I have been getting spray tans since high school, so I like to consider myself quite the aficionado. In fact, at one point I had a spray tan membership. That meant I could go get a spray tan as many times as I wanted and paid a flat monthly fee. It was glorious. Then the reality of buying a house (and now starting a family) led me to cancel those unnecessary things in life. However, you will still find me getting sprayed every now and again.
Below are some FAQ's on the two types of spray tanning that I do, Mystic Tan and custom spray tan, *WARNING: Super long post
Q: Where do you go and what kind of spray tan are you getting?
A: It depends on if I'm doing the spray tan booth or getting sprayed by a human (yes, you stand in front of a professional naked and they hand spray you with an airbrush). For the booths, I go to my local tanning salon and do the Mystic Tan. For the individual tan, you have to do a little research but you will find some salons offer hand done airbrush tans.
Q: For a special event like my wedding, what do you recommend for first timers?
A: If you have never done a Mystic tan or any other booth tan, do NOT do it for an important event such as your wedding. No matter how well you follow instructions, you are at a huge risk for a streaky orange-ish color. For these events, I cannot stress enough to go to someone who will airbrush your tan for you. Not only does this minimize streaking, but they also custom create a color just for you based on how dark you want to be and the coloring you currently have.
Q: Do you have to be naked?
A: For the spray booths, being naked works the best, however if you are apprehensive you can wear a bathing suit or bra and underwear you don't care about. Just be aware that it will most likely be ruined and you will have some crazy tan lines. As far as the custom spraying goes, I definitely understand the fear of just being naked in front of a complete stranger while they spray you so you have a few choices. Most places will at least give you paper underwear to wear so it's just like being topless. Again, if you want to be more covered, as long as you are prepared to ruin your undergarments then feel free.
Q: How do you keep from getting orange and streaky like Ross on Friends?
A: I think this is every one's biggest fear (especially when doing a booth for the first time) Everyone seems to have seen that episode and whenever they find out I spray tan that's the first question. First, the technology has gotten so much better just in the past 10 years that I've been doing it. Second, it's all about following the directions. The booths have detailed instructions on how to protect your nails, palms and hair...follow them! Also, most of the booths talk to you while you are in there. They tell you where to place your feet, how to stand and when to turn. It's really not rocket science. Something they don't really stress is to let yourself air dry as much as possible before using a towel and scrapping your skin.
Q: How long before my event should I get a spray tan?
A: I recommend 24-36 hours before your event to get sprayed. This allows for a shower and for your coloring to develop and be at it's peak.
Q: How long before I shower?
A: This is my favorite question. Both types of spray tan will say 4-6 hours before being wet. Here's what I say. Wait at least 12 hours, if not more (I try to go 36 hours). The longer you can wait for the color to develop and sink in, the better. Sure you might not smell good and feel a bit grimy, but if you can stand it, wait. I usually recommend going at night right after a shower so you can at least sleep in it.
Q: Do you shower/shave before going?
A: Absolutely. You want to have the cleanest and freshest skin possible. It is recommended that you exfoliate before going as well. I am pretty lazy and don't do all that. I figure using a loofah and shaving your legs is exfoliating enough. Don't put on lotion.
Q: Do I need all the products they sell?
A: No. I do nothing to prep my skin but exfoliate and after I will use regular lotion to help keep my tan. The only thing I will buy is a scent to put in the spray tan to help with that icky smell. It usually costs a dollar more and definitely worth it if for some reason you are going somewhere right after you get sprayed.
Q: What do you wear after you've been sprayed?
A: Loose and light. If at all possible, have no makeup on and the loosest clothes you can find. I even try to wear minimum undergarments as they are tight and can create lines. Typically I will wear a t-shirt, sweat pants and flip flops because as soon as I'm done, I'm going home and going to bed to marinade.
Q: How do I make sure my face doesn't turn out orange or splotchy?
A: I am never concerned about this because isn't that what make up is for? I keep to my face routine as normal for fear of breaking out and just go one shade darker in my foundation to match the rest of skin. Nothing weirder than a super tan body and a snow white face.
Q: How long until I am noticeably tan?
A: Again, they say the color will develop in 4-6 hours. This DOES NOT mean you get it done 4 hours before you want to be tan. You will notice a gradual color change that will reach its darkest between 12-24 hours (hence why you wait as long as possible to shower)
Q: How long does your tan last?
A: I can usually get a good week before I start to notice it getting splotchy. In order to make it last the longest, I use lotion (the drugstore gradual tan stuff) everyday and use a soft cloth when I shower so I'm not scrapping my tan off every time I bathe. Also, when you are drying off, pat dry, don't rub.
I hope you find these tips helpful and inspires you to stay out of the tanning bed and get that perfect color safely! It may seem like a lot of work, but once you do it a few times, it all becomes second nature. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask! I'm sure there are things I've left out.