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Whether you haven’t had time to tan long enough before your beach vacation or it came out of nowhere, you should be prepared for swimming with a spray tan if you don’t want any streaks.

To cut to the chase, you can swim with a spray tan. However, you'll have to be really careful as chlorine has to lighten properties and strips away skin cells, consequently breaking down your tan quicker than you’d like.  Most spray tan artists will know this if they've taken a good spray tan certification course.

The best way to keep your tan as long as possible is to exfoliate really before the tan, then moisturize and re-apply self-tanner more frequently.

This is also applicable if you're swimming in the ocean as the saltwater dries out the skin and causes a tan to fade more quickly.

What's even more important, though, is not to submerge yourself in water for prolonged periods of time. The longer you stay in the water, the more water seeps under your skin cells and causes the skin to well, wrinkle, and allowing the outermost layer of the skin to break free with the tan you worked so hard on!

What Can I Do to Make My Tan Last Longer?

Although your tan will inevitably fade away, there are some things you can do to slow down the process.

First Step: Exfoliate Properly

If you properly exfoliate before your tan and apply the spray tan to your skin when it's clean, dry, and product-free as well as shower before sweating, your tan won't drip or runoff.

Using an exfoliating mitt or gloves can facilitate the process, especially if you used them with a mild, non-moisturizing gel cleanser. That’s why you should avoid opaque or creamy types of lotions as they typically contain added moisturizers and conditioners, which isn’t optimal to use pre-tan.

Second Step: Face the Waters with a Fresh Tan

A fresh spray tan is superior to even a week old one in terms of persistence. This is because your skin cells are still pretty intact and, therefore, harder to separate by water. So it's best if you plan your spray tan session a day or two before going to the pool or beach.

You can even go for a “test run” to see if your tan will hold up as well as you expect it to.

It’s also advisable to get a light to light-medium tan instead of going for a very dark tone –especially the paler you are naturally.

This is mainly to avoid troubles if your tan fades. The less contrast there is between your natural tone and your tan, the less visible the fade would be.

Only after you make sure your tan holds up should you go a bit darker.

Step Three: Protect your Tan While you Swim to Slow Down Cell Separation

To reduce the rate of your tan’s fade while swimming, limit your swimming sessions to short intervals of 15 minutes, more or less. Make sure you pat your skin dry once you exit the water instead of rubbing yourself dry.

Moreover, go for a thick, waterproof lotion-based sunscreen as those help slow the tan fade that comes with prolonged water submersion. It's also better if you use sport sunscreens that are made for sports use such as Surfers, Scuba Divers, and Snorkelers as they stick better throughout the swimming session.

Step Four: Rebuild Faded Colors by Applying a Topper Coat

After you're done swimming, you should gently cleanse of any sunscreen or water. Rinse and pat the dry skin with a towel, then apply the spray tan once more to rebuild any faded color.

Patting your skin is better than scrubbing as the latter can increase the skin exfoliation, causing the tan to fade faster.

Can You Get a Natural Tan with a Spray One?

Yes, you definitely can! You’ll actually get the same effects you normally would. In essence, if you tan after being exposed to the sun, you’ll get darker. If you get red, you’ll burn.

The only problem is that you won’t be able to see through the color as you’d already be brown. So be sure to wear your sunscreen, a floppy hat, and hang out under an umbrella.

Final Thoughts

An airbrush/HVLP applies sunless tan consists of two colorant agents. The temporary brown instant visible tint is a cosmetic one and is the one you see when you first spray the product onto your skin. The other is a DHA-based tint that develops more slowly.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the FDA-approved ingredient for sunless tanning, is the active ingredient in almost all self-tanning products. It has the ability to stain the top layer of your skin quite quickly, and sometimes the effects don’t show right away. It usually takes two to eight hours and can actually darken after a whole day.

It typically lasts five days to a week, but if you follow the steps and advice I gave above, you can keep your tan for as long as possible.

I hope this article was helpful for you.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me directly - [email protected]


Grant Kantsios

Sunless tanning business & marketing coach

Hey everyone!  My name is Grant and I've been in the sunless tanning industry for over 9 years.  I started in the industry working for Sjolie Sunless, one of the largest companies in the sunless tanning industry.  Since then, I've had a passion for helping sunless tanning business owners through my work at happytans, with the happytans podcast and website builder. In addition, I created Sunless Evolution with world-renowned spray tan artist Jimmy Coco, who sprays A-list celebrities like the Kardashians and Ashley Graham.

Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. I do have experience with each of the products or services listed below so I feel fully comfortable recommending them. Please do not spend any money on the products unless you feel you need them to achieve your goals. It turns out a lot of the things I use are free so you should be able to do the same.

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