Spray Tan Colors: How To Choose the Right Shade for Your Skin

spray tan color shades chart
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So you’ve finally decided to go for a spray tan. You’ve already read the different guides telling you how to properly prepare your skin for a spray tan. You seem ready but not quite. 

There is still one more important thing that you should know. And that is how to choose the right color for your skin among all of the spray tan colors. We get it, you want to be a bronzed goddess but you can’t just pick the darkest of all shades and hope for the best. 

With an improper selection, you can land on an ugly orange shade. Yikes!

We are here to help avoid that. In this article, we will go over how to properly choose the color so you get that bronzy glow that you have been dreaming of. 


Spray Tan Shades Chart – How To Choose the Right Color for Your Skin

Norvell Tan Color Chart

When you go to a spray tan salon, they will have color charts like the Norvell one shown above to help guide you. But they are all different depending on the products used at the salon.

It’s difficult to know what color to choose based on a chart if you don’t know what you’re looking for besides ‘a tan’. It’s like looking at the color sticker on the bottom of a lipstick tube. You may think you’ve found a great color, only to get home and realize it looks horrendous on you.

Now with makeup, it’s just really disappointing, and you wipe it off and relegate that lipstick to the shoebox in the bottom of the bathroom cabinet with all the other cosmetics you’ve purchased, only to find out they’re not your color.

However, when it comes to spray tans, you can’t just wipe the tan off. Yes, there’s a removal process, but it’s a pain. So you want to make sure you choose the right color for you.

It’s difficult to know what color to choose based on a chart if you don’t know what you’re looking for besides ‘a tan’. It’s like looking at the color sticker on the bottom of a lipstick tube. You may think you’ve found a great color, only to get home and realize it looks horrendous on you.

Choosing The Right Spray Tan Color

If you are going to a salon for your spray tan, the specialists will often be helpful. You can tell them what you want and they can help you select a color. 

But it’s a good idea to know how to choose the color on your own. To do that, you could base your decision on several factors such as the following: 

  • Your skin tone
  • Your skin’s undertone
  • DHA concentration
  • The Season

1. The Skin Tone Factor

b tan spray tan solution

The very first thing you should consider when selecting a spray tan color is your skin tone.

Skin tone is basically the color of your skin, which is determined by the amount of melanin (pigment) that is present in the top layer of your skin. The more melanin in your skin, the darker your skin.

It’s really important to choose a spray tan color that is meant for your skin tone if you are going for a natural looking tan. If you have a really pale complexion and choose a color that’s too dark, it’s not going to look natural. And likewise, if you have darker skin and choose a color that’s too light, it won’t make much of a difference.

Skin tone is usually divided into four to six groups, from those with very fair skin to those with very dark skin.

The Fitzpatrick Scale is a well-known method of identifying your skin tone. It is often used to determine skin tone on the color charts when getting a spray tan.

Fair Skin Tones (Groups I-II)

Groups I & II are those who have the lightest skin tones that range from ivory to light beige. These are the groups of people who will tend to burn easily in the sun and don’t tend to naturally tan.

If you are among groups I & II, when picking a spray tan color, it is best to start off with a color that is a shade lighter than what you are ultimately aiming for. Remember: you want this to look natural.

In the event that you feel it’s not dark enough, you can always go darker. But if it ends up being too dark, you’re stuck with a tan that’s not the right color for you until it fades, unless you want to really work to exfoliate it away.

Medium Skin Tones (Groups III-IV)

Groups III & IV are those with a medium complexion to skin that is a natural tan color. This includes those with an olive skin tone.

Those in these two groups don’t tend to sunburn as much and their skin tans in the sun easily.

Dark Skin Tones (Groups V-VI)

Groups V & VI include those with medium-dark and dark skin tones. Spray tan colors can help further emphasize the natural skin tone and add a glow.

2. The Skin Undertone Factor

Choosing a color that goes with your skin’s undertone is just as important as choosing the right color for your skin tone.

Skin Undertone is the natural coloring just below the surface of the skin. There are three types of skin undertone: warm, cool, or neutral.

