My Spray Tan Tips

Jessica Sturdy at Coachella 2018 wearing cut off denim shorts, a crop top, and sneakers, with a red crossbody bag.

Questions about spray tans? I’ve got you covered. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about getting and maintaining spray tans lately, and I was recently chatting with a few girlfriends about all of my tried and true tips, so I figured it was worth doing a whole post about!

I’ll preface this post by saying that I feel like I have a slower cell turnover rate or something. Whenever my skin gets color from the sun, it lasts for ages. So I do think that plays to my advantage with spray tans, since the faux tan forms by the ingredients in spray tan formulas (both at a salon and in the lotions and creams you use at home) mixing with dead skin cells on your skin. But I am very particular about my routine before and after spray tans, and I think that definitely plays a part in why they last so long, too!

My spray tanning started back in New York… One of my best friends in NYC worked for St. Tropez so I learned so much from her and their in-house celebrity tanner, Sophie! And now in Chicago, I’ve become friends with Rae at Rae Does Beauty who does my tans. So let’s just say, I’ve got the inside scoop and have done a lot of trial and error myself. You guys know I do my due diligence with all things beauty and product research!

Here’s what works for me…

24 Hours Before My Appointment

I shower, exfoliate, and shave with a fresh razor. I don’t do this the day of my appointment, always the night before. Once in NYC, I noticed that if I shaved the same day as my appointment, the formula almost settled into my hair follicles. So I always shave the day before and go into my appointment with a slight “5 o’clock shadow,” if that makes sense.

Day of Appointment (Before)

You can’t work out or shower after your appointment, so I always do that before my appointment! After your shower, you can put moisturizer on your face, but no body moisturizer, deodorant, or perfume. This is why I typically shower just before heading to my appointment! This is also why I prefer to go as late as I can, usually sometime between 6-8pm. (If you need to get your nails done, make sure to do it before your appointment, too.) I also put my “spray tan sheets” on my bed for later. I have a cheap dark blue pair that I put on instead of my usual nice white pairs of sheets! Probably not that necessary, but I’m obsessed with my sheets and they’re pricey, so why not take the extra precaution? (I only leave them on that first night or two!)

At Your Appointment

This is TMI, I’m sure, but I’ve had friends who are new to spray tans ask me, so I know you’re probably wondering if you’re in the same boat. What do you wear during your spray tan? Personally, I get mine in my birthday suit. It’s totally a personal preference, I just don’t like tan lines. They provide disposable paper undies that you can wear during your tan or roll into a thong, whatever you’re comfortable with. You can also wear a dark-colored bathing suit! I know a lot of breastfeeding moms will wear a dark strapless bra/swimsuit because they’ll need to nurse before they can wash their tan off.

With my girl Rae, she’s quick. You’re in and out in like 15 minutes. It’s not one size fits all with color, obviously… She mixes the color based on what look I want, my skin tone, etc. And she always makes me feel beyond comfortable while standing there naked, haha!

Day of Appointment (After)

I wear loose clothing to my appointment (literally the same exact outfit every single time, haha) … A loose black tee without a bra, loose pants sans underwear, and flip flops. Needless to say, I go straight home, haha. Technically, you’re pretty much fine after you dry, but I just take extra precaution and it’s worked out well. I don’t wash my face (or even my hands) that night. Over the next few hours, you’ll see your tan starting to develop and get darker. But don’t freak out if it starts to look “too dark,” trust me.

Morning After Appointment

Warning: You’re going to wake up and think OMFG! Don’t fret, you’re going to see the crazy dark bronze wash off in the shower immediately. I rinse off my tan (without using a loofah or washcloth)… Just with body wash and my hands. You can technically shower after 4-8 hours (depending on which formula you get), but I feel like it lasts longer if I let it set for closer to 12 hours. If you need to shave your legs, go ahead and do so, but I usually wait until my next shower.

Post-Spray Tan Tips

This is the part that makes all the difference, honestly! Following these tips will significantly increase the longevity of your tan, trust.

  1. ALWAYS PAT DRY! When you shower for the next 7-10 days, pat your entire body dry with a towel… No rubbing dry like you normally would.
  2. ALWAYS MOISTURIZE! Moisturize your entire body liberally right after you get out of the shower! If you don’t shower one day, I’d still make time to moisturize. As I mentioned before, your tan is created by the DHAs (tanning ingredients) mixing with your (dead) skin cells so you want to try to keep those on your body for as long as you can. I absolutely swear by Jergens Tan Extender. I used to use St Tropez Tan Optimiser, but they stopped making it and replaced it with this lotion. I haven’t tried this new one, but LMK if you have! None of these lotions have color in them so you don’t have to worry about waiting to dry, streaking, etc. Truly just moisturizer meant to make your tan last!
  3. In the shower, I just stick to shower gel and my hands to wash my body! I avoid loofahs for at least a week to slow the exfoliation process.
  4. If you start to notice a little bit of spotchyness with your tan or fading in areas, lightly exfoliate with a very gentle scrub or gently use your shower pouf and a moisturizing body wash in those areas to blend.
  5. You can shave as you normally would, but the more you shave, the quicker your tan will fade.
  6. Avoid massages, waxing, and anything else that will speed up your exfoliation or has a lot of skin rubbing.
  7. From personal experience, avoid pools or hot tubs for long periods of time, or letting a wet suit sit on your skin for extended periods of time! (Two years ago, I sat in the hot tub at our Coachella house for probably two hours and my tan was pretty much gone from the waist down, haha. #chemicals)
  8. Same thing with sweaty clothes after a workout, change out of them quickly or at least take off your sports bra so it’s not rubbing. (Personally, I always see fading the fastest around my bra line, just from the friction and sweat!)


