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Spray Tan Tips for Beginners

BY: GROUPON EDITORS | 5.10.2017 |

Everyone loves the sunkissed look, but not everyone loves risking a painful sunburn or exposing their skin to the UV rays of the tanning booth. Thankfully, there are quick and safe spray tans that can help you get bikini ready without the burn.

But if you've never had one before, you might be looking for some spray tan tips, and you probably have a lot of questions. Is it better to get sprayed by a booth or a person? What exactly is in that tanning mist? And most importantly, will I wind up looking like the love child of a human and a carrot?

Below, we break down your most pressing questions about spray tans so you can bite the bullet and get on the fast track to bikini season.

What to do before a spray tan

Sure, a spray tan sounds super easy: just strip down and wait for a magical mist to bestow your entire body with a sun-kissed glow. But if you take just a little time to prep before your spray session, you might be rewarded with better results.

  • Exfoliate your skin: Removing dead skin cells will help your tan adhere evenly and will help it last longer so invest in a body scrub or wash with a rough-textured sponge.
  • Shave, too: If you wait until after your spray tan to do this, you run the risk of removing color along with your hair. The same goes for waxing, threading, and plucking.
  • Bare skin is best: That means no makeup, lotion, deodorant, or anything else that might work as a barrier between your skin and the tanning solution
  • Wear loose, dark clothing to your appointment: Even though you'll wait for the solution to dry before leaving, there's still the chance that some of the spray tan can rub off on clothing, so avoid white or light-colored items.
  • Paint your nails (really): Even if you just use a clear topcoat, putting a layer of lacquer on your fingernails and toenails will prevent them from being stained with the tanning solution

How much does a spray tan cost?

The price of a single spray tan will differ depending on the method used, but clients can typically expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $75 per tan, with mobile spray tans (where the technician brings an equipment or booth to you), running a little more. Many salons also offer a discount if you purchase multiple sessions at once, or provide punch cards that give you dollars off once you've purchased a certain number of tans.

Of course, you can always find many spray tanning deals at Groupon, which can be a great way to save money, especially if you're trying spray tanning for the first time and don't want to commit to a lot of sessions up front.

Is spray tanning safe?

Most spray tan advocates love the treatment because it provides a golden glow without exposing skin to harmful, cancer-causing UV rays. But what exactly are you spraying on your skin?

Ingredient lists can vary from brand to brand, but the vast majority of spray tanning solutions contain a substance called DHA (short for dihydroxyacetone), a chemical that is actually made from—wait for it—sugar. Plant sugar, to be more precise. DHA reacts with the proteins and amino acids on your skin, causing the surface cells to oxidize and turn brown.

But don't assume that your spray tanning salon's solution is natural just because it uses DHA. If ingredients are a concern for you, ask your local salon if they offer an organic spray tan solution. Many of them do!

How long does a spray tan last?

Five to ten days is the general rule of thumb, but there are a lot of factors that can affect the duration of your sunless patina. Showering too soon after application, for example, may cause some of the solution to wash off before its set, and shaving or waxing afterward will naturally lighten your tan.

If you want to get the most longevity out of your spray tan, we recommend following these after spray tan tips:

  • Let the solution set for as long as possible: This might even mean going to bed without washing. In general, the longer you can go without getting your tan wet, the better.
  • Shower warm, not hot: When you do finally get wet, opt for lukewarm showers over hot. It's also a good idea to avoid bubble baths, salt water, or chlorinated tubs as these things can all cause your tan to fade faster.
  • Moisturize: Keeping your skin hydrated can help protect your tan. Just be sure to avoid oil-based lotions, which can make your tan run.
  • Touch-up with self-tanner: A tinted self-tanner can help if you notice your tan is fading faster in certain areas, such as the hands and feet.

Airbrush spray tan vs. booth spray tan

Most spray tan salons give you an option of a booth tan or custom airbrush tan. During the booth tan, you'll be alone inside a spray tan booth and voice prompts will instruct you how to stand as automated jets mist you from head to toe. If you opt for an airbrush tan, a trained technician will enter the booth with you and spray you using a handheld device.

Both offer natural-looking, even coverage. But there are some subtle differences that might lead you to choose one over the other:

Custom Airbrush Tans


  • More even coverage—Booth tans tend to cover well too, but when it comes to true attention to detail, nothing beats a real person.
  • Customization—A human technician can concentrate the tan to specific areas, mix up a custom tone, and even use it to make certain areas of your body (like your abs) look more contoured.
  • Longer lasting—Custom tans have a tendency to last a few days longer than spray tans applied in a booth.


  • Getting (almost) naked with a stranger—Custom spray tans aren't ideal for shy people.
  • Price—They're typically a bit more expensive than automatic spray tans

Booth Spray Tans


  • Private—No need to make awkward small talk with a stranger while you're semi-nude.
  • Fast—A booth spray tan typically only takes a few minutes from start to finish.
  • Less expensive—Expect an automatic tan to run about $10–$15 cheaper, on average, than a custom tan.


  • Risk for error—It's up to you to follow the prompts and place yourself in the right position as the nozzles start to spray. If you've never done this before, you run the risk on not getting even coverage.
  • Less customization—Color can't be customized the way it can with an airbrush spray tan.
BY: Groupon Editors