Can You Tan with a Spray Tan? Soak in the Rays the Right Way!

Sunning on Beach
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There are many options now available to achieve that golden sun-kissed look without harmful UV exposure. There’s sunless tanning, bronzing, spray tans, self-tanning towelettes, etc.

These options have become more and more popular because they provide a beautiful look without the risks, available at any time of year.

However, their effects on the skin can be confusing. If you have recently gotten a spray tan or applied fake tan, can you then go tan in the sun afterward? Can you tan with a spray tan?

You can tan with a spray tan, but you need to remember:

  • UV rays will break down your spray tan, so you’ll lose it faster
  • Your spray tan does not provide any sun protection, so you’ll need to wear sunscreen

This article goes into the details on how spray tanning impacts the skin, how to keep the skin looking great post-spray-tan, and the do’s and don’t of tanning after a spray tan.


Can You Tan With a Spray Tan?

can you tan with a spray tan

You can expose your body to sunlight after a spray tan. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should!

A spray tan is artificial and does not provide the protection that a natural base tan does, so you have to keep that in mind that your tan is artificial.

Does Fake Tan Have Any SPF?

Standard spray tans and fake tans do not have any SPF in them, and they will provide no UV protection for your skin. This is why you should be very careful going to the beach after you’ve applied a fake tan solution. Your fake tanner will not stop the sun’s UV rays. You should apply sunscreen liberally if you have a spray tan.

Cover Up and Use Sunscreen

There are lots of benefits that you can get out of sunbathing, and for many of us, it’s simply a really enjoyable activity that makes us look great and feel great.

Yes, there are risks, but there are risks to walking around outside. And the risks of driving a car are enormous.

Life is risk.

The key here is moderation and the use of proper protection to prevent skin damage. Don’t be stupid and get a nasty sunburn! Bring UV-protective clothing to cover up after you’ve been in the sun for a little while, and apply sunscreen regularly.

It won’t stop you from tanning gradually. It will, however, stop you from getting a sunburn.

Does UV Light Ruin Your Spray Tan?

UV light will speed up the turnover of the cells on your skin. This means that your fake tan will slough off more quickly if you go tanning than it would if you didn’t expose your skin to sun. You’ve just gone through some time and effort to get a spray tan, which should last for a week at least. But if you soak up the rays, your fake tan may fade in a few days.

Streaking Tan

As your tan fades, you’ll see your real tan develop underneath. That sounds good, but you may run into issues of your tan streaking and fading in unattractive ways on your skin. A blotchy tan is not going to look good, but it’s a real possibility.

Things To Remember When Tanning (Under The Sun) With A Spray Tan

Tanning at the Pool

As discussed, tanning with a spray tan and tanning under the sun does different things to the skin to result in a golden glow. They don’t counter the effects of one another so getting a tan with a spray tan is possible.

Even so, there are a few things to know and to clarify to ensure your safety and comfort.

1. Spray tans do not protect the skin against UV radiation.

Although a suntan can offer protection against future UV radiation (on the order of an SPF-3, not an SPF-30), spray tans can’t. Some people wrongly assume that having any tan protects them from the sun.

Of course, regardless of what the status of your skin is if you’re going to be out in the sun with the UV index over 3 for any significant period of time, protect yourself. Cover up and/or put on sunscreen.

2. A spray tan can hide sunburns.

Due to the darker color produced during spray tanning, many people can’t easily recognize whether they’ve already exposed themselves too much under the sun. It is possible that the initial redness wouldn’t be noticeable until it’s too late.

You can’t use your skin color as a judge of how much sun you’ve received. Instead, plan ahead and use the UV Index Forecast to determine how strong the sun will be in your area.

3. Spray tan and a suntan can lead to an uneven tan

The color from spray tans is not permanent and would fade over about a week. There may be some areas that won’t easily fade as others. Even if you develop a suntan underneath, it is still possible to have an uneven tan in some areas of your body.

Additionally, uneven tans are also caused by dry areas of the skin. Take a look at the ingredients of the spray tan and make sure that they don’t contain alcohol or are not drying.

Better yet, moisturize your skin regularly so that when you go for a suntan, it will be even.

4. Spray tans can help people control their sun exposure

Tons of people go for a spray tan before their vacations to help them look their best. They do this to hit the ground running and so they don’t need to spend all their time getting sun at the beginning of their trip. Just remember that even though the spray-tanned skin is dark, there is no base tan.

Sun exposure is great for the body but tanning shouldn’t be rushed. Sun exposure in moderation creates a base tan that can be further deepened gradually. You don’t have to be harsh on your skin. With moderate sunbathing, you’ll eventually build up to the color you want without burning yourself.

