t ruin your tan, spending hours on-end in chlorinated water will. Chlorine, which is a kind of bleach, will take the tan right off your skin, says Norenius. As such, she recommends limiting your swim time after you've gotten a spray tan and patting dry right when you get out of the water.
You Shouldn't Pile on Body Butter
Some salons may recommend keeping the skin highly moisturized to prolong the length of your spray tan, but Norenius says that's not the best advice since the moisture in heavy lotions and body butters will work away at your glow, causing it to fade faster. Norenius recommends using a lightweight lotion instead and only moisturizing when absolutely necessary. TryBliss Lemon Sage Body Butter Lite(, ).
Cell Turnover Fades Your Tan
Everybody’s tan lasts a slightly different length of time, and it usually has nothing to do with the product. The speed at which your cells turn over has a huge effect on how long your tan will last; the younger you are, the faster your cells turn over, which causes your tan to fade more quickly, says Norenius. The bad news: There's nothing you can do about the speed at which your cells regenerate. The good news: Keeping the amount of moisture your skin is exposed to to a minimum can help prolong the life of your tan.
You Can't Maintain a Spray Tan
It would be great if you could keep up your spray tan the way you do your eyebrows or roots, but unfortunately, faux tans don't work that way. If you spray a new tan on top of an old tan, it will look patchy—darker in areas where the old tan remains, and lighter in areas where it's already worn off. Norenius recommends enjoying your tan for about one and a half weeks, then removing it and starting fresh. Speaking of which…
There IS a Fix for a Bad Tan
If the worst happens and you look more like an Oompa Loompa than a bronzed goddess, don't worry: At-home removal is super-easy, says Norenius. Water breaks down the ingredients in your spray tan and loosens it from the skin, so run a warm bath with a little shower gel mixed in. Soak in it for at least a half an hour, then exfoliate with a loofah or mitt. The tan will rinse away with the water, leaving you with a clean slate.
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