Preparing for your tan

One of the most common things for a tanning artist to be asked is how long an airbrush tan will last. There are a lot of factors involved in the longevity of a tan, but outside of natural tone, the skin preparation is by far the biggest indicator of how long it will last.

In order to explain why certain parts of the skin preparation are so important, I like to explain how it works. The color produced as a result of a spray tan is actually a chemical reaction in your dead skin cells! Once you shower, the solution itself actually washes away. What is left is the dead skin cells that have changed their pigment through the process of that chemical reaction. Therefore, the important thing is to keep those cells from shedding too fast! The way to do that is making sure you are doing proper prep and care.

Let’s start wit PREP:

  1. EXFOLIATE!! This is the most important part of prepping for a tan. You will want to remove any dead skin cells that are ready to slough off in the next few days. If you don’t remove them, they’ll still slough off, and they’ll take your tan with them – remember, they ARE the tan! The best time to exfoliate is the evening prior to your appointment. You can use scrubs, exfoliating gloves, dry brush, or even just a rough washcloth to remove dead skin cells. If you have to exfoliate the same day as your appointment, try to put as much time as possible between scrubbing your skin and your tan so that your skin can return to “normal.”

Don’t forget your “rough spots”—Neck, knees, elbows, underarms, ankles, and feet! These areas trap dead skin, so it’s important to clear them out.

  1. Hair removal should be done prior to exfoliation the evening before tanning. Do not shave or wax right before your appointment. Some people have more sensitive skin, which can mean hair follicles stay open longer. We don’t want solution to deposit and develop inside of those open follicles – you’ll have speckles! Razor conditioning strips and wax can also deposit residue onto your skin, which will block the absorption of the tanning solution. Shaving the night before, then exfoliating and moisturizing, will leave your skin ready for the next day’s tan. Waxing should be done 24-48 hours prior to tanning.

  2. Come to your tan as clean and fresh as possible. Lotions and makeup can hinder absorption, and deodorant can sometimes have an interesting green color reaction. Do not use shower products on the skin, especially Dove, before a tan! If you have an afternoon appointment and want to shower in the morning, just do a quick rinse and hit the “pits and bits.” Do not use soap all over your body, and do not use moisturizer within 4 hours of your appointment. If needed prior, use as sparingly as possible.

  3. Bring loose clothing to your appointment, and make sure you’re dry before putting them on. Your tan artist should be able to let you know when it’s safe. Whenever possible, forego wearing a bra to avoid pressure points.

  4. Plan accordingly. Do not tan before you work out or within an hour or two of sleeping. Tan when you can avoid getting sweaty or wet.

Caring for your tan

Once you have your gorgeous glow, you’re going to want to keep it for as long as possible! This gets a little more intuitive once you have a good grasp of how the solution works in your skin and you think about what will cause your skin to slough off faster.

Things that will cause your airbrush tan to fade faster:

  • Salt water & sand
  • Sweating
  • Jacuzzis and tubs
  • Epsom salt baths

Things that will just wreck your tan:

  • Loofas
  • Body Scrubs
  • Drunk dialing your ex

(OK so one of those things might not be true but I’m not going to tell you which one because they’re all bad when you have a gorgeous airbrush tan.) Now, some people will fade faster than others – whether due to natural slough cycle, dry skin, intense daily workouts, surfing, etc. We’re all different. Make sure you’re staying moisturized and hydrated, since supple skin won’t flake off. Avoid products with too much alcohol, since they just pull the water out of your skin — and water is what is providing hydration all over your body. Avoid products with mineral oil, urea, AHAs, BHAs, (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, etc) and vitamin C…anything which purpose is to cause cell turnover, until you are ready to remove the tan.