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Organic Salon & Beauty Bar

Spray Tan Questions & Answers

There are so many misconceptions about spray tanning. Most of these stem from the early days of spray tanning when DHA was new and blended into self-tanners that turned out some very interesting colors or from spray tan booths that give a very fake all-over coat of heavy spray tan solution. The good news is that there are now spray tan solution manufacturers who actually know how to properly formulate DHA, and there are HVLP machines used by spray tan professionals to give spray tans that are so natural-looking you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from a sun tan. Below is a list of the most common misconceptions and other spray tan questiosn we’ve gotten over the years–take a look: the answers might just surprise you!

Will a spray tan turn you orange?


Any company that markets a spray tan solution as “orange free”, or by saying that it won’t ever turn you orange is lying. Any spray tan solution or self-tanner in the world that has been blended with DHA has the chance to turn you orange, even ours. What’s important is understanding why DHA turns you orange so that you can prevent it from happening!


Dihydroxyacetone (or DHA for short) is the ingredient in a spray tan solution that darkens your skin. Too much DHA (also called DHA oversaturation) and your skin will instead react by starting to turn orange. The good news is that there is a tool, the Fitzpatrick Scale, that can help you determine which percentage strenghs of DHA your skin can “handle” so that you can get a spray tan and be worry-free. You can also check out our interactive Color Guide here for our recommendation on what solutions might work best for you!


Will a spray tan look unnatural? Does a spray tan have to look unnatural?

We are happy to tell you that a good, quality spray tan will be indistinquishable from a sun tan. Spray Tan booths tend to create unnatural-looking tans, and some solutions are so dark or oily that they couldn’t possibly be mistaken for a “natural” tan, but thankfully there are other, better options out there for you to choose from.

Will a spray tan protect me from the sun?

A spray tan will not protect you from the sun, so be sure to always use sunscreen!

Isn’t a spray tan only for young people?

Spray tanning is actually very popular amongst the older generations. While mature clients might not want to look too dark, they always love the youth and vibrancy that lower percentage solutions give. A spray tan helps them maintain their youthful appearance, and makes them appear healthier overall.

How old do you have to be to get a spray tan?

It’s important to remember that each state, territory, province, and country has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to spray tanning. Most likely the age will be around 18 years old without needing anyone’s consent, but anyone younger than that will most likely need permission from a parent or guardian. But you should of course check rather than assume anything!

What is PH Balancing Spray?

Supposedly, a PH Balancer is sprayed on your skin so that you don’t turn orange as easily—the issue here of course is: anything that goes on your skin before a spray tan can actually prevent the tan from setting as well as it could. It would be like putting on foundation, but then applying a clay face masque. Unfortunately it’s been proven that PH Balancing Sprays and other prep products offer no discernable benefit to a spray tan.

What is Barrier Cream?

A barrier cream’s job is exactly what you guessed it was: it is supposed to act as a barrier between the spray tan solution and your skin for the spots on your body that react more strongly to DHA like the palms of your hands and your feet. Barrier cream is unnecessary if you use the correct technique when applying the spray tan.

Why do spray tans smell?

It’s important to note that not all spray tans smell. In fact, Aviva Labs solutions are fragrance free. Most spray tans smell either like french fry oil or like a sickly sweet fragrance. The reason for this is because DHA, when improperly formulated or when a cheaper quality of DHA is used in the formulation, exhibits a strong odor. When premium grade DHA is formulated properly, the solution doesn’t need any cover up fragrances because there is nothing to hide.

Can you “heat up” spray tan solution?

If your solution needs to be refrigerated, or if you just want your solution to be a bit warmer for your client, then you’ve probably wondered this. We do not recommend heating up solution in a microwave or oven, but you certainly can let the product sit until it has been warmed to room temperature. In the most extreme scenarios you can put the solution near (not on!) a radiator or near a space heater to warm it a bit, but we have found that turning up the temperature of the spray room itself works just as well, and doesn’t run the risk of breaking down the solution. We have tested heated spray tan machines, but have yet to find one that produces the quality results we demand of our HVLP equipment.

