Spray tanning has become one of the fastest-growing services in the beauty industry, with much of its worldwide popularity thanks to the endorsements of mega-media celebrities such as the Kardashians and Princess Kate. As a result, men and women of all ages are seeking out spray tanning as an alternate means to UV tanning to get that natural-looking, sun-kissed glow. Spray tanning, or airbrush tanning, was originally offered in high-end spas or used for stage purposes, but can now be found in beauty salons, tanning studios, and in the home. Why has spray tanning become so popular? Initially, the media frenzy over the negative effects of UV exposure made spray tanning a sought-after alternative but now, and most significantly, the growth of this service is due to increasingly busy lifestyles and our expectation of immediate gratification. TIME ON YOUR SIDE In the past, you would plan your tanning schedule well in advance and visit the local tanning salon a few times a week during the months leading up to your event. But that isn’t possible anymore. With instant messaging and social media, we learn of events at the last minute, so a fast tan is necessary. Now all we need to do is call our technician for an appointment, set aside a mere 20 minutes for the session, and in just a few hours we have the perfect tan. It’s important to understand what spray tanning is and its limitations. By doing so we can ask informed questions and have realistic expectations of the outcome. THE NITTY GRITTY Spray tanning is essentially the application of a sunless tanning solution to the skin. The most effective sunless tanning products contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone) as the active ingredient. DHA is often derived from plant sources such as sugar beets and sugar cane. Contrary to most common beliefs, DHA sunless tanning is not a dye or stain but is a reaction to the dead skin cell layer of our epidermis (our skin). Once the sunless tanning product is applied to the skin a browning effect begins to occur, which will last for about seven days or for as long as it takes your skin to shed. It will realistically take eight to 12 hours for your sunless tan to develop, so keep this in mind when organizing your beauty preparation schedule for a special event. Sunless tanning solutions can also contain cosmetic bronzers, moisturizers, antioxidants, and firming agents. Cosmetic bronzers act as a colour guide for technicians and provide an “instant tan” for the consumer. This ingredient will vary from solution to solution in both tone and hue. The cosmetic bronzer can leave residue on clothing and have a streaky appearance if water contact occurs before the first shower, which is why it is absolutely necessary to shower about eight hours after a spray application. Showering thoroughly will prevent residue from transferring onto clothing and will remove any uneven appearance in the tan. Brides should book their spray tanning sessions two days prior to their wedding to ensure that more than one shower is taken before putting on their wedding dress. PRESSING QUESTIONS Still not sure if sunless tanning is right for you? Let’s take a look at some common queries and concerns. Is the solution organic? Today we are as concerned about what goes into our bodies as the products we use on our bodies. Be assured that manufacturers are extremely in-tune to what the public wants and needs. Most sunless tanning solutions produced in North America and Europe are organic and nut-, paraben-, and gluten-free. Many are also vegan-friendly. It’s important to advise your technician beforehand if you have any allergies or intolerances. How dark can I get? Realistically, a DHA solution can produce a sunless tan one to two shades darker than your current skin tone. Beware of advertising that claims a darker tan. This deeper, golden tan effect will be temporary and provided by the cosmetic bronzer. Once the bronzer is washed away in the shower, the actual sunless tan, although beautiful, may cause disappointment. How long will a spray tan last? A spray tan will last about a week or for as long as it takes the skin to shed. The optimal colour of a spray tan is seen within the first three days, so it’s best to book a spray session one to two days prior to your special event. Excessive sweating from heat, the sauna, or exercise and extended periods of time in the water, such as swimming pools, oceans or lakes, and hot tubs, can cause the spray tan to last even less than the average seven days. Is spray tanning safer than UV tanning? Comparing the two is the same as comparing apples to oranges, and doing so is a whole separate discussion. My answer is always this: sunless tanning is a perfect alternative for those who can’t or choose not to sunbathe. Is spray tanning good for everyone? The success of a spray tan is partially thanks to the spray technician but primarily thanks to the skin itself. The overall health of the client and their skin can affect how the sunless tan develops. Medication and hormones can definitely affect its production; some medications can prevent the tan from developing altogether. If you are taking prescription medication, it’s best to consult with the spray tan technician and book a trial before any of your big events. Skin conditions can also affect the outcome of a sunless tan. Conditions such as dermatitis can cause the sunless tan to develop unevenly. Again, if this is the case, it’s best to consult with your technician and schedule a trial. On the plus side, because a spray tan develops in dead skin cells and does not require UV exposure, this is a perfect service for those with vitiligo or for those who are taking photosensitising medications. What do I do before and after my spray tan session? Waxing, pedicures, facials, or any other esthetic service that removes dead skin cells must be done about three days before a spray tan. This will allow the skin to replenish for a beautiful sunless tan. Shaving, threading, manicures, or toenail polish changes and any other esthetic service that does not remove the skin may be done immediately prior to a spray tan session or eight hours after. Preparing for a spray tan is not as complicated as some may think. Prior to the appointment, shower and exfoliate your entire body with a loofah or body scrub. Avoid applying any body lotion or bath oils to the skin after the shower. The idea is to have clean skin, free of loose dead skin cells and any product or residue that may prevent the solution from absorbing evenly. Remember to have loose-fitting clothing to wear home. If you are being sprayed topless to avoid tan lines, it’s not recommended that you wear a bra for at least four hours after the session – and remember to pack clothing that can be worn comfortably without a bra. Plan ahead to avoid excessive water contact and sweating for about eight hours after the spray tan. Once eight hours have passed, take a shower and clean the skin thoroughly to remove all cosmetic bronzers. Drink plenty of water and moisturize regularly to ensure your skin is hydrated from the inside out. Hydrated skin will keep the dead cells from fluffing too soon and help you keep your sunless tan longer. After the fifth day or so, a sunless tan will begin to fade, and it may do so unevenly. At this point begin using a loofah, body scrub, or even a face cloth daily to assist the fade-out. Last, choose a spray tan technician who has been properly trained and certified. A certified technician will be able to knowledgeably answer all of your questions and provide individualized recommendations and suggestions for each client. With their help, you’ll look healthier, feel great, and be ready to stun at your next event.