Spray Tans: Avoid the Winter Whites

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As I write this article, Fall is just  around the corner and by the time you read it in print, we will already be one week into the Autumn season.  For those of us in temperate climates, this marks the time when we sadly say goodbye to summer shorts and shirtless tank tops, and trade them in for heavier, warmer wardrobe.  It also means our summer tans will fade as fast Autumn leaves hitting the ground.

For those who just can’t let go of their summer glow, artificial tanning has been an option for many years.  UV tanning beds provide the most natural, realistic effect by mimicking the suns rays.  But there’s so much bad press surrounding tanning beds and the harmful effects of UV rays that many are shying away.  And so tanning sprays have increasingly gained in popularity in recent years.

Spray tans fall into two basic categories: do-it-yourself products available from stores.  And professional applications done in tanning both or with hand sprayers.  DIY products are generally less expensive, but they do require paying attention to the directions.  If you are at all nervous about messing up your self-spray, hire a professional and get it done right without the worry.

Whichever route you take, it’s important to prepare your skin in advance of the tanning sessions.  This means exfoliating from head to toe 8-10 hours before spray tanning.  Why?  If you recall your high school biology, human skin cells live short lifespans of 2 weeks or less.  Our bodies constant create new skin cells and push the old, dead cells to the surface where they eventually are sloughed off.  Spray tanning works by “staining” these dead skin cells.

When you exfoliate prior to the shoot, you are giving yourself a new, blank slate to work with.  You will have a new layer of dead skin cells that will absorb the tanning pigments more evenly. If you skip exfoliating, you will be staining cells of different ages and your spray tan may fade unevenly.

It’s also important to do any shaving required at this stage and not shave again for up to 24 hours after the spray tanning application.  What professionals do not agree upon is what comes next.  Many will tell you to apply moisturizers all over, paying special attention to normally dry areas like elbows, knees, etc.  Others insist that moisturizing inhibits the reaction between skin and spray tanning pigments.  There’s no concrete evidence to support either claim, and one can safely assume that this step is not a requirement.

If you are spray-tanning yourself, pick a product that matches your natural skin tone (light/medium/dark).  The fake orange spray tans we sometimes see are the result of using the wrong color product.  It is better to build-up to a darker color by applying several coats, rather than laying on one heavy coat.

Working from the feet up will help you avoid marking or creasing the tan.  And when spraying, always keep moving to avoid uneven concentrations and streaks/runs.  Avoid showering or shaving for up to 24 hours or session, to allow the tanning pigments to set.

With proper preparation and by following these guidelines, your spray tan should look good for an average of seven days.


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