Do guys get spray tans?

Men do spray tan, often for the same reasons that women do: to appear thinner, feel more confident, and look younger and healthier. While men may be more hesitant to try spray tanning, once they do they are just as hooked as everyone else!

Do people spray tan in the winter?

Yes they do! In fact, we would argue that spray tanning has an even more dramatic effect in the winter. In the winter, we become cave people and the sun is just a distant memory. This means our skin tends to look wan and pale, unhealthy and rather sickly, made even worse by unflattering artificial lighting. Many are afraid that a spray tan always has to look like the person just got a tan from the beach or vacation, but there are subtle solutions available as well and a light spray tan (think a 6% or 8%) can help bring a sorely needed breath of vitality to your skin in the winter.

How long do spray tans last? How do I make my spray tan last longer?

How long do spray tans last? 5 to 15 days. Pretty easy, right? Now comes the tricky part: how to get your tan to last out to that 15 day mark instead of just lasting 5. For that, I have good news and bad news:

The bad news is that, chances are, you’re the one preventing your tan from lasting 15 days. The good news? I’m the one who’s going to help you change all that. You can thank me later, but for now: let’s get started!

The first step in understanding how to get the most out of your tan is understanding how your tan got there in the first place. While it may seem like magic, the darkening of your skin is due to a naturally derived ingredient called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA for short). As you know, the color is only temporary though! This is because, unlike UV rays from a natural sun tan, spray tanning only affects the topmost layer of your skin. This means that the tan you just got from your friendly spray tan professional will only last as long as that top layer of skin, which is determined by your personal skin cycle (where dead skin sloughs off and is replaced by newer skin underneath).

While everyone’s skin cycle is as unique as they are, there are still proven ways to lengthen the time between skin cell birth and death; better, there are also ways you can improve your spray tan prep to get more out of each visit! So read up and enjoy, and please remember to address all “Thank you” cards to: Drew at Aviva Labs!

Before Your Spray Tan

  1. Exfoliation
    Even when you’re not spray tanning, exfoliation is a good idea, but it’s an even better idea when you are spray tanning. Exfoliating cleans your pores, removes unwanted residues from soaps, shampoos, fragrances (and who knows what else you touched today), and best of all it also restarts your skin cycle by removing all the older skin, bringing you to a clean slate. This is perfect for spray tanning because the fresher your skin is the longer you have before your tan starts fading, and because exfoliating removes those residues, which can actually create a barrier between you and your tan. By exfoliating properly you can extend the life of your tan by up to three days!

  2. PH Balancing Sprays, Prep sprays, Barrier creams
    Simply put: avoid PH Balancing Sprays, avoid Prep sprays, and don’t use Barrier creams. Anything that is sprayed or applied to your skin prior to your spray tan service is going to negatively impact your tan by creating a barrier between you and the solution. This barrier means that the tanning solution is not adhering as effectively as it could, so you aren’t getting the best tan results possible, resulting in a faster fading tan and in some cases a blotchy or patchy tan where the DHA couldn’t get through at all due to the barrier.

    What about the benefits of using them? (This is usually where readers get mad!)

    Unfortunately it’s been proven that PH Balancing Sprays and other prep products offer no discernable benefit to a spray tan. The sad fact is that those products are just another way for the companies that produce them to make money. In actuality, because they create a barrier between you and your tanning solution, these products can make your tan results worse instead of better! Mad yet? Yeah, I thought you might be!


  3. Shaving
    It is okay to shave the morning of your spray tan, but only if the service is still a few hours away, and only if you have time to exfoliate your skin afterwards. The reason these requirements are in place is because shaving opens up the pores in your skin and the shaving cream leaves a residue on your skin, both of which can negatively impact a tan’s life expectancy and performance. If you absolutely must shave right before your tan, do so with lukewarm water, a brand new razor, and an oil-free shaving cream; the results won’t be perfect, but they’ll be better than the alternative!

