8 Ways You Could Be Messing Up Your Fake Tan


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Your swimsuits are packed, your mani-pedi complete, and the OOO already up – the only thing left on your vacay to-do list is the spray tan. A little base not only makes the vacation selfie ‘gram, but it forgives the fact you’ve been trapped in an office for too many months. So if you’re feeling pasty and in need of some color, by all means, hit the spray tan booth. BUT be sure to follow our 101 guide to getting it right so you take off without looking like a streaky mess.

1. Not Pre-Tanning

Celebrity tanning expert (and the woman responsible for keeping Victoria’s Secret models glowy AF), Meredith Baraf, can’t stress pre-tan prep enough. “Start using self-tanners regularly at least two-weeks before a vacation to saturate your skin with product,” she says. “The more saturated your skin is, the longer your faux glow will last – try VersaSpa Gradual Tanning Body Butter Lotion, $40, which contains brown and green marine algae and squalene to hydrate, enhance collagen production, build color slowly, and improve skin’s firmness.”

2. Using Oil-Based Soaps

According to NYC-based St. Tropez skin-finishing expert, Sophie Evans, some oil-based soaps and shower gels leave residue on your skin that can diminish the life of your spray tan. “Soaps that contain Titanium Dioxide are also notorious for taking self-tan color off too fast since it’s a whitening agent, she explains. Moral of the spray tan story: Stay away from this if you’re trying to extend your tan and always check ingredient labels or try to stick to natural products that are gentle and good for sensitive skin.

3. Failing to Powder Post-Application

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If you haven’t been applying baby powder after getting bronzed, are you even ready for vacay? “Dusting on baby powder or a setting powder to areas that are prone to sweating will not only help with marks, but stop the initial built-in bronzer from coming off on your clothing,” says Evans. So grab a big puff or powder brush and get to work, especially on areas that are taking longer to dry (ahem, under-boobs) to keep the tan in place while developing. Another one of Evan’s tricks for the dreaded white boob lines is to lightly exfoliate with a product like St. Tropez’s Tan Enhancing Body Polish, $18, every 2-3 days to maintain and guarantee evenness.

4. Doing Anything Except Rinsing in Your First Shower

“The first shower post-waiting period is called a ‘bird bath,’ which means using no soaps or shampoos, and only rinsing with luke warm water,” says Celia Ribeiro, stylist and tanning specialist at Artistex Salon & Spa in Westport, CT. “After-spray wait times can vary – if it’s a rapid tan product wait 2-4 hours and if it’s a traditional spray tan, wait 6-8 – but a tip for busy clients is to have your spray tan done in evening hours and sleep through the waiting period.” As for every shower after the first, you can return to your normal bathing habits, but Ribeiro recommends using a tan extender, moisturizing twice a day, and staying hydrated.

5. Going About Normal Activities Too Soon

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Even though a few of these might be a given, allow us to remind you again per Ribeiro – absolutely no shaving, working out (you’ll sweat too much), wearing scrappy sandals and socks, applying deodorant, or taking long leisurely laps in chlorinated water immediately after a spray tan. Wait the suggested time for all that, or you can kiss your (sun-kissed) $$$$ good-bye.

6. Skipping SPF in the Sun

Even if you think you don’t need sunscreen the day after a spray tan, think again. “Use a tan extender and a heavy layer of sunscreen to help to keep unnecessary water and moisture from removing the spray tan and protect your color,” advises Ribeiro.

7. Forgetting Hand and Face Upkeep

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“Your face and hands will fade the quickest, so use a product like St Tropez’s Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist, $30, and spritz over face and your hands whenever you feel you need a boost, says Evans.

8. Ignoring Exfoliating In-Between Spray Tans

If you’re heading somewhere tropical for a while, congrats, we hope you have the best time and don’t forget to exfoliate in-between tans if you’re getting another on vacay. Repeating spray tans or mixing two different tanning products can cause blotches and weird streaks, so you should exfoliate with baking soda paste by mixing a tiny amount of water with baking soda, according to Tamar Vezirian, owner and founder of Gotham Glow New York. “Rub the darkest parts to buff them down, so they blend with the rest of your body without completely stripping your tan away,” she says. “And if you’re looking to remove a tan completely, it’s best to book a Korean scrub or simulate your own by steaming 15-20 minutes in the shower, exfoliating with a natural loofah, coarse exfoliant, and soap, followed by dry brushing the skin.”