Shower After Tanning: Insider Tips for Different Tanning Techniques

Tanning Shower
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Imagine this: You’ve just stepped out from a blissful sunbathing session or a rejuvenating tanning bed experience, your skin kissed by a radiant glow. However, the cocktail of moisturizers, sunscreens, tanning lotions, bronzers, and more that you’ve doused your skin in starts to mix with sweat, making your skin feel like it’s wearing a mask.

You long for the soothing warmth of a shower to rinse it all away, but a couple of questions nag at your mind: “Will my glorious tan wash off too? Will the shower impact the tan I’m working on?”

Navigating the post-tanning shower can be a minefield of uncertainty. How long should you wait to shower after tanning? Can you hop in the shower right away, or do you need to let your tan marinate a bit?

The truth is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Various factors come into play, such as the tanning method you’ve chosen and the products you’ve used.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what you can expect:

  • Tanned in a bed without oil? Feel free to shower 15 minutes post-tanning.
  • Used tanning oil in a bed? Hold off on the shower for about 2-3 hours.
  • Soaked up the sun’s rays? You can shower or swim any time, but remember to reapply your sunscreen or oil.

However, these are mere guidelines and it’s always crucial to follow individual product instructions.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deeper into the optimal times to shower post-tanning, tailored to your tanning method and chosen products.

Our goal? To help you maximize the benefits of each tanning session and maintain that sun-kissed glow you love.

Let’s dive in!


The Quest for the Perfect Tan

For many of us, getting a glowing golden tan is a long, fairly slow process that requires persistence. 

It certainly is for me!

After all the work involved in carving out time, planning, and implementing your tanning sessions, you don’t want to wash all that work away with a quick shower.

And even worse, the dreaded streaky fake-tan look! If you wash off your spray tan or sunless tan too quickly, you run the risk of the ugly, streaky spray tan all over the skin.

The answer to the question of how long to wait to shower after tanning is that it depends on your circumstances.

Are you sunbathing? Using a tanning bed? Or using a self-tanning lotion? And what about tanning lotions, bronzers, self-tanners, tingle tanners, etc. Are you applying these?

The amount of time you should wait after your tanning session will vary quite a bit, depending on what method(s) you’re using.

All of these variables impact when the best time to take a shower is in relation to your tanning session.

Let’s look at each method individually. But first, a decent solution!

Shower Before Tanning

Beginning your day with a refreshing shower not only wakes you up but also preps your skin for an effective tanning session. The shower’s purpose goes beyond mere cleaning—it opens up your pores and moisturizes your skin, laying the groundwork for a more uniform tan.

If you choose to use a mild exfoliant during your shower, you’re taking an extra step to aid your skin by removing dead skin cells. However, keep in mind that heavy exfoliation can make your skin sensitive to UV rays, so it’s best to wait a couple of days before tanning if you’ve exfoliated thoroughly.

Post-shower, your next step should be to nourish your skin with a moisturizer, followed by the application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This duo works to safeguard your skin from harmful sun rays while keeping it supple, youthful, and radiant.

Now that your skin is primed and protected, it’s time to apply your choice of tanning products. These may include tingle tanners, bronzers, self-tanners like Tan Physics, and more. Since you’ve already showered, you can leave these lotions and accelerators on your skin for a few hours post-tanning. This extra time allows the products to fully permeate your skin, enhancing the depth and longevity of your tan.

After several hours—following the specific time recommended by your product’s instructions—it’s time for another shower. This cleanses your skin of any remaining chemical agents, and will (hopefully) avoid it getting too dry.

By this point, everything will have set, and your tanning session’s impact will be maximized.

However, keep in mind that even after this post-tanning shower, residual chemicals may linger on your skin. This might leave you with a sense of needing another cleanse to feel entirely fresh and clean.

But rest assured, this is merely psychological—your skin has reaped the benefits of your meticulous tanning routine, and your radiant tan is proof!

Shower After Tanning. Why Wait?

