Can You Swim With a Spray Tan?

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Can You Swim With a Spray Tan?

If you’ve got an upcoming vacation or beach day planned after your latest spray tan, then you’ve probably been asking yourself can you swim with a spray tan?

The answer to this question is a bit more involved, but the simple answer is yes, you can swim with a spray tan.

However, exposing yourself to water for too long while wearing a spray tan may dissolve the thin layer of tanning spray. 

In today’s article, we’re going to be discussing water exposure and spray tans. We’ll cover whether or not swimming in the pool or ocean is better, and we’ll briefly talk about showering and bathing with a spray tan.

Finally, we’ll also give you some helpful tips for planning your next vacation around your spray tan so that you don’t have to worry about wasting any of your hard-earned money on a sunless tan that’s just going to fall off in the water. 

Can You Swim With A Spray Tan?  

As we mentioned, you can certainly swim with a spray tan. But the longer that you spend in the water, the more you increase the chance of your sunless tan wearing off sooner than it otherwise would.

You’ll be left with your natural skin tone underneath.

The good news is that it’s perfectly safe, you’re not going to harm yourself by going in the water.

The bad news is that it can leave you with a splotchy spray tan.

Ugh, that’s going to require some work to fix

To understand why this is, let’s take a minute to look at how spray tans work so we can better explain why spray tans come off so easily. 

How Spray Tans Work

Spray tans work by coating the surface layer of your skin with a compound called DHA (dihydroxyacetone). Although it may sound a bit “chemically,” fake DHA tans are actually a far safer alternative to tanning in the sun or a UV tanning bed. See our article on spray tans vs tanning beds for a detailed comparison.

They produce a similar dark skin tone without exposing your skin to harmful cancer-causing radiation. This is part of why spray tans have become so popular in recent years. They’re not risk-free, but spray tans have very minor health risks.

There are many spray tan solutions on the market compatible with spray tan machines. The most popular (and possibly best) brand is Norvell. This tanning solution, the Ultra Vivid Color, is an excellent example of a classic spray tan solution.

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After you spray DHA or rub a DHA-based lotion on your skin, the compound reacts with the surface layer of your skin. Your skin’s surface is almost entirely made up of old, dead skin cells that have yet to flake-off naturally or be exfoliated

The DHA interacts with the amino acids and proteins that are contained within this layer of dead skin, causing them to release mellaninoids. This turns your skin a darker shade of brown and gives you that “freshly tanned at the beach” appearance.

In a nutshell, DHA oxidizes your dead skin cells in a similar way to how air will turn an apple a darker shade of brown. 

All of this being said, it also means that your spray tan doesn’t penetrate any deeper than the surface.

That’s a good thing!

If you go in the shower and scrub yourself too hard or expose yourself to water for long periods of time, then the surface layer of your skin may be naturally exfoliated. 

The main problem with premature spray tan exfoliation, is that not all of it will come off at the same time. This, in turn, means that your spray tan will take on a “splotchy” look.

Some patches of your skin will be lighter where the DHA-tanned skin has worn off and other areas of your skin will still be dark. 

Showering With A Spray Tan

Obviously, you need to shower on a daily basis and stay clean. How will it affect your spray tan, though? Your best bet is to exfoliate your skin as hard as possible before you get your spray tan.

This ensures that all of your soon-to-be-flakey skin is already removed, giving the spray tan a solid foundation to bond to. 

We’ve put together a detailed article on showering after a spray tan.

Here’s the TLDR:

  • Shower with room temperature water, not hot water. Hot water causes the skin to exfoliate faster. The cooler the water temperature, the better. 
  • Don’t scrub or exfoliate your skin. If possible, don’t use soap at all.
  • If you do use soap to cleanse yourself, you should lather it on lightly using only your hands. Then, allow the cool water to rinse the suds off. This will remove the dirt and grime from your skin without necessarily messing up your spray tan. 
  • Wait at least 24 hours if you plan to shave after a spray tan

We’ve put together detailed articles on showering after tanning and washing hair after a spray tan as guides. Also, consider the impact of sweating after a spray tan as well.

Does Spray Tan Come Off In a Pool?

If you’ve ever gone swimming in a chlorinated pool, then you probably remember just how dry your skin was after you got out of the water and dried off a little. This is because chlorine pulls all of the healthy oils out of your skin and causes dry skin to fall off faster.

As you can imagine, this is not very good for a spray tan. If you can, avoid swimming in a chlorine pool after a spray tan. And remember: moisturize!

Do Spray Tans Come Off In Salt Water?

The only thing that’s worse for your spray tan than chlorine is saltwater. While salt water is great for your skin, it’s a strong exfoliator. You know, think about all those salt scrubs, often made of seawater!

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That means that the majority of your spray tan will probably wear off with 20 or 30-minutes of exposure to the strong currents and microscopic salt particles.

You’re probably ok to take a quick dip to cool off, and then dry your skin completely. But don’t spend long in the ocean. 

Can You Go To The Beach With a Spray Tan?

You can go to the beach with a fake tan, but be sure to bring your beach umbrella and hat! If you try to lay out in the sun and soak up the UV rays with a sunless tan, you’ll get the rays… but you’ll also fade your glow!

UV rays encourage skin cells to shed. This means that the skin cells that are currently housing your fake tan will shed off and your sunless tan will fade.

So while you can go to the beach and swim in the ocean, you want to make sure you’re covered up and protected from UV rays (and we don’t mean sunscreen!) and you stay out of salt water except for quick dips.

As an aside: sunless tans provide no protection against UV rays, unlike what a real tan does. Just because your skin looks dark doesn’t mean it’s protected against sunburn.

Can You Get In A Hot Tub With A Spray Tan? 

Out of everything we’ve mentioned so far, hot tubs are probably the worst thing for a spray tan! Not only do they contain high levels of chlorine, but the water is also incredibly hot and can dissolve your spray tan in minutes

How To Plan Your Vacation Around Your Spray Tan

If you’re going on vacation anytime soon, then you’ll need to plan your spray tan carefully. Your best bet is to get your spray tan a couple of days before your trip. This will ensure that your skin is nice and golden-brown so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb on a Malibu beach. 

When you arrive, spend the first day tanning in the sun (but remember, this is going ot fade your tan!). The lower layers of your skin will quickly tan. Towards the end of the day, you can go swimming. Even if the water exfoliates your spray tan, you’ll already be tan underneath from spending that time in the sun!

See our article on spray tans before vacation for more information and strategies to keep your skin looking amazing on your trip!

See also: baby powder after a spray tan

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).