So, you find yourself at a convention for three days in one of your favorite cities with a tropical environment (maybe in Orlando, FL, San Juan, Puerto Rico or Barcelona, Spain), and you’re hoping to get a few minutes of the sun each day. Instead, you spend more time than expected in air conditioned meeting rooms and on the trade show floor. And you can’t stop thinking about that heavy sweater you left behind at home.

beautiful woman with half face tannedBy the last day, you’re wishing you would have gotten a little color so people could actually tell you were away in a sunny destination. But with what we know about the harmful effects of sun exposure, perhaps it’s a good thing you didn’t.

These days looking like a bronze beauty does not require subjecting yourself to the dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun. You actually don’t even need sunlight to achieve a healthy looking glow — just get a spray tan.

What You Should Know About Spray Tanning

Spray tanning is a way to gain a tan by having a mist that contains Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) sprayed onto your body. DHA is a sugar compound that interacts with your body’s chemistry to create a bronze look. DHA is FDA approved, and it’s the main ingredient used in many “at home” sunless tanning products.

There are different ways the spray tan is administered. You can go to a tanning booth where they use carefully placed nozzles within the booth to target all areas of your body. Or you can have your tan applied manually through an airbrush (air gun), which is similar to an aerosol spray can.

Regardless of the option you choose, spray tanning allows you to achieve a suntan without spending hours outside, turning from one side to another and baking like a rotisserie chicken.

Where Can You Get A Spray Tan?

Many day spas and salons have added manual spray tanning to their menu of services, including the upscale and luxury hotels where business travelers often stay.

You can also head to a local business that  specializes in tanning only. They are usually located in strip malls where you’ll find local shopping. Typically, this type of tanning salon consists of  multiple rooms with booths, and they are the quicker option of the two approaches.

The process can be affordable or pricy (the cost can generally range from $15 to $50 USD), and the results last about five to seven days — looking very natural.

What to Expect During a Manual Spray Tan

Spray tanning usually take 30-minutes or less, and the tan specialist will let you choose the level of darkness you would like to achieve. I’ve tried both the manual spray tan and the spray tan booth. Both are effective, and it just depends on your level of modesty.

The first thing you should expect is to remove your clothes. If you do wear any clothing item(s), be prepared to expect some potential discoloration if the spray tan hits it.

You will be given a head covering (I’m a blonde, so this is very important to me), and it’s kind of like a hairnet that food servers wear in restaurants. It’s also reasonable to expect that a quality service should offer you the option of disposable undergarments.

If you’re having a manual spray tan, when you’re ready, you enter a three sided tent and the tan specialist gives you directions as to how to stand for maximum coverage.

The benefit of a manual spray tan is that you can customize your tan. Perhaps you want a little more darkness on your arms, shoulders or legs. The tan specialist will do her best to target those areas. She will provide you with different directions, asking that you stand in different poses while you are sprayed.

A manual spray tan requires that you pretty much bare all in front of a total stranger. Don’t worry about that at all — they don’t judge. If you are modest, then stick with the tanning booth.

What to Expect When Using a Tan Booth

This is a little bit trickier than the manual tan, but it’s just as effective and typically costs less. When you’re ready, you will be guided to a booth that looks like one of the transporters from the old Star Trek episodes.

You will be required to put lotion on your finger nails and toes, so there is no discoloration, and you will need to wear a hair covering. The tan booth specialist will lead you through a series of roughly four positions that you are to mimic when you get in the booth. This ensures all areas of the body are sprayed.

Once you are in the booth you’re on your own so listen closely (he had to run me through the poses twice). You are given the option of going in nude or in your underwear, depending on your preference.

After you are in the booth with the door shut the fun begins. The experience actually reminds me of the “Red Light, Green Light” game we played as kids.

When the green light goes on, you are in position one and what feels like a very cold blast of air comes down your body. When the red light goes on, you switch to position two, and so on. After all positions have been covered, you then stand and wait for the drying to occur. Another blast of air dries your tan in place.

Suggested Do’s and Dont’s for Spray Tanning

Some tanning specialists say it is best to exfoliate before you tan because the dead skin is removed and your tan will take much better. Also, if you are in need of a wax, have this done in advance as well; otherwise, some of the tan may be removed if you wax after your tan; I learned this the hard way.

Whether you choose to exfoliate before the spray tan is up to you; however, do not exfoliate after getting a spray tan because your tan needs time to set. If you do not wait, the exfoliation will remove some of it, and you’ll look blotchy.

Your tanning specialist may tell you not to shower or exercise for at least 4 to 6 hours after the tan was applied. However, I have also heard you should wait 12 to 24 hours. To be on the safe side, try to wait as long as 24 hours before showering, exfoliating or working out after getting a spray tan.

My Experience with Spray Tanning

I’ve relied on both manual and tanning booth methods, and felt that both delivered the same results.

At first glance, I did not notice a difference in my coloring; however, as the day progressed I got a little darker. By day two I was dark (I went for the maximum color). On day 5 I still had color, but some of it had faded. Nevertheless, it still appeared very natural looking.

If you have issues with tight spaces, you may want to opt for the manual spray tan. If you are a bit more modest, you may want to go with the booth.

There are a vast array of tan products available that are used by various tanning salons and spas. When I did the manual spray tan they put on an organic plant compound which I loved. Alternately, the chemical-based ones applied in the tan booth were equally as effective.

After looking at the ingredient list (besides the DHA, that is standard) and trying to decipher words such as Ethocydiglycol, it seems reasonably helpful to call the business where you plan to get the spray tan and ask for more information about the products before your appointment. It’s just smart to research the potential effects of any new procedure, and spray tanning is no different. They should be happy to answer your questions and make sure you’re comfortable with the service.

If you have any medical concerns, it’s always safest to ask your physician, and there are some good resources on the web.

For example, points out that you should be aware of potential side effects. And offers a favorable review of spray tanning, DHA and what you can do with a full range of sunless tanning products.

As for side effects, I had none.

All in all I enjoyed both experiences, and I did not have to waste hours in the sun trying to achieve perfect tan lines and risking my skin to burns and UV rays.

Have you tried spray tanning? Comment here and share your experiences with us.