How long after a spray tan can I shower?

Heidi Reid

Posted on March 11 2016

Just exactly when you should be showering after your spray tanning appointment?

Your Tan Girl tells you that you can wash your tan off after 2 hours - but really can you, and what else do you need to know?


You: If you are spraying the tan on, why are you telling me to wash it off?

Me: Good question.  What you actually see sprayed is the bronzer.  The ingredient that actually tans your skin is clear.  

We use bronzer in spray tan solution for 2 reasons:

1) So you the client have the instant gratification that you have had a spray tan; and 

2) So we can see where we are applying the tan.  (imagine spraying you with a clear liquid - makes it much harder to see where/what we are applying).


You: So if the tanning ingredient is clear - how do I go brown?

Me: The way you go brown is a chemical reaction between the outer layer of your skin and the tanning ingredient.  The process is called the Maillard Reaction. The tanning ingredient (DHA) works with the outer layer of your skin which causes a brown colouration to occur.


You: So can I wash this tan off in a couple of hours? 

Me: Yes!  But.... not if you want a dark tan.  We know that the Maillard Reaction takes time.  

Approximately 40% of the colour change happens in the first 2 hours.  This is what enables tanners to say you can wash your tan off in 2 hours.  What so many of them forget to tell you is that even though you wash the bronzer off, the colour will continue to develop for up to 18-24 hours.  

If you leave the bronzer on your skin longer prior to wash off, this will help darker the end result - however, full results can still take up to 24 hours to hit their capacity.


You: What did you call me?

Me: I called you the apple.  Bet you haven't been called that before?  But I say that to all my clients they are the apple.

The way you go brown is the same way an apple goes brown when you cut it and leave it on the bench.  The longer it's sitting on the bench, the browner the apple goes - so does your skin.


You: My Tan Girl says Tan X (insert any brand name) must be washed off after X number of hours.  

Me:  I'm calling bullsh!t.  You now know, it's a chemical reaction between the tanning ingredient, and the wearer's skin.  What works for one person, won't be replicated for another.  It's also highly possible the tan results that the one client gets will vary from one tan to the next, because the skin is constantly changing you simply can't expect the exact same result due to changes in hormones, medication, humidity yaddah yaddah. 


You: Why is the first shower so important?

Me: Simply - Because it can make or break your spray tan result.  When you have your first shower, it's essential that you have a light rinse.  Over my time I have seen variations on what a light rinse is, and the best way to explain it is this.

You need to wash thoroughly enough to make sure you've washed all the bronzer off.  Wash so that the water runs clear.  You do not wash your hair.  Similarly, you don't get in, rinse for 30 seconds and then hope to God you've actually washed all the bronzer off.  If you want to use a soap or body wash you can, but it MUST be tan friendly.

You:  I was told never to use soap with my first tan is that right? 

Me: Wrong again.  Your tan girl told you to wash without soap because she doesn't have a product to give you that won't ruin your tan.

While your tan is still developing (which you know with ANY tan product (it's the science, not the brand) the tan will still take up to 24 hours to develop to it's full potential.


You: But if my tan is streaky - isn't that your fault?  

Me:  If your tan wasn't streaky when you left your tan girl - then yes, sorry girlfriend, it's likely to be your fault entirely.  

Soapy washes in western culture usually mean foamy washes, foamy washes comes from nasty ingredients known as SLS.  SLS (sodium laureth, laurel or other combinations) is a foaming agent, which works to clean.  It does however clean in a way that it strips.  You'll find it in anything that foams - bodywash, soap, shampoo and conditioner.  

So what will happen is you'll have a super soapy wash, you'll feel squeaky clean (literally), and the following day will wake up and see streak lines down your body that weren't there when you got in the shower.  You can thank your SLS wash for that - not your tan girl.  The SLS has stripped the tan :(  Be sure to use a soap without SLS - like the one above, to protect and extend the life of your tan.


You: So exactly how long does this tan last?

Me: ANY tan - self or spray is only going to last on your skin as long as the cells applied stay on your body.  No tan girl should be giving you a definitive time.  They have no idea how well you have prepared for your tan, nor what your skin will come in contact with once you leave. 

Activities like swimming and exercise are going to cause your skin to regenerate and the tanned skin cells come off.  So many clients will tan because they are going on holidays, and then a few days after they've been swimming on vacay, they have no tan left.  They need to take a tan extending product to top up their tans - such as the flight size approved Travel Tan (ships free in Australia)





 You: Any final tips?

Me:  Yeah - two!

Firstly - There is no i in team.  Every tan girl wants the absolute best for her client, but her clients need to be realistic.  If her client has milky white skin, she aint going to go Beyonce with ANY tanning product.  The result is designed to be natural, and 15% is the highest percentage DHA that the human skin can absorb and react to. 

Secondly - A flawless faux glow is a partnership.  Your tan girl can only do her best with the skin you provide her.  Proper preparation is key.  You need to ensure you have the freshest skin cells available for her to spray, which should give you the best long lasting tan.  Equally - post tan, it's essential you moisturise to keep those tanned skin cells attached to your body.  Bonus points (well bonus tan) if you use a moisturiser with tan and sunscreen in it.  

Before your next tan - be sure to remove all tan.  Especially useful is a tan eraser foam will help.  Check out how good it is! 




And of course - remember to tag your tan girl on social media to give back, share the love, and be seen as an anti skin cancer ambassador. x

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  • sunstudio: October 02, 2019

    Hi! I’m a “newbie” tan girl. I LOVE this product! I’m running into an issue tho🙄 I sprayed my first 5 girls Friday and their tans are already faded. I saw 3 of them again today so I did see with my own eyes. They all followed the pre and post instructions and I used your PH balancer on 2 of them beforehand . One of them kept the bronzer on for 10 hours before showering and the others 6 hours. Any tips on why this is and how to prevent?

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption: March 12, 2016

    I had been planning to tan all Summer but didn’t quite get there. I am terrible at the waiting around part before you can shower but then I want to not shower for as long as possible. Now after reading your tips I know that is doing the right thing.

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