How long does a spray tan last? Spray tan, whether self-applied at home or professionally applied at a salon, doesn’t last long. It will last at most 10 days but you’ll start to notice some fading within 5 days.
To understand why spray tan fades within just a few days, it’s important to look at how it works.
The science behind Spray tan
All kinds of spray tans, also called sunless tans or self-tanners, contain an active ingredient called DHA. This is the abbreviation for Dihydroxyacetone, a plant-derived carbon sugar.
When you apply spray tan the DHA reacts with the very top layer of your skin (the stratum corneum). This is the layer of skin made up of dead cells. Because DHA does not penetrate deeper beyond the surface, it’s completely harmless. In fact, it’s the only active ingredient in spray tans that is FDA-approved.
This chemical reaction causes your skin to darken slightly. For light skinned individuals it attains a golden or bronzy hue, very similar to what happens when you spend time in the sun.
Because the dead skin cells on your body come off all the time (e.g. when you shower, when you swim, when you shave etc.) your spray tan will eventually fade off.
The best way to maintain your tanned look is to keep reapplying the spray tan every 4-6 days or by using a good quality tan accelerator.
Factors affecting how quickly Spray tan fades
One of the biggest factors and which you can do nothing about is age. Naturally, younger people have faster cell turnover than older ones. So the younger you are the faster your spray tan fades. You’ll need to keep reapplying more frequently than an older person.
Your lifestyle will also affect the lifespan of your spray tan. If you swim often for instance, your spray tan will fade quicker. The chlorine reacts with the spray tan and causes it to fade off. Keep your swimming to quick dips to maintain your spray tan for longer.
If you work out a lot you may also notice that your spray tan fades faster. This is because of the sweat. To avoid damaging your spray tan, do not work out for at least 8 hours after application. This will create unseemly lines on your skin.
Your showering routine can also affect how long your spray tan lasts. Normal showers are okay as long as you don’t scrub your skin too hard or use harsh soap. But an hour-long warm bath will fade your spray tan faster. If you want a bath, keep it short and don’t add harsh soaps or oils to the water. Talking of oils…
If you frequently use an oil-based skin product your spray tan will not last long. Oil reacts with DHA, causing it to break down and fade off.
How to maintain your Spray tan for longer
Don’t be under any illusions that you can keep your spray tan for weeks. Even the best quality brands of tan sprays will fade in a week or so. It’s how the body works and there’s no changing that.
Your focus should be on preventing it from fading too soon.
The rule of thumb when it comes to maintaining a spray tan is moisturization. Apply an oil-free moisturiser as often as you can. This will protect your spray tan and keep it from fading off too quickly.
But only use a thin or lightweight moisturising lotion or cream. If it’s too heavy the excess moisture can cause fading.
Another effective trick is to exfoliate before you apply a spray tan. This way you won’t have to exfoliate soon after application, which will fade the spray tan. It will also create a smooth skin surface for the spray tan to adhere to.
Here are a few additional tips to help you maintain your bronzy skin for longer.
- Keep your swim sessions to a minimum.
- Don’t take long warm baths.
- Avoid oil-based skin products.
- If you need to exfoliate, do it gently.
- Use alcohol-free tan sprays. They adhere better to the skin.
What if I want to get rid of a bad Spray tan?
Maybe you are asking about how long a spray tan lasts because you had an unfortunate accident. If you spray tan did not turn out the way you expected you have a couple of options. Aggressively scrubbing your skin is not one of them.
Try gently exfoliating your skin over several days. Long swims in the pool, a long hot bath, applying baby oil can all also help remove spray tan. Basically do the opposite of what you should be doing to maintain your spray tan.