Some people just have the genetic disposition to look incredible with porcelain skin. (Caitriona Balfe and Cate Blanchett come to mind.) Instead, I’m naturally pale in a way that screams “have you ever seen the sun?” So the moment spray tanning became a thing, I was sold. Maybe it’s because I live in L.A., but having safe-from-the-sun, golden skin makes me feel less exposed, like I’m wearing cover-up that instantly makes me more comfortable showing more skin.
The only problem with most self-tanners is that they’re difficult to put on—either I look mysteriously splotchy, or all things go according to plan but a day or so later, my legs will itch like none other. I don’t know what it is about some at-home formulas that my skin personally reacts to, but it literally feels like a dozen mosquitos bit me. Not great.
But then I met Kristyn Pradas, the woman behind Ariana Grande, Ashley Graham, and almost every Victoria’s Secret model’s gorgeous glow. Not only did she give me the most natural-looking tan, but after two sessions a month apart, I haven’t itched once. That’s because Pradas faced a similar frustration with other tanning products that weren’t suitable for her sensitive skin. “I’ve always broken out or gotten rashes, so I wanted to create a line that was good for you and good for your skin. It was really important that my line be as natural as possible with organic ingredients like chamomile, peptides, ceramides, and marshmallow root extract.” In addition, Pradas spent years making sure the ingredients in her products weren’t only good for your body, but also for your face. They shouldn’t be interchangeable, she says.
I recently had an emergency where I got a last-minute call to go on TV and hit Pradas up in a panic. But because she can’t always be at my beck and call (if only), I asked her to share her best spray tan tips. Here, she reveals her tried-and-true lessons for a perfect (and safe) spray tan that goes further than any advice you’ll get at your local tanning studio.
The Best Spray Tan Tips You Need to Know
Exfoliate 2 to 3 days prior to your spray tan
Pradas says the most important thing you can do to ensure an evenly applied spray tan is to exfoliate really well two to three days prior—not the day of. This helps remove the dead skin cells on your body so they don’t pick up extra color which might make you look patchy. “By exfoliating a few days prior, the tan will go on flawless and actually last longer,” Pradas says. She recommends the liquid peel by Antheia Beauty, while I’ve personally always been a fan of Natura Brasil’s creamy exfoliating bar soap), especially right before shaving. Which brings me to…
Be careful what you use to shave your legs
“You can use shaving cream,” Pradas says, “but check your razor, because most razors have a moisturizing strip which will leave a film of moisture on your legs.” The problem with the moisture strip is that it works against the color and it won’t absorb as well. “If you do use a razor with a moisture strip, make sure you really rinse off your legs after shaving so there’s no residue/moisturizer left over. Oftentimes I hear from people that from the knee down, their spray tan is lighter than the rest of their body, and that’s because they didn’t properly rinse off after shaving.”
Pradas advises that you cleanse with a PH-balanced body wash after shaving, and recommends Summer’s Eve “because it doesn’t leave a residue.” She also says to stay away from your normal moisturizing cleanser or body wash before a spray tan, because that will leave a film. Otherwise, proceed as normal. But here’s the other important aspect of post-shower shaving: “When you’re out of the shower, don’t moisturize, because that will create a color barrier that defeats the purpose of the spray tan.” She says there’s one exception though, and that’s on your face, especially if you have larger pores. “A good secret is to use my Skin Essential Hydration Serum on your face, neck, and chest, which will help fill in your pores.”
Don’t forget to give your ears, brows, and nails special treatment
“A telltale sign of a spray tan gone ‘wrong’ is forgetting to put self-tanner on your ears,” Pradas says. “I’ve seen people with a tan face but pale ears, which probably isn’t the look you’re going for. That’s why when I’m doing a spray tan, I always want to make sure your ears are out of the shower cap. If you’re self-tanning at home, you can always use a synthetic makeup brush or applicator to apply a little self-tanner there.”
She also says if you tint your brows, you might want to use barrier cream there. “Make sure to remove that barrier cream with a precision Q-tip after, and then you can blend the area with a makeup sponge,” she adds. You’ll also want to use the barrier cream for your hands and nails, and when you’re done applying the tanning serum or solution, you can wipe it off with a makeup wipe, followed by a makeup sponge for blending.