I almost always get my tan the day before I’m headed out of town. So say I have a flight on Friday… I schedule my tan appointment on Thursday night, and do my exfoliating on Wednesday night. I shower Friday morning before the airport, but I still feel *very* tan that morning. I feel like it “settles in” more throughout the day and looks perfect by Friday night, especially if I take a second shower. (Before dinner on Friday night, for example.)

With a local event (let’s say a Saturday wedding), I’d probably do the same thing! Tan on Thursday night or Friday morning. If you have a Friday event, I’d probably scoot that up a day and get your tan on Wednesday night.

If you’re flying internationally, here’s what I’ve done… I had a 6pm flight to Europe, so I had to leave my apartment around 3:45pm for the airport. I got a tan at 12pm that day so it was *almost* fully set by the time I left for the airport. (That made me feel better about wearing clothes, but I still wore my “spray tan outfit” to the airport and on the flight. I just wore a loose sweatshirt over the top, too!) I landed in Europe at 9am and made it to where I was staying around 10am and showered then so it had *lots* of extra hours to set. I gotta say, that tan lasted longer than any tan I’ve ever had! I think it’s always best to wait as long as you can to shower.

Where to Get a Spray Tan in Chicago

For my Chicago ladies, the only place to go is Rae Does Beauty! Rae has worked in the industry for ages and has now trained an entire team under her. I’ve had countless tans from Rae and her team and have never had any streaking or orange-ness. Honestly, flawless every single time!

Any other questions?! Let me know!






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Leave a Comment


  1. 7.17.18
    Rena said:

    I see you are a pro! It looks perfect and you are so beautiful!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      Thank you Rena! xo

  2. 7.17.18
    Allie said:

    Our friends just told us over the weekend how much they love spray tans, these tips are great! They mentioned funny streaks, and now I can tell them what to do!
    Have a great Tuesday, xAllie

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      Thanks for passing it along! I’ve heard that machines can leave weird streaks so I only go where a person is hand-spraying me.

  3. 7.17.18
    Katie said:

    Thank you for these tips! I’m getting my first ever spray tan in a couple of weeks for my bachelorette party and these are so helpful!!

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      So glad to hear! Hope you love getting it done!

  4. 7.17.18
    Cyndi said:

    Have you ever considered a home spray tan machine? I’ve seen some on Amazon for example. I seem to be paying a lot and would like to do it myself. I pretty much spray tan once a week or by weekly. Some weeks last longer than others just depends on what my workout schedule looks like lol!! I totally have the same routine as you do when it comes to my spray tan.
    Thank you for your feedback
    Cyndi O.

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      I totally hear ya on the workout schedule, that makes a big difference! I usually get my tans before a trip (and tend to work out a lot less when traveling) so I love how they last much longer then. I’ve never considered an in-home machine. For starters, I don’t have room in a small one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. But it wouldn’t make sense for me financially… I typically only go once a month at most! I save the tans for before trips or special occasions so once in a while I’ll have to get two in one month.

  5. 7.17.18
    Bradley Stern said:

    Where should I get the best spray tan in Boca Raton ?
    Which is the best self apply spray tan? I prefer spray so it is more even and less messy.
    Thanks ,

    • 7.17.18
      Taylor said:

      California Tan Spray works amazing!!!!

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      I don’t do the self apply, so I’m not able to personally recommend anything! I’ve heard the St Tropez bronzing mousse + mit works well. And unfortunately I’ve never been to Boca Raton so I really have no idea about suggestions there.

  6. 7.18.18
    Katie said:

    Love these tips; thanks! I’m about to head from Chi to Miami for a few days and getting a spray tan before–do you have any thoughts on salt water’s effects on your spray tan?

    I LOVE the ocean, but I’ll take it easy on Day 1 if I need to!

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      I actually have no idea, but I would steer on the more cautious side and take it easy on Day 1!

  7. 7.20.18
    Gabby said:

    Such a pro – this was so helpful! Any recommendations for places in NYC?

    • 7.23.18
      Jessica said:

      I never went anywhere in NYC unfortunately… I was able to coordinate with my friends at St Tropez and get tanned in their office.