How Long Does Self Tanner Take To Dry?

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It’s no secret that sun tanning and tanning beds are dangerous – from speeding up the skin’s aging process to the risks of cancer. So it’s no wonder that people are turning to self-tanners as the safer alternative to get that tropical vacation glow without the health risks of sun tanning and tanning beds.

With all of the benefits of spray tans and self-tanners, there are also a few downsides. One of the main issues is that you have to wait a while for it to dry after applying so you don’t stain your clothes, car seats, pets, bed linens, etc.

How long does self tanner take to dry?

Because self-tanner basically stains your skin, if you don’t give it enough time to dry after it’s applied, you can end up with self tanner on places you don’t want it. This can result in your tan being crackly, patchy, and streaky if you’re rubbing off the tanner.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long it takes for fake tanner to dry. We’ll also discuss a few other frequently asked questions and give you a few pro tips for application to ensure you get the best results.


What Is Self Tanner?

Beauty By EarthSelf Tanner

Self tanner is basically a suntan in a bottle. There are lots of different varieties of sunless self tanners on the market, from lotions  and mists  to  foams , mousses  and serums .

The active ingredient in most self tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which works by reacting with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

We’ve discussed many different self tanners and formats. See below for further information:

How Long Does Self Tanner Take To Dry?

Self Tanner

The answer to the question how long does fake tan take to dry is: it depends!

The best thing to do is to read the instructions that come with your self-tanner.

The whole development process takes about 6-8 hours. Most spray tans should be washed off after the processing time.

Within that 6 – 8 hour of processing time, you do not want to get your skin wet or wear any type of tight clothing, like bras, yoga pants, tight shoes, etc.

This is because some self-tanners can feel still feel a bit tacky on the skin for hours afterward, and the product may rub off in some places. This will leave you with a patchy tan.

How Long To Let Self-Tanner Dry Before Dressing

The wait time before you get dressed can vary from product to product, but it’s usually around 20 minutes.

After the application, 20 minutes is about the time it takes for the self-tanner to get absorbed (dry) before you should be touching or putting anything against your skin.

Ideally, wearing a loose-fitting robe would be your best option.

You can also opt for loose cotton pants and a shirt, or a light flowy dress. But you’re going to want to go commando, as underwear and bras have to hug your body.

You want to avoid any items of clothing that will fit snugly and rub against your skin, possibly removing your tanning product and possibly staining the fabric.

This is why It’s important to plan your self-tanning schedule.

Pro tip: Apply your self tan on the weekend when you’re not going anywhere, or better yet, just before you go to bed.

Is It OK To Sleep After Applying Self Tanner?

It’s definitely OK to sleep after you apply your self tanner. In fact, it’s probably the easiest way to pass the 8 hours of processing time.

And because you need to wait 6-8 hours to wash it off (depending on the tanner), if you spend that time sleeping, you are not walking around town wearing a coat of self tanner, feeling like you need a shower.

And for the ladies who are ample in the chest area, not wearing a bra is usually not an option if you have to go out in public.

Just make sure you wait the initial 20 minutes (or however long your particular self tanner instructions tell you to wait) for it to absorb into your skin before putting on bedclothes and jumping into bed.

If it’s your first time using the product, you may even want to use some old sheets on your bed, rather than expensive bed linens, just in case.

Products will vary. Better to play it safe when you are trying out a product for the first time, rather than wake up to realize you’ve stained your expensive 400 thread count Egyptian cotton bed linens.

Yeah, we’ve all been there.

How Long After Fake Tan Can I Shower?

Read your package insert. The processing time of self tanners can vary, but it’s usually 6-8 hours.

During this time, you cannot get your skin wet. Showering too soon after applying self-tanner can cause some of the product to wash off, creating streaks and uneven areas.

See also:

Can I Shave After Fake Tan?

If you regularly shave, shave the day before applying self tanner. Your tan will last longer if you don’t shave right before application.

Shaving the day before will also prevent tiny droplets of self-tanner from accumulating in the follicles where you have shaved the hairs, which can cause a freckled or spotty appearance.

You can also shave after using a self tanner, but wait for until after the processing time is finished.

When shaving after your self tanning, make sure you use an oil-free moisturizing body wash , not traditional shaving cream.

A lot of shaving creams contain alcohol and heavy detergents that can strip your tan.

Tips To Get The Best, Longest Lasting Results From Self Tanner

Exfoliate Before You Tan

Pay special attention to exfoliating areas that tend to build up excess dry skin, like knees, heels, and elbows. Exfoliating dry skin away will prevent it from absorbing more self-tanner in some of those dryer areas of your body, so you get an even tan.

You can opt for just using an exfoliating mitt or a gentle scrub. If you want to turn to a store-bought scrub, choose a gentle, oil-free scrub and avoid those with microbeads, parabens, and sulfates.

Shave the Day Before and Wait 6-8 Hours to Shave After Tanning

Your tan will last longer if you don’t shave right before applying self-tanner. It will also prevent spots where droplets of self-tanner can accumulate in the follicles of the newly shaved hair. 

Use Gloves or a Tanning Mitt

A good quality tanning mitt will prevent you from staining your palms. The  stusgo Self Tanning Mitt Applicator 4 in 1 Kit  has everything you need to make sure you get all over coverage, even in those hard to reach areas.

See also:

Don’t Get Wet

While the process of tanning is taking place, don’t get your skin wet, sweat too much, shower, or apply any sort of moisturizer, cream, sunscreen, etc. for at least 6-8 hours, as applying anything on your skin during this time will interrupt the process and may result in streaks and blotches.

Don’t Exfoliate After Tanning

Exfoliation is great BEFORE you apply the self tanner, but exfoliating after will remove a lot of dead skin cells that are essentially part of your tan, so your tan will not last as long.


Make sure you moisturize regularly to keep your skin hydrated. Once the processing time is over, you can shower to wash off the self tanner, and then you can start to moisturize. Just make sure that it’s an oil-free moisutrizer.

Stay Out of The Sun for 72 Hours After Application

DHA, the active ingredient in self tanners, has been found with over use to cause accelerated skin aging, lowered Vitamin D levels and even DNA damage to skin cells.

It should be noted that these findings were based on long-term, frequent use of self tanners.

Using a self tanner occasionally is perfectly safe and significantly less damaging than tanning in the sun or using a tanning bed.

That all having been said, it’s been found that the side effects of DHA significantly increase with sun exposure within the first 72 hours of application – which is why we recommend not going into the sun for that period of time.


A fake tan does not offer any protection against the sun. You still need to use sunscreen. 

Read the instructions

Finally the most important thing you can do is to read the instructions of your product. The times we’ve outlined about drying and processing are average times. But different products will have different instructions in terms of how long to wait before getting dressed, how long it takes to process, and when to wash it off.

Using your product properly is the best way to not only achieve the desired results, but make sure you are getting the longest-lasting tan.

See also:

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).