How to Extend Your Spray Tan’s Shelf Life

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No, baking in the sun is not the smart way to glow this summer—but rather than forego bronzed skin altogether, why not spring for a high-quality spray tan? By shopping around for a highly recommended technician, you’ll evade the risk of oompa-loompadom—no one will be the wiser, and you’ll avoid tan lines. Better yet, you can request some subtle muscle contouring, so you pretty much get a fully-serviced bikini body in the span of 10 minutes. (If, of course, that’s the look you’re going for.)x That being said, improper care can be the difference between a faux glow that meets an untimely, streaky death and a Gisele-worthy one that lasts up to 10 days. For some insider tricks on how to get the most mileage out of your spray tan, we called on editor-beloved tanning guru Sophie Evans of St. Tropez, who, with a decade and a half of experience, has seen it all. Here, she lays out the nuances and non-negotiables of making your bronze last twice as long.

1. The longest-lasting tan starts before you get to the salon.

This means getting your skin in the best possible condition prior to treatment, since the better its condition, the better and longer lasting your tan will be. Start exfoliating every daythree days prior to your new spray tan, and make sure any waxing is completed 24 hours prior to spray tan application. (This will help you avoid a less than desirable dark pore look.)

2. Arrive to your appointment cleaned and buffed.

Try to shower and exfoliate about eight hours prior to new application. This will allow the skin to settle and be at its best pH balance level for self-tan development. Avoid putting heavy body lotions on the day of your treatment, as this can lighten the self-tan.

3. Wear loose clothing and pedicure-friendly shoes.

There’s nothing worse than walking out of your appointment with a fresh tan only to realize that your bra strap left a nice little line on your shoulder. (The beauty of a spray tan is that you get to avoid tan lines.) Let ’em hang free if possible, and aim for minimal skin-to-fabric contact—a loose T-shirt dress is a solid option. Shoes are trickier—if you do end up with strap lines from flip-flops or Birkenstocks, just exfoliate your feet until the color is even when you get home, since the tan there isn’t that noticeable anyway.

4. Deodorant could be your downfall.

A good technician will give you wipes to remove deodorant, foundation, and lotion (eye makeup is okay), since that barrier could mean uneven color—specifically, white pits.

5. Stick with the paper panties they give you for a few hours after the treatment.

Because underwear lines are worse than bikini lines.

6. Ask your technician to detail exactly what to do in the hours following your appointment.

Because not every treatment or formula is the same: Showering just a few hours after your appointment might be necessary for one kind of tan but could wash away another. Check to be sure, and try to follow the recommended shower time and aftercare as closely as possible. If you opt for a quicker-developing formula, take note of the clock and when you need to shower (usually a few hours after the treatment). If you opt for a classic self-tan solution, always wait a good eight hours or sleep with the product on overnight. While you sleep, the pores open up and your body temp heats up, really allowing a self-tan to get to work and reach its optimum tone.

7. Shower the right way.

For the first shower after your tan, it’s always best to use water that’s lukewarm and not too hot. Avoid shower gels that leave residue behind on the skin—your first clue is that the product touts itself as “deeply moisturizing.” The residue from the moisturizer can degrade the life of your tan. Basic, natural products are best.

8. Moisturizing is key—but it can also be your tan’s undoing.

Proper hydration is what will make your glow last, but an oil-rich formula will make it slip right off. Use a very basic lotion that isn’t oil-based, and moisturize in the shower or right after.

9. Call in back-up for your face and hands.

The new St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Everyday Moisturizer + Primer gives an instant sheer of bronze to the face while gradually developing into a lasting natural-looking facial base tan that lasts for days. Apply daily to prolong your spray tan—it’s essentially a 3-in-1 product that works as a tinted moisturizer, primer, and gradual self tanner.

10. Don’t sweat it.

Following your tan use a gradual tan product, like the St. Tropez Gradual Tan One Minute Pre-Shower Tanning Mousse. This product is so easy to use and will extend the life of your tan post spray. Simply apply to dry skin for one minute—with or without a mitt—before hoping in the shower.

11. Exfoliate to avoid blotchiness.

Don’t worry about rubbing the tan away—light exfoliation is the best way to ensure the tan is always fading evenly and no color gets built up in undesired areas. Use an exfoliating product every two to three days, though aim for a gentle formula: A salt scrub or oatmeal scrub can sometimes be too harsh and make the tan patch.

A few additional tips/tricks:

Don’t underestimate the power of a good tan. A self tan can even out skin tone, hide imperfections like stretch marks, scars and cellulite, reduce redness, define muscle definition, sculpt flattering curves and give you instant body confidence.

Tan two days before a big event. If you are getting married on a Saturday, apply tanner on a Thursday evening. You can sleep with the self tan on for full development and then have the next day for the tan to settle or to retouch any areas if needed.