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Spray Tan 101: How to Have a Safe and Sun-Kissed Spring Break

are spray on tans safe

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s spring editorial intern Megan Pavek. Find her on Instagram at @megan.pavek. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

With spring break right around the corner, it’s time to start preparing for your annual escape in the sun. The flights are booked, swimsuits ordered in bulk and pedicures scheduled. The only thing missing is that pre-vacation glow. Who doesn’t enjoy arriving bronzed, ready to roam the beaches and show some skin? Aside from the natural urge to want to look and feel our best on vacation, some of us are merely acting out of necessity, hoping to avoid blinding fellow beachgoers with our pasty skin. Whatever camp you may fall in, stop what you’re doing right now and step away from the tanning bed! 

By exposing yourself to the UV rays used in tanning beds, you are significantly increasing your chances of developing skin cancer. Over the last decade, dermatologists have been working diligently to educate and spread awareness of the dangers associated with UV tanning (yes- this includes tanning outside too!) Sunless tans are a safer alternative that many are opting for instead. If you’re new to the world of spray tans and other self-tanning products, you’re not alone. Here’s everything you need to know as a beginner, from what to wear to a spray tan, how to prepare your skin, and further information on a newer debate: are spray on tans safe?

The Process

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Some prep work needs to be done before going out and getting your first spray tan. Although it may vary depending on the business, most professionals advise the same basic pre-tan preparation tips

  1. Exfoliate, shave, and/or wax body hair atleast 24 hours prior to appointment
  2. Avoid use of oil-based products leading up to your appointment
  3. Plan accordingly, and make sure to schedule upcoming hair or nail appointments before getting a spray tan
  4. Upon arrival, you should have a clean face/body; wearing no makeup, lotions, oils, perfumes or deodorant 
  5. Dress in dark-colored sweats or baggy clothing, and bring open-toed shoes

Always stick to bag clothes when coming in for your spray tan!🤗 #spraytan #sunlesstan #summertan #TWDSurvivalChallenge

♬ good 4 u – Olivia Rodrigo

After-care is just as critical. In general, most spray tanners should expect to wait anywhere from 8-12 hours before showering or working out. A professional will leave you with detailed instructions for how and when to rinse, and any other steps that should be taken. In order to make your tan last longer, it’s important to remember the following tips:

  1. Hydrate and moistrize as much as possible
  2. Avoid hot showers, or prolonged time spent in the water
  3. Intentionally pat yourself dry instead of how you would normally towel dry
  4. Avoid exfoliation, and make sure you are using spray tan friendly products on skin

Spray Tan vs Self Tan

The main differences between the two sunless tanning methods boils down to time and money. When you book a spray tan, you are of course relying on a trained professional to do the work for you with specialized equipment. While self-tanning is the cheaper route, you will spend more time applying layers of product.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) promotes self-tanning as a safer alternative to UV tanning, and details how to complete this process on its website. As with spray tanning, exfoliating beforehand is a crucial step. The better you exfoliaite, the longer your tan will last.

Apply the self-tanner in sections: first the arms, then the legs, next your torso, etc. Always wash hands between sections. Certain techniques should be used for wrists, ankles, and other joint areas so be sure to do your research and have the proper tools as needed.

Pros & Cons


3 easy steps to perfectly apply self tanner! My before & after! @Coco & Eve #cocoandeve

♬ original sound – AngeliqueCooper

Of course sunless tanning methods are safer for your skin since you are opting to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. However, your skin can be more vulnerable to sun damage up to 24 hours after completing a sunless tanning procedure. This is something to be aware of, and plan for accordingly. There is also a common ingredient used in sunless tanning products that has been raising eyebrows: dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

According to EveryDay Health, while DHA is approved by the FDA and is safe to use as a topical treatment, it should never be inhaled, ingested, or exposed to areas close to the lips, nose and eyes. This can be harder to accomplish during a spray tan procedure. Dermatologists unanimously agree that sunless tanning methods are a safer alternative to traditional tanning, but others online have been quick to point out that research on the effects of fake tanning products is also limited.

As always, it’s important to do your own research and consult with your dermatologist when using new skin products. Still unsure and wondering are spray on tans safe? Another option is to look for organic and clean products that are DHA free.

Have any hot takes or opinions on sunless tanning methods? Comment and share below!

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