Spray Tan vs Self Tan – Difference and Which Is Better?

Do you want a sun-kissed glow without damaging your skin with UV rays from the sun or tanning beds?

Let’s see what options we have!

Spray tanning and self-tanning are popular alternatives to traditional tanning methods.

Spray tanning involves applying a mist of tanning solution to your skin in a booth or by a technician, while self-tanning products like lotions, mousses, and sprays you can apply at home.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of spray tanning and self-tanning, as well as tips for achieving a natural-looking tan and avoiding common mistakes. 

Spray tanning

Spray tanning is a method of applying a sunless tanning solution to your skin to create a temporary, natural-looking tan without the need for exposure to harmful UV rays.

This method involves using a specialized spray gun or airbrush to apply the tanning solution to your skin, which will then absorb this solution and create a tan that can last for days.

The tanning solution used in spray tanning usually contains a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with the amino acids in the top layer of your skin to create a brown color similar to a natural tan.

Some spray tans may also contain other ingredients such as bronzers or moisturizers to enhance the final result.

Before you get your tan, it’s important to properly prep your skin by exfoliating and moisturizing to ensure even application.

During the spray tan appointment, you will typically wear minimal clothing or a swimsuit to allow the technician to spray the solution onto all areas of your body evenly.

After the spray tan, it is important that you avoid showering or sweating for several hours to allow the tanning solution to fully develop.

Once the solution has developed, you can shower as usual, but it is important to avoid using exfoliating products or anything that may cause your tan to fade more quickly.

Overall, spray tanning is a convenient and safe alternative to sun exposure for achieving a natural-looking tan.

However, it is important that you choose a reputable salon or technician, and that you follow all instructions for the best results.


Self-tanning is a method of creating a temporary, sunless tan on your skin without exposing your skin to harmful UV rays from the sun or a tanning bed.

This method involves using a self-tanning product such as a lotion, cream, spray, or mousse that contains a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

As we mentioned before, when you apply it to your skin, DHA reacts with the amino acids in the outermost layer of the skin and produces a brown hue that resembles a natural tan.

You can find self-tanning products in a range of shades to match different skin tones. You can apply them all over your body or just on specific areas for a more targeted tan.

It’s very important to exfoliate and hydrate your skin before applying self-tanner to ensure you apply the product evenly. You can apply self-tanners with gloves or mittens to prevent staining on your hands.

When you’re done applying your self-tanner, give it time to fully develop. Some self-tanning products may take several hours to fully develop, while others may offer an instant tan that can be washed off after a few hours.

It’s worth noting that self-tanner does not offer UV protection and you should use it along with sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage.

Spray Tanning: Booths vs. Handheld

Both spray tanning booths and handheld airbrushes have their pros and cons. Here are a few things you should consider:


Spray tanning booths are often found in tanning or beauty salons, so they are easily accessible to everyone.

They are programmed to provide a consistent spray, which can be useful for achieving an even tan.

Spray tanning booths can also cover large areas of your body quickly and efficiently, making them a faster option than handheld devices.

Also, the booths offer privacy! Some people may feel more comfortable in a booth than being sprayed by someone else.

However, while spray tanning booths may offer different levels of darkness, they cannot be fully customized to the user.

This means they may not be able to adjust for the contours of your body like the person spraying you could. Therefore, some areas such as your face and armpits may require additional touch-up.

Handheld devices:

Handheld airbrushes may offer a great level of customization, allowing you to adjust the intensity and coverage to your liking.

With a spray gun, you have more control over the application. You can easily reach difficult areas and can ensure even coverage without much hassle.

On the other hand, a spray gun can take longer to apply than spray tanning booths, especially if you’re doing it yourself.

In this case, the spray gun can be messy, and the spray can get on clothes, furniture and other surfaces. It also takes some practice to use a hand sprayer yourself for a smooth and even application.

Ultimately, the choice between a spray tanning booth and a spray gun comes down to your personal preference and individual needs.