Shower after Tanning

Did you know that the magic of tanning continues to work its charm long after your tanning session ends? Indeed, the transformation of your skin tone can take up to 24-48 hours to fully manifest. This slow-paced process explains why changes in your skin’s color, and unfortunately sunburns, often don’t reveal themselves until several hours after your tanning session.

The skin’s evolution continues well beyond the confines of your tanning session, which naturally leads to a pressing question: Can a shower interfere with this process?

To answer this, let’s delve into the science of tanning. Whether you’re using a tanning bed or tanning outdoors, the UV light stimulates melanocytes located in the epidermis—the outermost layer of your skin. These melanocytes, through a process known as melanogenesis, produce melanin, which darkens your skin.

This intriguing process occurs at a cellular level and isn’t affected by a post-tanning shower. The melanocytes are located deep within your skin’s first layer, which means that a shower—or even a deep cleanse with soap and water—won’t wash away your developing tan.

However, there is a subtle nuance to consider. Showering can cool down your skin more quickly than natural cooling, which could slightly alter the tanning process. Therefore, to maximize the results of your tanning session, it’s best to let your skin cool naturally before hopping in the shower.

For those who’ve had a pure UV tanning session—without the use of bronzers, accelerators, or similar products—you can safely shower once your skin has naturally cooled down, which is typically around 20 minutes after tanning.

This ensures that your tan continues to develop optimally, leaving you with a radiant, sun-kissed glow.

What About Sunless Tanning Lotions, Tanning Oils, Bronzers, etc.?

Diving into the tanning world, you’ll quickly find it’s not just about soaking up the sun or hopping in a tanning bed. Nope, we’ve got a whole host of trusty sidekicks like tingle tanning lotions, bronzers, and oils that can really level up your tan game.

But here’s the kicker: these nifty additions also shake up when you should hit the shower post-tanning.

Let’s chat about tanning lotions that speed things up, or ‘accelerators’ as we like to call them. These lotions, bronzer-loaded or not, give your tanning session an extra boost, making your skin glow that much more.

But these hardworking lotions need a bit of time post-tanning to really do their thing. Exactly how much time can change depending on which bronzer or tanning lotion you’re teaming up with.

You’ll often find tanning oils playing nice and giving you a heads-up about when to shower right on their labels. So, if you see that, go with it!

If not, here’s a handy rule of thumb: most tanning lotions keep darkening your skin for about 2-3 hours after you’ve finished tanning.

So, whether you’re sun worshipping or tanning bed lounging, if you’ve doused yourself in a tanning accelerator or oil, try to hold off on your shower for at least 2-3 hours. This gives these wonder products enough time to work their magic, helping you score that deeper, long-lasting tan you’re after.

Brown Water in the Shower

Ever hopped in the shower or taken a pool dip after applying a bronzer-loaded product and noticed the water turning a bit brown as it rolls off your body? Yep, it is icky (one of the many reasons why tanning waters are becoming a big hit).

Here’s the scoop: don’t sweat it.

What you’re seeing is simply the bronzer pigment washing off. Think of bronzers like temporary makeup—they give you an immediate glow but don’t affect your actual tan.

So, what’s with the brown water? It’s not your tan going down the drain, promise. The coloration comes from the bronzers mixed with DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and other tanning product ingredients. This mix can include additional bronzers, dyes, and natural oils. DHA itself is actually white or clear—any brown you see in the water is coming from the other ingredients.

DHA is the superstar chemical that, when applied to your skin, reacts with your skin cells to give you that coveted faux glow. This process can take anywhere from 2-3 hours up to 8 hours, and the full glory of your tan appears after about 24 hours.

After a couple of hours, the DHA has done its tanning magic. Washing off the bronzers and tanning lotions at this point won’t wash away your beautiful bronze skin, as long as you’ve waited the recommended 2-3 hours. So, go ahead, enjoy that post-tan shower without a worry!

Can I Shower After Tanning in a Tanning Bed?