  4. Sun burns
    For pretty obvious reasons, skin peeling from sun burns can wreak havoc on a spray tan. In fact, the results are often so unpredictable that many spray tan professionals will refuse to spray you if you’ve been recently burned! The reason for this is simple: a sun burn causes your skin to slough off in big patches, resulting in a horribly uneven tan that can virtually dissapear overnight as you peel. The best advice? Wait until after your skin has recovered before getting your next spray tan–and of course: don’t get burned!!
After Your Spray Tan

  1. Solution with Alcohol
    Solutions are often blended with alcohol to act as a drying agent for your spray tan. The idea is that the alcohol will make the stickiness and tackiness of an oil-based spray tan dissipate faster. Unfortunately this comes at a price. Just as the alcohol is drying out your tan, it is also drying out your skin. Drier skin is proven to have a much higher turnover rate than moisturized skin, so alcohol will actually be causing your tan to fade faster and unevenly. There are ways around this, like moisturizing far more frequently than you normally would, but the easiest we’ve found is to simply offer products that do not contain alcohol. Having an alcohol-free solution means that your skin won’t be turning over faster, extending the life of your tan!

  2. Tight clothing after the service
    Everyone loves fitting into their skinny jeans, but when it comes to spray tanning that’s a big “No No”. As you’ve probably noticed before, a spray tan rubs off on clothing. You may think that this is just the bronzers rubbing off, but with oil-based solutions this is also a strong indication that you are losing DHA as well! The less DHA you have on your skin, the lighter your tan is going to develop and the sooner you’re going to be booking another appointment with your local spray tan studio. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t still be fashionable! Wearing a loose fitting dress is always an option, and you can still rock a skirt–just don’t cinch that belt or tightly lace up those boots until after the DHA has had a chance to develop and you’ll be fine!

  3. Rinsing off too early
    The most catostrophic thing you can do to a tan is wash it off too early, before the DHA has had a chance to work its magic. This will result in you completely losing your tan (or at least most of it), and possibly your voice from screaming at yourself. Now, before you say anything you’ll regret, just remember: most “traditional” spray tan solutions require a full 8-12 hours to develop. There are rapid tan solutions out there, which means you can leave the solution on for as little as 30 minutes in some cases, but it’s important to understand that you’ll still lose your bronzer color when you first rinse off with a rapid tan. Don’t freak out though: the tan from a rapid solution will darken over time (that same 8-12 hours), and you’ll be tan again soon!

  4. Using products that harm/negatively affect a spray tan
    Maintaining your skin’s health with different beauty products is always a good idea, but when it comes to your spray tan there are a surprising number of products that can actually harm your tan! There are too many to go into in this article, but a good rule of thumb is to purchase beauty products that have been specifically tested for use with spray tanning, such as those skincare lines sold by spray tan solution manufacturer’s; failing that, I recommend finding simple soaps, shampoos, and scrubs that have the fewest ingredients possible: the fewer the ingredients, the less likely it is to react negatively with your tan!

  5. Not moisturizing
    Shame on you! There, now that that’s out of my system: if you aren’t moisturizing on the days following your spray tan appointment then you are setting yourself up for failure. Moisturizing ensures that your skin stays healthy, which means that your skin will turn over slower. See where I’m going here? The more you moisturize, the longer your tan will last. If that’s not enough, moisturizing also will help keep your dry areas (like elbows or knees) from fading faster than the rest of your body. All in all, there really is no good reason to not moisturize after your spray tan!

  6. Ocean water/Chlorine/Excessive sweating
    I’m pretty well a fish when it comes to pools and swimming in the ocean, but I’ll also be the first to tell you that the chlorine and salt really does a number on my skin. Likewise, working out dumps tons of salt onto your skin and can wreak havoc on a spray tan. The best way to combat this is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! After you work out, after you go for a swim, or any other activity that gets salt, dirt, or grime on your body: rinse the chlorine or salt, or whatever it is that you got into, off of your body and then make sure to apply your favorite moisturizer so that your tan doesn’t suffer from your active lifestyle!