Washing Hair After a Spray Tan: How to do it Right!

Tanning Shower
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Once you get a spray tan, the aftercare matters. A lot.

The most common questions focus on showering after a spray tan. Additionally, sometimes the hands and feet get stained. Another common issue is whether you can wash your hair after a spray tan. Sometimes spray tan mist gets into your hair, or you feel dried out due to the spray tanning process.

With all the chemicals soaking in your skin, you will want a good cleaning!

So what’s the deal with washing hair after a spray tan? When can you wash your hair after a spray tan? Will it ruin your tan?

You should wait at least 4-8 hours to wash your hair after a spray tan, preferably longer. In the first shower, it’s best to just rinse your hair off rather than shampoo. This will give time for the fake tan to set fully.

There are a few things that you need to be aware of before you break out the shampoo after a spray tan session. I’ll go over them below.


Washing Hair After a Spray Tan

washing hair after spray tan

Spray tans are a great option for those who are looking for the look of beautiful, golden, sun-dappled skin without the risks of UV tanning. Sunless tanning and spray tanning are much healthier than tanning beds, and can easily get a golden, luscious color all year round.

You’ve got your spray tan scheduled, you’re wearing loose-fitted clothing in order to let everything set.

You’re waiting a bit to shave. You’ve timed your exercise correctly.

You’re on point.

1. Wait it out

Many people are surprised when they are advised to shower/wash their hair after a spray tan session. Their main concern is that washing their hair and showering will affect their spray tan.

It is true that both these things affect your spray tan, but they do so mostly in a positive way.


The DHA in spray tan solution takes time to turn your skin brown. This is why you typically want to wait several hours to shower after a sunless tanning session.

DHA in the spray tan solution causes a chemical reaction with dead skin cells on the outermost layer of skin. This process is quite safe (unless you inhale the DHA). But it takes some time for the reaction to complete.

And many spray tan and sunless tanning solutions also include bronzers that provide quick browning, but don’t create any lasting color.

The bronzer just acts as a source of instant gratification for you to see the expected end result (and to give the tech a guide as to any missed spots or gaps in the spray tan). The DHA needs time to work its magic, but the bronzer can be removed as early as 2 hours after the session.

If you need to wash your hair after a spray tan, you can. But wait at least 4-8 hours to allow the spray tan to set. The longer, the better.

If you need to wash your hair, you can. But wait at least 4-8 hours to allow the spray tan to set. The longer, the better.

2. Avoid the Bathtub

Bath tub

Even if you want to soak in a bathtub or wash your hair after a spray tan, don’t dive in!

Doing so will be equivalent to money going down the drain.

You may be tempted by the relaxing call of a hot bath, but it’s best to avoid max heat. Your spray tan wouldn’t stand a chance against hot water in a bath, especially with bath products!

Your hair may feel a bit rough or dry after the spray tan machine does its work. But taking a hot shower will do your hair no good.

3. Stick to Lukewarm Water

If you absolutely must wash your hair, use lukewarm water or cool water.

If you’re primarily looking to get the bronzer off, a quick shower will do. You don’t need to ruin your chances of sporting a gorgeous tan by opting for a luxuriating bath. And even when you take a shower, try to finish off in less than 3 minutes if you still want to maintain your flawless look.

However, if you are looking for an answer to “how to wash hair after a spray tan,” you’re in for some bad news. It’s recommended that you wait about two days to wash with most shampoos.

The SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), sometimes called SLS, found in many types of shampoo can easily cause streaks in your spray tan.

This can ruin your bronzed skin and drive you crazy.

4. Avoid Hair Care Products with SLES

SLES is a foaming agent that’s found in many soaps and shampoos. The chemical works to reduce surface tension in water, which makes it easier to clean and wash. Though it may seem like SLES is a helping agent, some find that it irritates the skin — especially post-spray tan.

The skin irritant corrodes to clean and the lather is the real agent. It gently cleans the skin and hair, but there are many people who believe that the chemical is dangerous.

There’s no scientific research at this point to prove this, but many find these chemicals to react poorly to spray tans.

To be clear, there is some rumor of cancer risk, and this appears to be false. That’s not what we’re concerned about here.

But it can cause irritation and streaking of spray tans. Consequently, if you want to ensure the longevity of your bronzed color, it’s best to steer clear of soaps, shampoos, and body washes containing SLES.

