But lemme tell ya, my first visit wasn't quite so pretty. I came out of that spray booth looking like an orange version of Carrie on prom night, and yes, I then suffered through patches of weird brownness on my legs for the next week while everything faded away.
Since then, it's been much better, especially since I've perfected the process and learned a few secrets along the way. So, I'd like to let you all learn from my mistakes and get a kick-ass, natural looking spray tan that lasts for up to two weeks.
1. Find a good spray tan place. I go to my local LA Tan where they charge just $10 on Mondays for a spray tan in their Mystic Tan booth.
2. Have one of the staff members show you the booth, explain where they keep towels, hair caps, DHA-blocking lotion and bathroom (you'll still want to wash your hands after!).
3. On the day of your tan, make sure your schedule is relatively clear. You won't want to sweat or get wet for at least six hours after your spray tan (and really, seriously, this is the rule. Don't even do the dishes) so make sure you go on a day or at a time when you don't have a ton to do or have a need to wear tight clothing (i.e. sports bras, socks, etc.) later.
4. Right before you go to tan, shower, exfoliate and moisturize. I use a body scrub along with a natural bristle body brush to buff all my dead skin cells away. Get to every little spot: your heels, elbows, that crease between your armpit and back, and even the backs of your hands and fingers need to be scrubbed to perfection. Once you're out of the shower, moisturize evenly all over. And when I say "all over," I mean it. Dead and/or dry skin will trap the DHA in the spray tan and you'll turn out blotchy.
For your face, use a gentle exfoliator like a microfiber cloth. Make sure you pay special attention to your jawline and eyebrows since dead and/or dry skin can hide in those places. Moisturize that mug o' yours, too.
After moisturizing, wait at least fifteen minutes for everything to absorb before you head out to tan.
5. Wear loose fitting clothes, and definitely try to avoid jeans when you go to tan (you'll sweat against the fabric and it'll rub the color off). I'd suggest wearing any typical atheletic wear, like loose shorts and a t-shirt. I haven't noticed that any color comes off too much on a regular bra, but if you wanna go bra-less, even better.
6. So you're at the salon and you're ready to go. Inside the room, strip down either bare naked (preferable) or wear a crappy swimsuit or old underwear you don't care about. Don the provided hair net, careful to line up the edge of it with your actual hair line. Don't leave it too low or you'll get a line on your forehead or cheeks! Also check for towels. I'd recommend three of them, though most salons might only give you two. Ask for an extra...you'll be glad you did.
7. The salon should provide you with a DHA blocking lotion. Slather--and I do mean SLATHER--this lotion LIBERALLY on your hands (up to your wrists) and feet (up to your ankles). Make sure to really work it into your nail beds and in between those digits. When I put the stuff on, my hands and feet are creamy white. Don't really try to rub it in, just let it sit on your skin.
8. Get in the booth and follow the instructions to get it started (mine has a big green button). Now, they'll show you a picture somewhere in the room of how you're supposed to stand. Pretty much, it looks like a weird Pinocchio puppet-like stance, with your arms lifted at the elbow and your feet spread apart. I would NOT recommend standing statue-still in this stance while you're sprayed. If you do, you'll literally get color just on the front and back of you. And last I checked, most people have two SIDES to them as well.
My booth sprays you four times on the front, then four times on the back. What I do is affect the Pinocchio pose for the first time, then just shift slighty for each successive spray. For instance, even though you're supposed to stand with your feet shoulder width apart, I'll actually twist a little to the left and move my leg out on the second spray, then to the right on the third so I get at least one even spray each down the inside of my legs. Turn around, and repeat: straight for the first spray, twist a little for second and third, straight again for fourth.
Do make sure when you're facing front that you don't bend your head down too far. The tanning solution will miss any little creases on your neck and you'll get white lines.
9. OK, so you're done! Look in the mirror: yes, you look like a hot, hot mess, with brown drippiness covering your entire body. Carefully remove the hairnet and pitch it. Then take your first towel and wipe the DHA blocking lotion off your hands and feet. I'd recommend wiping it off AWAY from your body so that you don't get any lotion where you don't want it. Make sure you get it out from between those fingers and toes. Discard that lotiony towel.
10. Grab your second towel and gently pat (don't rub!) your face dry, making sure to get any droplets away from your hairline, ears and jawline. Then start gently patting down the rest of your body, top down. When that towel doesn't have any dry spots left, grab your third towel.
11. The mirror is your friend. Use it to ensure that you get every last drop of that solution patted off your body. Any that stays will, well, STAY. Get as dry as possible without rubbing with the towel, then dress.
12. Go to the salon's bathroom and carefully wash your hands concentrating again between the fingers and on the nail beds. No need to scrub, just gently wash. Remember, though, the solution needs to process for eight hours and water and sweat WILL interrupt that process (one errant splash will literally leave spots on your soon-to-be-bronzedness).
13. You're done! Go home and wait it out. If your salon has later hours, all the better, since you can just go to bed soon after and shower in the morning.
14. So it's been at least six hours and you're ready to shower. (I'd still recommend being sort of careful with water and sweat for the next day.) Shower and use soap to get the extra formula off, but don't scrub. Pat yourself gently with a towel, then moisturize like hell.
I'd highly, highly suggest that you purchase a gradual tanner from your local drugstore. I LOVE the Nivea gradual tan and firming moisturizer. This lotion will extend your tan past the 7-10 day expiration date to a full 14 days or longer, promise.
15. Last but not least, every salon and spray tanning experience is different. If you can get to a salon that offers gradual or customized color, and/or a in booth drying component, all the better. Mine, unfortunately, only offers a one-size-fits-all tanner, so honestly, going any more often than two weeks would turn me into an Oompa-Loompa in about four seconds flat. But wherever you go make sure you moisturize like a fiend and hold off on the aggressive exfoliation while you're trying to get your tan to last.
Have any of you spray tanned before? (I know TKOG has! :)) What was your experience like?