The truth about spray tans

This post has been a long time coming!

For New Year's last year, I took the vow to practice safe sun. That sounded like a great idea until about April. My Irish skin was easier to hide in the colder months. Once we hit summer, well, I started to resemble a dead person.

People actually asked me if I was feeling okay. Yep, just have translucent skin.

So before a trip to South Florida, I decided to try ~ drumroll, please ~ a spray tan.

I found a coupon for an airbrush tan for $15 and decided that would probably be the best bet for a spray tan virgin.

Fast forward, and I've now been through a couple of those and mastered the air of airbrush tanning at home! ($30 a week for spray tans is just not realistic unless I want to give up buying food, and I don't. I like eating.)

When you go in for a professional spray tan, they give you a list of all the dos and don'ts, and if they don't, well... you should probably go somewhere else.

However, nowhere did I get any of the real scoop.

So... here it is! The truth about spray tans.

1. Exfoliate. They'll tell you to do this before you come. No. You need to be doing this preferably every day, maybe twice a day, leading up to your visit. The night before and before you go, you should pretty much be scrubbing yourself raw. We know to exfoliate feet, knees and elbows. Areas you will miss: everywhere else. Specifically, the decollage area. (That's the area right between your girls. That's going to be the first to go. More on that later.)

2. Bandaid tattoos. If you've worn a bandaid anywhere on your body any time in at least the last week, you're going to wind up with what I have dubbed a bandaid tattoo. Even if you happen to remember you had a bandaid on last Tuesday and go to work scrubbing that location, you're still going to get that magical mark where the spray adheres/reacts to the residue. 

3. What not to wear (to your appointment). Preferably... nothing. Since that's not exactly practical, your next best bet is a muumuu. Seriously. I wore a large t-shirt and nylon running shorts the first time, thinking these are baggy, they'll be perfect! Wrong. Not only does the tanner react with nylon but standing there trying to figure out how to get the waistband of my shorts up without actually touching my gams was, well, impossible. I ended up with waistband lines on my legs, which the airbrush consultant evened out (thank you!), and a semi-permanent "belt" where the waistband hit. A really loose cotton sun dress the second time (a cheapo one, since it's going to turn orange) was a better bet, but I still wound up with weird rub lines. Seriously. Muumuu.

4. Snooki, is that you? Pick your color. Then go (at least) one shade lighter than what you picked. You're already going to look terrifying the first day. Something like Snooki and The Great Pumpkin's love child. I promise you want to err on the light side.

5. Okay with being naked? No? then a professional airbrush is out of the question. You're going to get really close with the tan technician. Really close.

6. Couch bonding. Big plans to go out after your tan? Hahahahaha no. You're going to be a sticky, smelly mess. Any sweat or water will wash off the tanner before it's activated and you'll wind up with white spots. You're probably going to end up bonding with the couch. Carefully. The first time, I had the fingers of my right hand resting on my left arm. Guess who had a hand print tan line on her arm. This girl.

7. Like to wear perfume? Bug spray? Not anymore. Alcohol will either fade it or cause those odd white spots. The one way around this, I found, is to spray it on your clothes instead.

8. Getting your gym on. If you're an avid runner or gym-goer, you're in worse shape than the rest, at least as far as fake'n'bakin' goes. You're going to get sock lines, where your socks rub off the tan quicker than everywhere else, and you're also setting yourself up for a mess between your girls. The above-mentioned decollage area. Four days after my first spray tan, I got out of the shower to see what looked like a skin disease happening in that area that, at least for me, isn't usually exposed. First of all, I'm pretty sure the airbrush consultant put a little too much there. Then, it started to come off. But not by fading, oh no. By flaking off in chunks. It was not pretty. My suggestion - have your lovely airbrush professional go easy on that area, and just do your best to keep it sweat-free and moisturized.

9. Cold showers. Hot water causes the tan to fade faster, so cold showers are your friend for the next week. Sounds fun, right?

10. It rubs the lotion on its skin. As will you, twice a day, until you decide you want to look like a scaly lizard. If you don't keep up with moisturizing, instead of fading, the tan will flake off and you will become Godzilla. Though, hopefully not as green.

Although nothing about any of that sounds fun, I really do think it's best to have it done by a professional once BEFORE you start trying it at home. 

Now, the GOOD news. 

I've tried a ton of self tanners over the years and finally found a fantastic affordable one.

L'Oreal Airbrush is outstanding. Practically foolproof. No orange palms, no streaks, and NO bad smell! It does smell a little when you spray it, but it does NOT smell after it dries. I've used this to maintain my not-dead-looking glow and I can't say enough good things about it. It even fades evenly.

A few suggestions for the DIYers: Put lotion on your feet first to block some of it, especially your toes and the back of your ankles/heels, and then DON'T spray any of it on your feet. They'll get a coating anyway with that whole gravity thing while you're spraying the rest of your body.

I also have to add this is not a commercial. Just sharing my personal findings. I use this stuff as a part of my regular routine. And they don't give me any discounts. (Lame.)

Some of the rules above apply - bandaid tatoos, exfoliating, etc - but it's more low-maintenance than getting a professional spray tan. I can shower, work out, and moisturize normally and don't have to strip for a stranger. Bathroom tanning is the way to go.

BTW, I highly recommend watching one of their instructional videos first. What would we do without YouTube?


  1. I love the way you post this article. This is wonderful post. I do hope you intend to post more of these types of information. Thank
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  2. That is really nice and easy! My son would enjoy this!
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  3. A spray tan will ensure you are not only nice and tan, but it will ensure that you are completely tan and without pesky tan lines! You can have everything from your feet to your spray tan west hollywood shoulders to hard-to-tan places like your wrists sprayed. This will make you look even better in your clothes.