By Natalie Arroyo Camacho, Contributing Writer
As much as I love sunbathing, I know doing it in excess is certainly not good for me or my skin. That’s why, when I’m searching for that goddess-like glow, I’ve considered turning to spray tans. Spray tans are a safe and effective way to get a sun-kissed tan without exposing yourself to the sun’s harmful rays. And since spray tans aren’t dependent on the weather, getting one is also a great way to get a summer tan year-round.
When you get a spray tan, you’re essentially spray painting yourself in a darker shade and this will last up to a week. Since people of all skin tones are confused about what a spray tan is, how long it lasts, and which tanning method wins the spray tan vs. self-tanner battle, I’ll explore one of the most common questions asked about spray tanning: how long does a spray tan last?
How Long Does A Spray Tan Last?
A spray tan typically lasts anywhere between seven and 10 days. It’s worth noting, however, that myriad factors can cause your tan to fade—like your skin health, complexion, and pre- and post-tanning care.
The good news? There are a handful of things you can do to make your spray tan last longer than usual. The better news? We get into all of that, below.
How To Make a Spray Tan Last Longer
Exfoliate before your spray tanning session
When you exfoliate your skin (like with a body scrub), you’re removing dead skin cells from your dermis. Doing this a few hours before your spray tan can help it onger because the pigment will stick to your lively, moisturized skin instead of the dead, dry skin that would be there without exfoliating. It may also be helpful to shave or wax beforehand so that you don’t damage your spray tan by doing that.
Wear loose-fitting clothes
Wearing loose-fitting clothes is generally a good idea to do when you’ve gotten a spray tan. It’s especially important, though, to wear bigger clothing to your spray tan appointment. Tighter clothes can rub against your tan and also remove some of the pigment that you so wanted.
Shower with lukewarm water
You know when you’re washing a pot and the hot water seems to melt everything right off? Well, a similar thing can happen with your spray tan if you’re taking super-hot showers. For that reason, you want to avoid baths (soaking also removes the tan) and shower exclusively with lukewarm water.
Keeping your skin moisturized (with oil-free products, the “why” of which we get into in the next section) is also helpful in making your spray tan last longer. That’s because moisturized skin, as opposed to dry skin, soaks up the tanning solution more easily.
Use oil-free products
Whether it’s body wash, lotion, or serums, it’s key to use oil-free products on your skin. If you’re wondering why, allow us to explain: because oil-based products can actually remove the spray tan’s pigment from your skin because of the oil’s particles.
The 6 Best Long-Lasting Spray Tans and Self-Tanners
COOLA Sunless Tan Express Sculpting Mousse
Not to be dramatic, but this is probably the best tanning product out there—which is why it tops this list. It’s formulated with aloe vera and has a pleasant scent of piña colada. You can use this whether you have dry, combo, or normal skin. Additionally, folks report seeing their tan develop within three to four hours. As with most self-tanners, you want to make sure that you avoid sweating at least 24 hours after application so that the formula has time to settle in.
St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
According to all my research, this is the best self-tanner on the market. It’s lightweight, goes on evenly, dries quickly, has a natural finish, and offers medium coverage. It’s also formulated without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Some tanners can come off orange, but this mousse from St. Tropez doesn’t do that. Ever. Some folks have noted, though, that this has a particularly pungent smell that makes the experience a little unpleasant.
Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs
While this is marketed specifically for your legs, I actually think it’s great to use all over your body. Since this is an aerosol, it’s really easy to apply—just make sure you’re not around any white linen. This spray provides full coverage that hides freckles, veins, and small scars. One very important thing to note here is that this isn’t meant to last more than 24 hours, so it’s not your traditional self-tanner. For that reason, though, it’s one of the cheapest options on this list.
Available at Amazon ($13)
L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion
This lotion is amazing because it gets you results very similar to an in-salon spray tan. Since the product contains vitamin E, it’s also extremely moisturizing to the skin—which helps your tan last longer. To be sure, people on Amazon love this product. More than 5,500 people have reviewed this product, awarding it 4.5 out of five stars. Many reviewers say that this has been their go-to self-tanner for years.
NARS Monoi Body Glow
I’m a sucker for a product that feels luxe—and with its glimmer, the NARS Monoi Body Glow I is exactly that. It’s more sheer than other picks on this list and it’s worth noting that it’s a beauty oil. That means it might leave small stains on some linen, but you should be fine so long as you wash your hands. Another downside I find is that it’s pricey at $59, but that makes sense because NARS makes higher-end products.
Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner
This plant-based and cruelty-free sunless tanner from Alba Botanica is honestly a star. I love that it’s affordable and widely available at most drugstores nationwide. It’s also great for folks with sensitive skin because it doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrances. Plus, the ingredients list is chock-full of things that are good for your skin: shea butter, grapefruit oil, orange peel oil, and almond oil.
Natalie Arroyo Camacho is a first-gen Mexican American writer from the San Fernando Valley. She’s written for Byrdie, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, and Well+Good. She’s also the founding editor of Viva the Valley.