Time your blowout
In the past, I’ve always washed my hair immediately before a spray tan, but Pradas advised me to think twice. “I suggest getting a blowout after a spray tan since you shouldn’t shower in the 12-hour period after a spray tan. That way your hair will get clean after, so there will be no remnants of any spray tan, or sweat or oiliness.” She’s right. This time I booked my blow-out after, and what’s great is that there are no creases from the shower-cap I’d normally wear for a spray tan.
Talc-free baby powder is your best friend
Pradas says a talc-free baby powder or an organic aero-root powder will make all the difference after a spray tan. “It will help get rid of any excess moisture from the spray tan and speed up the drying process.” She says if you’re using the Pradas Mousse, it will dry instantaneously, but if not, use Burt’s Bees talc-free powder after a spray tan. Then, “using a big, fluffy makeup brush, apply the powder all over your body, specifically in the creases on your arms and legs where you sweat,” she says. Not only will it help create a barrier between your skin and what you’re wearing, it’ll also help absorb any moisture if you sweat.
What you wear after a spray tan depends on how much you sweat
I’m a sweater, so I always wear long, loose clothes after a spray tan (which avoids creating any marks between my arms and body), and forgo any evening plans for a night on the couch. Pradas says that’s the way to go, but if you’re not much of a sweater, a tank top is fine. And go without a bra if you can (but if you must, a strapless one is best so you won’t get strap marks). Here’s another tip: Always put a towel down in your car after a spray tan, otherwise if you’re not fully clothed from head to toe, the solution might rub off on your seat.
And while you might want to shower before bed, Pradas says the key to a perfect spray tan is to try and wait until the morning so the color has a full 12 hours to develop. She recommends sleeping in a long-sleeve shirt or a hoodie, which won’t create a crease around your neck. Sweat pants are great too, but be careful not to wear a pair that has an inseam pressing against your leg or your ankle. “That way if you cross your legs while sleeping, it won’t rub off or create a line,” says Pradas. “And lastly, wear loose socks, like those with little cut-offs so they won’t create a line on your ankle.”
Keep your pets and partner at a distance
“But only for the day!” Pradas says. “Your pets will love to lick you because my tanning formula, at least, is derived from sugar. Cuddling isn’t the wisest, either because if there’s a lot of heat, that can create moisture, and moisture is what is going to ruin the self-tan if it’s within the first eight hours or so. Moisture is just the one thing you want to protect yourself from while your tan is developing.”
Once you do shower, don’t skimp on body oil
“The first time you shower, you want to rinse away the bronzer from a spray tan. But then for your second shower, whether you’re self-tanning or getting a spray tan, apply a shower oil, like my Pradas Glow Skin Armour, before you turn the water on,” says Pradas. She adds it’s best to do this in the shower on dry skin, because it creates a barrier that protects your skin from the heavy metals and chlorine in the water. “That’s essentially what dries our skin out and fades our tan. I actually recommend using it whether you have a tan or not, because it will protect your skin. It’s really nice for shaving as well.”
Pat yourself dry—never rub
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating: “Don’t rub your wet skin with a towel after showering because rubbing will create friction, which will speed up your skin cells shedding themselves,” Pradas says. “What happens then is that your tan will get lighter in those areas that you’re rubbing. So pat yourself dry and then to maintain the tan, I recommend all organic oils, like my Skin Glaze, that works for your face and body, as well as sensitive skin.”
It’s OK to work out, just after your tan is developed
I personally hate to miss a day where I’m not sweating or getting some sort of workout in, so I was relieved when Pradas told me you don’t have to give up your workout for the sake of your tan. “You can work out the day after a tan, but I would suggest rinsing first,” she says. “The most important thing is to let your tan develop for the recommend hours so you won’t sweat it off. You don’t have to be as scared about working out as us professionals make it, but definitely take your physical activity easy during during the development time.” Also, if you wear a Fitbit or an Apple watch, it’s OK to wear it post-tan, but just make sure your tan is dry and it’s not super tight around your wrist.
Jessica Radloff is the west coast editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram here.
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