How To Get Golden-Brown Skin

That luscious golden brown skin tone you’ve been dreaming for can be achieved all year round. Yes, even in the winter, there are ways to look as though you’ve just come back from a tropical vacation. There are 4 major ways to get a deeper skin color.

Those are by getting a real tan, a sunbed tan, a fake tan, or a cosmetic tan.

1. A Sun Tan

A natural tan is what people who bask under the sun get. We’re all familiar with it! A suntan is what naturally happens as a result of the reaction of the skin to the ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Ultraviolet light can go through various layers of the skin. The melanocytes, found in the basal layer of the epidermis, react to the ultraviolet rays by releasing melanin.

Skin Diagram

The production of melanin is a natural protective reaction of the skin against further exposure to UV radiation. This process is called a base tan. And when done carefully, a base tan will make the skin a natural SPF 3 in terms of protection.

Not much, but not nothing, either!

The main purpose of melanin is to prevent UV rays from burning the skin to some extent. But when the sun exposure is too much for the melanin, sunburns will still develop.

The natural light of the sun provides light in the UVA and UVB spectra. The UVA spectrum generally darkens skin, while light in the UVB spectrum increases vitamin D and produces other effects, including sunburn.

The development of tan-colored skin is just a side effect of the presence of melanin on the skin. Higher concentrations of melanin will result in a darker color of the skin.

As mentioned above, there are clear risks to be had when getting a tan outdoors, including the big one: melanoma. However, there are benefits to tanning outside as well, and they shouldn’t be ignored.

The UV Index is a very helpful metric to keep in mind when you plan on tanning outdoors. Be sure to check out the UV Index Forecast in your area to determine how strong the sun will be, and plan accordingly. If you’re going to be outside for a significant period of time when the UV Index is 3 or greater, you should be sure to use broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Plan your sessions to coincide with the best time to tan, and schedule your sessions so you’re not out in the sun too long without protection.

2. A Tanning Bed Tan

Tanning beds work fairly similarly to sunlight in that they expose you to UV rays. Sunbeds have specialized light bulbs that emit ultraviolet radiation that will also trigger the melanocytes to produce melanin.

On the surface, they seem quite similar.

However, many sunbeds usually only produce primarily UVA light and not full-spectrum light. Also, the light of a tanning bed can be six times as powerful as direct sunlight at midday!

A sunbed is just not the same thing as natural sunlight. Sunbeds can create a base tan, but many sunbeds don’t produce UVB radiation, so your skin isn’t going to have any protection to that part of the spectrum. Even if you look like a bronze goddess, your tan may only provide protection from UVA rays and not UVB.

Sunbeds are clearly linked with cancer and should be avoided. Spray tanning is much better than Sunbed tanning.

See here if you have a spray tan or fake tan and want to tan on a sunbed.

3. A Spray Tan or DHA Tan

A fake tan, also known as a self-tan or sunless tan, is what you get by applying a product that reacts to the topmost layer of the skin. These FDA-approved products can come in various forms like lotions, creams, and sprays.

A few examples we really like are Tan Physics, which we reviewed here, and Loving Tan.

Unlike a real tan, there is no UV light involved in getting a fake tan. The active ingredient that makes it all possible is DHA or dihydroxyacetone.

DHA reacts to the amino acids found in the topmost layer of the skin, which causes the dead skin cells to darken into a brownish color.

Although it tans the skin, it doesn’t produce the melanin pigment that helps protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation. Only the topmost cells are involved in the process and the DHA isn’t absorbed through the skin.

In terms of how the sun reacts to skin that has been fake tanned, the fake tan has essentially no impact at all, beneficial or malign.

4. A Cosmetic Tan

Another way to get bronze skin without the use of ultraviolet radiation is by getting a cosmetic tan. Products that produce a temporary tan, which you can easily remove by washing, are called bronzers.

Simply put, they work like makeup that covers the skin to achieve a darker hue. They can have a matte or a shimmery finish but are fairly easy to wash off.

Final Thoughts: Can You Get Tan with a Spray Tan?

can you suntan with a spray tan

There are different ways to get a tan, and you can combine them in order to achieve that glowing, luminous look.

You can tan in the sun with a spray tan, or with a fake tan, but you need to be mindful of your skin exposure. Remember that while your skin may look very dark due to the spray tan, it’s not actually dark, and you don’t get any of the protection that comes with dark skin. Be sure to apply protection from the sun.

Also, as your spray tan fades, it may not fade so evenly. Be prepared to remove it if necessary!

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).