If you’re looking for convenience and speed, a booth may be your best bet. However, if you want a more customized and even tan, a handheld device may be the way to go.

Spray Tan vs Self Tan – Difference

Both spray tans and self-tanners can produce a natural-looking tan, but results can vary depending on the product and application method you choose to use.

Here are some differences between spray tanning and self-tanning, and which one might be better for you:

  • Application

Spray tanning is usually done in a salon, where a technician sprays a fine mist of tanning solution onto your skin using a spray gun or booth.

On the other hand, you can do self-tanning at home with the help of various products, such as foams, lotions and sprays, which you apply directly to the skin.

  • Results

Spray tanning provides more even and precise coverage because the solution is applied by a technician with professional equipment.

Self-tanning can be more difficult to apply evenly and can result in streaks or uneven color if you fail to apply it properly.

  • Convenience

For spray tanning, you need to make an appointment in the salon in advance, while self-tanning can be done at home in your free time.

Self-tanning products are also typically more affordable than spray tanning sessions.

  • Drying time

Spray tans typically dry faster than self-tanning products, which can take several hours to fully dry and develop.

  • Longevity

Both spray tans and self-tanning products can last anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on how well you maintain them and how often you expose your skin to the water.

Ultimately, the choice between spray tanning and self-tanning comes down to personal preference and lifestyle.

Spray tanning is a good option for those who want a quick, professional-looking tan for a special occasion, while self-tanning may be more suitable for those who want to maintain a tan over a longer period of time or prefer to do it themselves at home.

Which is better and why?

Whether spray tan or self-tan is better largely depends on personal preference, budget, and convenience, and the desired outcome.

Spray tans are applied by a professional in a salon using a spray gun or booth.

The technician will use a spray gun and spray the solution on your body, which will then develop into a tan in a relatively short amount of time.

Spray tan provides a quick and even application; they can be customized to your skin tone, and can last up to a week.

It’s also good for hard-to-reach areas, like your back, that you may find difficult to get an even tan with self-tanning products.

However, spray tan can be expensive and may not provide as much control over the final color and intensity as self-tan.

On the other hand, you can apply self-tanning products at home. They come in different forms, such as lotions, foams and sprays.

They are generally more affordable than spray tans and give you more control over the final result

However, self-tanning can be time-consuming, as it requires exfoliating, moisturizing, and waiting for the product to develop.

Self-tan products can also be difficult to apply evenly, especially in hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, fake tans can be prone to streaking or fading unevenly.

Self-tanning products are widely available and you can buy them at pharmacies or beauty supply stores.

Ultimately, some people may prefer the convenience and customization of a spray tan, while others may opt for the affordability and control of a self-applied fake tan.

How many days will a sunless tan last?

The duration of a sunless tan, either from a spray tan or self-tanner, depends on several factors such as skin type, application method, and maintenance routine.

Generally, a sunless tan will last between 5 to 10 days, but it can vary from person to person.

People with dry skin may find that their sunless tan fades faster than those with oily skin, as the tan tends to cling better to skin with more natural oils.

Additionally, the way the sunless tan is applied can also affect its longevity.

Proper exfoliation and moisturizing prior to application can help the tan last longer, while activities such as swimming, sweating, or rubbing the skin can cause it to fade faster.

In general, maintaining a sunless tan requires regular moisturizing and avoiding activities that could cause the tan to wear off quickly.

Do spray tans last longer than self-tanners?

Spray tans and self-tanners can last for similar lengths of time, but this can vary depending on several factors, such as the quality of the product, how well it was applied, and how well you take care of your skin after application.

Generally speaking, spray tans can last up to 7-10 days, while self-tanners can last anywhere from 3-7 days.

Spray tans tend to last longer than self-tanners because they are applied by professional using specialized equipment that ensures an even and thorough application.

Spray tans also often contain higher concentrations of DHA (the active ingredient in self-tanners that causes the color change)which can result in a longer-lasting tan.

