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. 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.
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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 day three 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.
A good spray tan should last for five to 10 days, however the face and hands will fade the quickest (due to heavy duty cleansing and washing) so invest in a good self-tan for the face. Face self-tanners are also a perfect way to touch up the hands as they are lighter in formulation than body products; you won’t need to worry about them developing too darkly. Just make sure you wipe your palms and nails with a cleansing wipe after application to avoid buildup and residue in those places.
10. Don’t sweat it.
Heavy exercise, sweating, sunscreen, and chlorine can really deplete the life of your tan, so after the gym, beach, or pool, apply a gradual tanner to boost and maintain your glow. St. Tropez’s Gradual In-Shower Tan is a genius invention that makes self-tanning totally foolproof (and mess-proof): Take a shower, apply to wet skin, wait three minutes, and rinse! Use your gradual tanner when you’ve had a physical day or every three to four days to boost color in-between spray tan appointments.
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.