I've Gotten Over 100 Airbrush Tans, and These Are the Best Tips I've Heard From the Pros
When I interview tanning experts, I feel a little deceptive. A lot of them are equipped to do some serious explaining about the concept of a fake tan to presumably someone who doesn't know much about how it actually works. But what most of them don't know about me is that I too was in the airbrush tanning industry before I got began reporting at POPSUGAR.
In college, I convinced my boss at the spa I worked at to acquire an airbrush tanning machine. Instead of using tanning beds (or "death beds" as I would later call them), we could give people a quicker, safer tan — like "all the big celebrities in Hollywood" had. (I was living in Texas at the time, with big dreams of a golden glow and a life in LA.) My plea worked, and with that I learned everything there was to learn about sunless tanning. Not only was I privy on the best ways to prep the skin and how to maintain a tan for 10 days, but I knew how the solution worked, what main ingredient is in most solutions, and why we tend to smell as it develops.
Once I divulge my background, it's almost a relief for many experts. "You get it." They don't have to convince me why or how their product works. Instead, we can talk about the good stuff, like the secrets they've learned from years of developing products or spraying celebrities, what makes their solution different, and horror stories, of course.
One of the most common tips I get from experts is to be aware of your body's pH level and anything that could affect it, like showering right before a tan or certain body washes. DHA, the ingredient in tanning solutions that creates the bronze color, interacts with your skin's pH, which means things like your period and when you shower can affect how your skin accepts the tan.
"I can tell within two seconds, within that first spray, if you've showered right before, which is not good," said Brittney Bennett of Be Bronze Tanning Studio in Los Angeles. "If you shower, I like a good 12 hours, but a minimum of 4 hours prior — shower, shave, exfoliate — because if you do it right before, your tan will be 20-30 percent less dark. Same thing with your period. The pH balance of your skin is what the tan is working with."
Kristyn Pradas, creator of Pradas Glow, added: "During certain hormonal stages, your body produces more oils that can affect the tan development, and the body wash will help remove excess oils. My favorite is Everyone for Everybody 3-in-1 ($8). Keep in mind, however, if you have experienced a lighter tan during a different hormonal cycle, it does not mean it will happen every single time." Another thing to note is that heightened stress and even drinking alcohol can also potentially alter the development of a tan.
A majority of experts expressed the importance of not sweating or getting wet while your tan develops — that means all strenuous activity is off limits. "Do not have sex after a spray tan. I'm talking no blow jobs, no 'I'm laying down so I don't sweat that much.' Don't let a man ejaculate on you. A bronzer in a spray tan is like wet cement. You put your hands in the wet cement, when it dries, they will be there. I can fix nearly anything, but I can't fix that," said Bennett. That said, best time to tan is in the evening when you have no plans afterwards, just don't go home to Netflix & chill. Go home to Netflix and actually chill.
There are a bevy of other tips I've accumulated over the years, plus so many new and wonderful tanning products on the market. (Of course there will always be the tried and true favorites, too.) Here are the best tips I learned from some of the self-tanning industry's most glowing stars, along with a few product recommendations.