Spray Tanning

Time Frame

Immediately following your spray tan, you will notice a difference in color, but this is only the bronzer in the self-tanning formula. Color will further develop within two to three hours, and if you are performing the spray tan at home, it is after this duration of time that you can decide if you’d like to add another coat of color. Always allow color to develop completely to avoid turning too dark. Remember you can always go back and add more color, but if you aren’t happy with your tan, you will have to start all over again. Less is more when it comes to spray tanning.


No long-term studies have been done on the side effects or long-term effects of self-tanners or spray tanning. The ingredient DHA is FDA-approved for external use only and because spray tanning can involve inhaling fumes, it is often advised that self-tanners applied in the form of a gel or lotion or direct forms of spray tanning such as airbrushing by a technician are safer than standing in a spray tanning booth.


Your skin is made up of two main layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the top layer of the skin and this is the part of the skin that is affected by tanning, whether it is from ultraviolet light from the sun or a tanning bed, or if it is from a spray tan. The epidermis is also divided into layers. The stratum basale is the deepest layer and is the layer that is affected by UV radiation. The stratum corneum is the top layer of the epidermis and this is the layer that is affected by spray tans.


Spray tans are applied using a liquid solution that is sprayed onto the skin. A spray tan salon will have a booth with spray nozzles. The nozzles can be on one side of the booth or both sides. If they are on both sides, the technician will have you step into the booth, usually with your hair in a shower cap, and have you close your eyes while the solution is sprayed on all at once. If the nozzles are on one side, the technician will have you turn 180 degrees halfway through the process, which usually takes less than one minute. After application, you will need to dry off and then you will not be able to take a shower for at least five hours.


The solution that is applied is clear and it will take several hours before the tan is complete. Because of this, bronzer is often added to the solution. A bronzer is a brown dye that adds color to the solution and will stain your skin brown. The bronzer is added so you will have an immediate tan and to make sure your skin is evenly covered in the solution. However, bronzer is not necessary for a spray tan to work well, it will just take about five hours for the tan to set in properly.


The solution for a spray tan includes dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is the active ingredient that reacts with your skin. It is a colorless sugar that reacts with the protein in dead skin cells, causing them to turn brown. As the dead skin cells are shed by your skin in a natural process, the tan fades with it. This is why spray tan must be reapplied about every 5 to 10 days. This is also why most tanning salons recommend that you exfoliate your skin before getting a spray tan. Exfoliating is a way to remove dead skin cells. Once the skin is exfoliated, it will take longer for more dead skin cells to be shed naturally, which allows the spray tan to remain on longer.
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