Cool Undertones

Cool skin undertones have hints of blue, green, and violet.

Warm Undertones

Warm undertones look more red, orange, golden, or yellow.

Neutral Undertones

Those with neutral undertones are part of the lucky bunch with a mix of both warm and cool undertones.

Have you ever tried on an item of clothing in a color that looked fantastic on someone else, but when you tried on that same color it made you look like death warmed over? Even if you have two people with the same skin tone and hair color, the same color can look completely different on them if they have a different skin undertone.

If you are not sure of your skin’s undertone – you need to figure that out BEFORE you go to your spray tan appointment.

Here is just one of the quick ways to determine your skin’s undertone.

Look at the veins on the underside of your wrist in natural light.

  • If your veins look blue, you have cool-toned skin with pink undertones.
  • You have warm-toned skin with yellow undertones if your veins appear green.
  • If your veins appear both blue and green, you are one of the lucky people that have neutral undertones, which means that almost every color will look great on you.

If it’s hard to tell what color your veins are, or if you can’t see them at all, have a look at our Ultimate Guide To Skin Undertones which goes over a few other methods of figuring out your skin undertone.

Once you’ve found determined your skin undertone, choose a spray tan color that matches – i.e. warm golden color with a green base for warm skin undertones and a cool color with a violet base for cool skin undertones.

As for those with neutral skin undertones, it will just be a matter of preference because all colors will look good on you.

3. The Season

Getting a tan that’s too dark in the winter will be a dead giveaway that it’s a fake bake. Unless you are a recluse and have no friends that know you didn’t jet off for a winter vacay to lounge in the sun on the deck of your yacht as you cruise around the Indian Ocean, you’re not going to get away with that.

You can afford to go a darker shade in the summertime. There’s nothing that makes bright summer colors pop than a nice tan!

DHA Content

The amount of DHA that the product contains should also be considered. DHA is the active ingredient in spray tans. Those that have higher DHA levels will produce a deeper tan. 

DHA works by creating a chemical reaction with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

The higher the percentage of DHA in the spray tan, the deeper the spray tan color.

For example, if you see the spray tan color chart list DHA at 6%, you know that the spray tan color will be light.

Colors with upwards of 15% DHA will be much darker.

If the spray tan color chart you have doesn’t list DHA, you can always chat with your tanning tech to discuss the ingredients in the products.


DHA is actually clear.

While at the tanning salon, you may get the option of also choosing the color of a bronzing additive. This bronzing additive is added to the spray tan to temporarily darken your skin while you are waiting for your spray tan to develop, which usually takes anywhere from 4-10 hours.

Spray tan salons that use a tanning artist with a spray gun to apply the spray tan will often use a bronzing additive, just to make sure they haven’t missed any spots.

The bronzing additive will wash off as soon as you take a shower. But if you are planning to keep the bronzer on until your spray tan develops, just like for the color of your actual spray tan, make sure you choose a bronzing color that matches your skin undertones.

Choose a warm more golden color if you have warm undertones. Go for a cooler bronzer with a red or blue base if you have cool undertones. If you have neutral undertones, then any color will look good on you, so you don’t really have to worry about it.

Final Thoughts

We’ve gone over the things you need to consider when choosing the right color for your spray tan so it looks natural.

Besides the color chart, a good spray tan salon should have someone there to help you choose a color. Whether it’s your spray tan artist or even if it’s a salon with just spray tanning booths and it’s the tan technician behind the counter. They can offer valuable suggestions from their experience working with different skin tones and products.

And on a final note… understanding color charts, knowing your skin tone and undertone, and taking into consideration the season that you’re getting your tan are all factors that will help you get that natural-looking sun-kissed bronze glow.

But the proper preparation before you go for your spray tan and the right aftercare are also key. These tasks will ensure you get the best, most natural-looking tan, that it doesn’t streak, and it lasts as long as possible.

You may want to check out What To Do Before A Spray Tan & Spray Tan Aftercare: 7 Tips to Keep Your Tan Glowing!

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).