Thinking about when to shower after a UV tanning bed session? The answer to that isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal—it heavily depends on the type of lotions and bronzers you’ve slathered on.

If you’re keeping things simple with no tanning accelerator or oil, feel free to dive into a shower around 20 minutes after your UV tanning bed session. But if you’ve amped up your session with tanning lotions and bronzers, pump the brakes and wait 2-3 hours before washing off.

Fans of tingle tanning lotions, take note: your wait time is a tad longer, preferably around 3-4 hours.

Here’s the lowdown: as you’re basking in the tanning bed, you’re subjecting your skin to potent UV radiation. Not to mention, the intense heat can make you break a sweat, altering your skin’s state.

Let’s be honest, most of us love to boost our tanning bed sessions with lotions and bronzers—because why not max out the benefits, right?

But hold on, there’s a flip side: the combo of these chemicals can clog pores, trigger acne, and even cause tanning bed rash. That’s why it’s super important to shower once these products have done their job, clearing your skin of any residual chemicals.

On top of this, the tanning process, combined with sweating, can strip your skin of its natural moisture, leaving it dry and prone to cracking.

In essence, tanning is a carefully controlled process that can stress your skin. So, pampering your skin with moisture and care is crucial to keep it supple and glowing.

After you’ve given your lotions and bronzers a solid 2-3 hours to set, a shower is just what your skin needs. So, go ahead and enjoy that refreshing cleanse, knowing you’re taking care of your skin and your tan!

Should you Shower Before or After Tanning in a Tanning Bed?

Here’s the 411: You should definitely shower before stepping into a tanning bed. Doing so will help you bid farewell to any makeup, oils, or sunscreens that might be hanging out on your skin. Plus, you’ll be all fresh and clean, reducing the chances of making the tanning bed a little too “lived-in.”

Remember, cleanliness is key, so always give the tanning bed a good wipe down both before and after use.

Once you’ve had your tanning session and given your tanning products enough time to work their magic, feel free to enjoy a relaxing shower. So, it’s a double-whammy: shower before and after your tanning bed session for the best results and the cleanest experience.

When Should You Shower After Sunbathing?

Craving a sun-kissed glow the old-fashioned way? Catching the morning sun is your best bet. It’s the perfect blend of the sun’s gentle rays and your body’s circadian rhythms. But here comes the big question: should you head straight for a shower once you’re done sunbathing?

Just like with tanning beds, the answer to this depends on whether you’ve enlisted the help of accelerators, tanning lotions, and bronzers. If you’re going au naturel, feel free to dive into a shower or take a refreshing swim shortly after your tanning session. It won’t put a dent in your tan progression.

On the flip side, if you’ve amped up your sunbathing session with tanning lotions and bronzers, it’s best to play the waiting game. Hold off on the shower for about 2-3 hours. This gives your tanning lotion enough time to fully set, ensuring you squeeze every drop of benefit out of your tanning session.

Fancy a post-tan dip in the pool? Go for it!

Just remember to reapply your tanning lotion and/or sunscreen once you’re done splashing around.

Showering after Self Tanner and Sunless Tanning

Let’s talk about self-tanners—they’re a whole different ball game from tanning beds. These sunless marvels are crafted to linger on your skin for at least a few hours, often overnight, to work their magic.

Unlike tanning lotions, self-tanners don’t need UV light to work their charm. They’re the masters of disguise, using dyes and DHA to change the pigment of your skin cells. This process requires time and oxygen to pull off.

Jumping into a shower too soon after applying a self-tanner—like Tan Physics, Loving Tan, or Mystic Tan—could mean washing off the tanning solution. And trust me, you don’t want that—it often leads to a streaky, less-than-stellar tan.

As DHA oxidizes on your skin, it produces that gorgeous, deep golden glow we all love. This transformation generally takes at least 4 hours post-application, and you don’t want to interrupt it with a premature shower!