However, both spray tans and self-tanners may start to fade or become patchy after a few days, especially if you are exposing your skin to water, sweating, or friction from clothing.

If you want to prolong the life of your tan, it’s important to keep your skin well hydrated and avoid activities that can dry out or irritate your skin.

It’s also a good idea to avoid exfoliating your skin for at least 24 hours after you’ve applied self-tanners or getting a spray tan, as this can cause the color to fade faster.

In summary, both spray tans and self-tanners can provide a similar length of time before fading, but the duration of the tan will depend on several factors and can vary from person to person.

How long should I wait after using a self tanner before I shower?

The length of time you should wait after using a self-tanner before showering can vary depending on the specific product.

However, as a general rule, it is usually recommended that you wait at least 4-8 hours before showering after applying self-tanner.

This waiting period allows the self-tanner to fully develop and absorb into your skin, which will ensure that the color is even and long-lasting.

If you shower too soon after applying self-tanner, you may risk washing off some of the product before it has had a chance to fully work.

It is also worth noting that some self-tanners may require longer wait times before showering or may have specific instructions for post-application care.

You should read and follow the instructions provided with your chosen self-tanner for the best results.

How long after tanning should I avoid pool/spa/ocean?

When using a self-tanner, it is recommended to avoid swimming or immersing yourself in water for at least 4-6 hours after application.

This will give the product enough time to fully develop and prevent the color from fading or streaking.

However, it’s always best to follow the specific instructions provided by the self-tanning or spray tanning product you are using, as some products may have different recommendations.

Additionally, it’s important to note that chlorine in pools and hot tubs can cause your tan to fade faster, so it’s best to avoid prolonged exposure to these substances to help maintain your tan for longer.

It’s also a good idea to rinse off with cool water after swimming to help remove any chlorine or salt water from your skin.

Will the spray tanning application come off on my clothes?

There is a possibility that the spray tanning application can come off on your clothes, especially if you have not allowed enough time for the solution to fully dry and develop on your skin.

In general, it is recommended that you avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing or anything that may rub against your skin for at least 4-6 hours after a spray tan to prevent the solution from transferring onto your clothes.

It is also worth noting that some spray tanning solutions may contain bronzers or other ingredients that can transfer onto clothing, especially if they come into contact with moisture.

To minimize the risk of transfer, it is important to wear loose-fitting, dark-colored clothing after a spray tan and avoid sweating or getting wet until the tanning solution has fully developed.

To further minimize the risk of transfer, you can also consider using a barrier cream or lotion on areas where clothing may rub against your skin, such as the elbows, knees, and ankles.

It is also important to follow any specific instructions provided by the salon or technician to ensure the best results and minimize the risk of transfer.

What about the after-odor often associated with sunless tanning?

The after-odor that is often associated with sunless tanning is caused by the reaction of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in most sunless tanning products, with the amino acids on the surface of the skin.

This reaction can produce an unpleasant odor that is often described as “biscuity” or “earthy”.

To minimize the after-odor associated with sunless tanning, there are several things you can do.

You can choose a product that contains deodorizing agents or natural fragrances to mask the odor.

It is a good idea to shower before applying the product to remove any bacteria or sweat that may contribute to the odor.

You can use a pH-balanced body wash or soap to maintain the natural balance of your skin, which can help reduce the intensity of the after-odor.

It is worth noting that while the after-odor can be unpleasant, it is generally not harmful and will dissipate over time.

How can I avoid over-tanned hands and feet?

To avoid over- tanned hands and feet when using self-tanners, you can apply a thin layer of sunscreen or lotion to your hands and soles of your feet before applying the self-tanner.

This will help prevent the product from staining these areas and creating an unnatural, over-tanned look.

You can also use a tanning mitt or gloves to apply the self-tanner to prevent product build-up in certain areas.

You can also dilute the self-tanner with a little moisturizer or lotion before applying it to your hands and feet, or consider using a lighter formula for these areas.

It is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after applying the self-tanner to remove excess product and prevent staining.

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