My First Spray Tan Experience

tips for your first spray tan

Two weekends ago I caved and finally lost my spray tanning virginity. Getting a spray tan is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, but I could never bring myself to do it. I’d always say, “Oh I’ll just be pale” or “I don’t have the money”. Or I’d revert to using the self-tanning lotions for a few nights to get a nice little color, but I found that they didn’t last all that long. So I did some research (aka I Googled a place that was near my apartment) and last-minute made an appointment to get spray tanned for a wedding I had.

My first choice was whether to do the airbrush tan in a machine or be sprayed by a professional. The machine was cheaper (around $28 plus tax), but since it’s a standing machine, there’s a lot of room for errors. Getting sprayed by a person is much more precise (and cost around $42 plus tax) and the person knows what they are doing. You also have to be comfortable standing naked (or almost naked) with a complete stranger while they spray you with a cold tanning spray. I’ll admit at first I was a little apprehensive, but I figured, “Hey, I’m sure shes’s seen worse bodies, right?” I wore underwear (which is advised) and these babies so I didn’t feel totally naked. Although the girl tanning me told me most people go bare up top, I brought the nipplomats anyway since I had them lying around (they’re great for wearing with sheer tops or crazy plunging dresses where a bra simply isn’t logical).

The process itself was easy and painless (and there’s no risk of skin cancer, which is the main selling point). I put on the shower cap and manuevered myself into the various positions so she could spray me evenly. I got 2 coats (1 coat is light, 2 is medium and 3 would be dark) and thought it looked good. The whole process took about 15 minutes, including the 5  minutes I was advised to let myself dry before putting on clothing (loose, dark clothing).

The only cons was that it’s a bit pricey, but if it’s something you do once a month or only for big events, it’s very reasonable. I had very minimal splotches (the one I did was my own fault, which you’ll read about below) and the color was not fake at all. I got tons of compliments on my tan and felt really self-confident wearing my bright green dress to the wedding. The tan lasted for about 5 days before it started to get a little splotchy and fade, but I honestly got 7 full days out of it before I had to exfoliate it all off to get back to my pale(r) self.

Tips for Your First Spray Tan

Shave 24-36 hours before your appointment

I was a bit of a procrastinator and ended up shaving 12 hours before my appointment. The only reason this matters is that 1. every time you shave, you’re exfoliating the top layer or two of skin, and therefore removing some of the tan, and 2. if you shave too soon before getting sprayed, the color will end up in your pores, giving your legs (and armpits and chest area) the appearance of little dark brown/black dots. This happened to me. While it wasn’t noticeable from a few feet away, if you were sitting right next to me starting at my chicken legs, you would notice the dots. Lesson learned.

Apply lotion to the following spots right before tanning

Some parts of your body absorb color easier and can lead to patchiness or product buildup. This includes your cuticles/tips of your fingers, palms, ankles, knees (front and back) and elbows (front and back). I forgot to put some on the inner joint of my elbows and they were a tad dark. If you do get dark spots, exfoliate right away gently with a loofah and a bit of lemon juice and the spots go right away.

Color will rub off – no matter what they say

I feel like maybe I’m a weirdo who sweats a lot, but every time I’ve used a fake tanning product or gotten a fake tan, I bleed color onto my sheets and clothing. It’s never too too bad, but it’s enough to leave marks on my sheets and have James complain. They say not to do anything physical, cry, sweat profusely, etc. since the color can run, but it’s summer, man. I’m going to sweat while sleeping a littttttle. So in the future I’d lay out a dark blanket or sleep on old, shitty sheets to not have to worry about this.

I didn’t really take before and after photos, but you can look at yesterday’s post to see what the tan looked like (photos in the green dress are from my spray tan).


  1. I spray tan quite a lot and have been doing it since high school. I started with the mystic tan booths but you’re totally right – there’s a lot of room for error with those. I’ve had much better luck with the airbrush tans. But yes, it’s expensive (I pay around $38 + tip if I’m purchasing a single tan (with no sales tax here in Oregon woo!). But I usually buy a package (which brings the price way down) based on the number of times I think I’ll use it in the near future. Since I knew I had 2 weddings + 1 bachelorette party + my birthday coming up (like I knew I had at the beginning of this summer), I pre-bought 5 spray tans because I knew I’d use them. I actually really love spray tanning and think that when it’s done right it can look very natural but my biggest gripe (aside from the price) is the smell + how sticky and gross I feel right afterwards. But I think the pretty glow for the days following is worth it…

  2. I have never done a spray tan before. Truth – ever since I saw the Friends episode when Ross gets a spray tan, I have been afraid to try it. I would totally be the one to end up with one side way darker than the other.

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