How Long Does A Spray Tan Really Last?

Since excessive sun exposure can be harmful and bed tanning comes with its own risks, spray tans have become increasingly popular. While many opt for salon spray tans, there have been many products formulated to provide people with all the tools to get some sun-kissed color from the comfort of their own bathrooms. There are a few things worth knowing, though, before giving yourself a spray tan at home

Exfoliation is always key, especially in areas like elbows and knees, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests. Work from the bottom up, and get creative with those hard-to-reach areas by tying a tanning mitt to a long-handled back brush via a rubber band. Of course, bright lighting is also a huge help to check for unevenness and streaks.

Even though they may prove safer than bed tanning, spray tans still affect one's body in different ways. Tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to change the color of one's skin (via HuffPost). While most dermatologists consider the product to be safe when used properly, sometimes it can get in a person's eyes, mouth, or nose, and inhaling DHA is an under-researched area. For this reason, some dermatologists suggest that at-home products are safer, where an individual can apply the tanning agent themselves rather than inhaling the DHA from a spray tan machine at a salon. 

So with all this information at our fingertips, and after all the work of applying a tan properly, how long can we expect it to last?

Lifestyle and hormones impact the lifespan of a spray tan

The longevity of a spray tan can vary, and there are a few interesting factors at play, including hormones. Taking all of this into account, one can expect a spray tan to last five to 10 days. Alexandra DiMarchi of Tan-Luxe told InStyle that the individual can play a big role in how long a glow lasts. "The longevity of the tan varies due to someone's lifestyle, beauty/skincare routine, and the pre-and post-tan care," she explained. "The shade you chose also determines this. For example: if someone wants a light skin finish, it may fade off quicker due to a lighter application."

Jules Von Hep of Isle of Paradis warned that periods can impact a tan, saying that when clients are having their periods or are about to begin their menstrual cycle, the tan doesn't penetrate as deeply due to the variation in hormones. 

There are a few other products and habits one should avoid to keep a tan lasting its longest. Shaving and robust exfoliation will slough away the tan; oil-based moisturizers can also reduce its lifespan. 

Using water-based moisturizers will keep skin hydrated and dewy without prematurely removing a spray tan, as part of an effective ritual of what you should do after a spray tan

How to keep a spray tan going

In order to make a spray tan last, a good trick is to use a gradual tan product at home. Day five is typically the best time to start this, once you've lost the first layer of color, and this helps keep the spray tan alive for another four to five days. James Read, who has his own tanning line, told his secrets to Vogue France. "Exfoliate so that your tan comes off naturally," he suggested. "To prolong the sunkissed effect, add a teaspoon of gradual tan into aftersun. The glow of the self-tanning formula will revive the pigmentation, while the aftersun will moisturize and prolong the effect."

Jules Von Hep told InStyle about his precise ritual for prolonging a spray tan. "I maintain a glow by applying self-tan to my entire body, followed by two consecutive days of rich moisturizer," he said. "Then, I apply a hit of Isle of Paradise Happy Tan to my body to lift the color back up. Two days after, I begin the scrub process, lightly exfoliating the top coat of tan off, and then apply my next coat of self-tan." Von Hep also noted that clients see the quickest loss of color in their faces after a spray tan and said that this is because of skincare products, which most clients use more of on their faces than on the rest of their bodies. He suggested self tanning drops that one could add to a moisturizer or face serum nightly.