But here’s a tip: always check out the instructions on your specific self-tanner. Some sunless tanners might suggest you hold off on showering for up to 8 hours after application.

Generally speaking, you can usually wash off these products after about 4 hours. But remember, your individual product instructions are your ultimate guide.

First Shower After Spray Tan

A spray tan is a bit different than sunless tanner, but the good news is that you’ll probably have a tanning professional give you some guidance as to when to shower.

That said, after the 4-hour time frame, the spray tan’s DHA will have had enough time to do its work. At that point, it’s usually safe to shower without causing streaking, or wasting any of the DHA’s power.

Now let’s look at how best to clean the body in that first shower after a spray tan.

How To Wash Your Body after a Spray Tan

We’ve put together a detailed article on showering after a spray tan here. For a quick rundown, here are the basics:

1. Keep It Lukewarm

Post-tanning, your skin doesn’t need a sauna-like experience! No need for a cold shower, but it’s a smart move to bring down the heat a notch. This advice holds true whether you’ve been sunbathing, using a tanning bed, or applying a self-tanner.

2. Short and Sweet

A post-fake-tan shower isn’t the time for a long, luxurious soak. Instead, jump in, give your skin a mild cleanse, and get out. A bath or a prolonged soak could cause some of the tanning agents to wash off. And be careful when washing your hair with a fresh spray tan!

3. Gentle Soaps Only!

Avoid the temptation to reach for harsh soaps or cleansers unless you’ve been sweating it out at the gym or have a specific need for a deep clean. This is especially true for soaps loaded with extra chemicals or fragrances that could interfere with your self-tanners and bronzers. When in doubt, a gentle, fresh body wash is a safe bet.

4. Hold Off on Exfoliation

Now’s not the time to whip out your exfoliating gloves. Hold off on exfoliating for a few days post-tan to avoid streaking or an uneven finish. Instead, aim to exfoliate a day or two before you start your self-tanning routine.

5. Pat Dry, Don’t Rub

Post-shower, there’s no need for an intense towel-rubbing session. Turn off the shower and let gravity do its thing for a minute, allowing the water to naturally drain off your skin. Then, gently pat yourself dry with a towel.

6. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Once you’re all dry, it’s time to treat your skin to a high-quality moisturizer. Moisturizing will help seal in the color and keep your skin feeling fabulous.

7. Shaving Can Wait

If you need to shave, it’s best to do so before your tanning session. If you’ve missed that window, wait at least 24 hours post-spray tan before reaching for your razor. For more shaving tips, check out this link.

Remember, your post-tanning shower should be all about treating your skin with care and allowing your tan to set properly.

When Does Your Tan Start to Show? The Inside Scoop

Ever finished a tanning session and wondered, “Where’s my tan?” Don’t worry, your golden glow often takes a bit of time to make its grand appearance—sometimes not until the next day. Tanning oils can help speed things up a bit, though.

And let’s not forget about sunburns—those painful reminders that too much UV exposure is a no-no. Weirdly enough, sunburns seem to show up quicker than a tan.

If you’re a tanning newbie working on building your base tan, patience is key. You might not see a noticeable color change until after 3-4 sessions. So, keep at it and remember: your sun-kissed glow is on its way!

Wrapping Up: Your Post-Tanning Shower Game Plan

Here’s the long and short of it: if you’ve been using a tanning oil or lotion with a bronzer, hold off on the shower for about 2-3 hours after application or your tanning session. This pause gives the accelerators enough time to do their job and fully set on your skin.

Once that time frame is up, those chemicals aren’t doing much more, so feel free to gently wash them off.

On the other hand, if you’ve been sunbathing or UV-tanning without any bronzers or accelerators, you’re good to hit the shower shortly after your tanning session ends.

There might be a slight advantage to waiting about 20 minutes for your skin to fully cool down after a session. But remember, this benefit is minimal, and your skin’s natural melanin production won’t be disrupted by a shower.

Stay safe out there, and here’s to achieving that flawless tan you’re after!

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).