While washing your hair, it’s important that you choose an SLES-free shampoo that doesn’t produce any lather. As silly as it sounds, Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo isn’t a bad choice.

Mild shampoos without lather will allow you to clean your hair quickly and don’t ruin your spray tan. Just make sure you go about the process as swiftly as possible to avoid streaking.

I’ll look at a few SLES-free shampoos and body washes below.

5. Try Being a Contortionist

Now that you know everything you need to make sure before washing your hair, it’s time to get down to the real business. How can you wash your hair without causing streaks down your body?

If it’s urgent and you are rinsing your hair before 24 hours, try to lean over a little bit so that the products don’t run down your back.

If you have shorter hair, it’s easiest to just wash your hair in the sink. This may be inconvenient, but it’s much easier to control the water flow, and you can feel more confident that your spray tan won’t be impacted.

If it means safeguarding your spray tan, then you better get ready for some back and neck cramps.

SLES-Free Shampoos and Body Washes

There are a few products that’ll help you maintain your spray tan and preserve it for a longer time. These products are easily available on Amazon, so all you need to do is click the link and add some convenience to your life.

1. SOULTREE Triphala Hair Revitalizing Shampoo

SOULTREE Triphala Hair Revitalizing Shampoo

There’s no need to worry about your hair when you have this miracle product from SoulTree. For nourishment and hair growth, shampoo should be your ultimate choice.

But what makes it great to use right after a spray tan session is the absence of SLS/SLES.

If you want your spray tan to look fabulous and sleek, you need to take the right measures. The shampoo gets your hair clean, strengthens it, and even prevents dandruff.

2. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soaps

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soaps

We’ve already established that you don’t need to lather your body to feel clean. This will leave streaks all over your body and effectively ruin your perfect spray tan. The best way to avoid this fate is to opt for a soap that doesn’t contain SLS.

And Dr. Bronner delivers!

This liquid soap is scented with pure lavender, and the inclusion of natural ingredients gives this versatile product its winning characteristics. The absence of synthetic preservatives is what makes Dr. Bonners’s liquid soap the perfect choice for your first shower after a spray tan session.

Plus, you can read all the crazy text on the bottle while you’re showering, so you won’t get bored.

Dr. Bronner's - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (Lavender, 32 ounce, 2-Pack) - Made with Organic Oils, 18-in-1 Uses: Face, Body, Hair, Laundry, Pets and Dishes, Concentrated, Vegan, Non-GMO

3. DeodoMom – Natural, Aluminum-Free, unscented Deodorant

DeodoMom - Natural, Aluminum-Free, unscented Deodorant

Natural deodorants are free of aluminum, and thus offer the best protection against odor and bacteria. With a fresh coat of spray tan, you always have to be careful that none of the products you use can harm the color.

The natural ingredients make sure your skin isn’t harmed and your spray tan remains intact even after prolonged use of the product.

If you are worried that your deodorant will fade away the bronzed skin you’ve worked so hard on, this is the solution to your problem.

DeodoMom - Natural, Aluminum-Free, unscented Deodorant
  • NO ALUMINUM or aluminum compounds...
  • LASTS ALL DAY with only 1 application...

Can I wait 24 hours to shower after a spray tan?

You can wait 12 or even 24 hours to shower after a spray tan! If you want to achieve the best results, it’s important to wait at least 6 hours before taking a shower, ideally longer. Sleeping (not on your 1000-count Egyptian Cotton sheets) after an evening spray tan or self-tan is a good strategy. Then shower in the morning.

Does a spray tan develop after showering?

Yes, it does, but you can control the end result of the spray tan. If you want a lighter shade, then you should take a shower after a shorter time.

For a more natural tan, it’s recommended that you take a shower after a few hours. But if you are looking for a darker shade, then it’s recommended you wait as much as 24 hours to wash it away.

What happens if you wash off the spray tan too quickly?

If you want your spray tan to last, you need to give it a few hours to set in. If you wash the spray tan too soon, you can decrease the longevity of your sun-kissed complexion.

Even using harsh products to rinse your hair or body can result in your tan not developing properly. In short, using any product that contains SLS/SLES right after your session is a bad idea.

Final Thoughts

washing hair after spray tan

To keep your spray tan looking as good as possible, wait around 12 hours to shower and wash your hair On the first shower, consider just rinsing your hair with water rather than a full shampoo. If you need to shampoo, use a shampoo without SLES and lather.

See this article if you are looking to get a sunless tan without shaving.

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).