The main takeaway? Treat a spray tan like your big-day hair and makeup and invest in a trial.
woman getting spray tan
Credit: Csaba Toth / Getty Images

Excitedly counting down to your wedding day? After getting your venue, flowers, and invitations in order, you want to ensure that all of your beauty needs are covered, too. While hair and makeup are no-brainers, something that often gets set on the back-burner is spray tan prep. Though many brides want to flaunt a golden glow while walking down the aisle, not as many know the ins and outs of pre-wedding sunless tanning. To help, we sat down with Burcu Kulaksiz and Alexa Canfora from On the Go Glow Mobile Tan for everything there is to know about getting a spray tan before the big day, which, when done right, should lead to a natural radiance. "It can highlight your wedding gown, help smooth out your skin tone and complexion, make your teeth look whiter, brighten your eyes, and give you a natural glow," notes Canfora. Ahead, more of her and Kulaksiz best tips.

Do your research.

Kulaksiz notes that spray tan research should begin months in advance of your big day. "All brides should research companies and artists in their area and ask their friends, colleagues, Facebook groups, and hairdressers for recommendations," she says. "Reach out to a few places and ask them any questions you may have." As far as what to ask? Don't be shy: Kulaksiz says that the technicians at On the Go Glow spend up to an hour on the phone walking clients through the ins and outs of pre-wedding spray tanning to help put their worries to rest.

Go for a custom tan.

It's more convenient to book an appointment for an automated spray tan at your local studio, but Canfora says that a custom sprayer is worth the extra effort. "Not all spray tans are the same, which is why it is important to find someone who can help customize a shade that not only works best with your skin tone, but gives you the color they desire," she says, noting that this is where bridal spray tans differ from run-of-the-mill, everyday iterations. "Brides should always go a bit lighter than they normally would. Less is definitely more in this situation," she says, since spray tans look darker in photos. Another reason a custom treatment is a must? You will avoid that unsightly orange tint. "The main ingredient in spray tan solutions is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is what darkens or alters the color of the skin. But, with too much, it can cause discoloration," explains Kulaksiz. "If the artist doesn't match the solution with your skin tone, this can cause the tan to turn orange."

Book a trial.

You wouldn't book your hair and makeup vendors without doing a trial, right? Canfora says the same should be true of your spray tan team. "The trial will determine many things, including whether or not brides even want a spray tan, what color would look best, the number of days post-application when the tan looks the most natural, and if it will rub off on their dress," she explains. As a result, both Canfora and Kulaksiz recommend getting at least one tan before deciding to move forward with a vendor; book it a couple of weeks out from the big day. "We recommend brides come in before their makeup trials and one of their final dress fittings," Kulaksiz says, noting that two days before the beauty test session is the sweet spot. "This will allow them to see how the tan looks with their makeup and dress on!" Another key part of this trial is trying on a selection of different white outfits in the aftermath, ideally in a color and fabric similar to your wedding dress, which will reveal any staining.

Don't forget to prep.

In order to achieve the most natural-looking spray tan possible, it's important to prep your skin beforehand. Do the work and your skin will "absorb the solution more evenly and hold a tan longer," says Kulaksiz, who further notes that poor preparation often leads to the dreaded orange tint. Fortunately, the pre-tan checklist is straightforward. Simply shave and exfoliate at least 24 hours prior to your appointment and you should be in the clear, so long as you use the correct products. "When exfoliating, use any body scrub you like, but make sure it is abrasive enough to remove dry skin," Canfora says. "We also recommend a sugar-based versus a salt-based scrub. Salt is drying, which increases the chance of 'alligator skin' or uneven color."

On the day of your spray tan, make sure that your skin is completely clean and free of products for at least four hours before your appointment. "Lotion and makeup create a barrier and will make the color blotchy and fade unevenly," Kulaksiz shares, noting that deodorant and perfume turn green when mixed with the solution, further proving the necessity of walking into your tan without a drop of anything on your dermis.

Bring a post-tan outfit.

Since spray tans impart a bronze color, skip wearing light clothing to your appointment so you don't stain your garments while the tan develops. Additionally, Canfora recommends opting for loose-fitting pieces. "Tight clothing rubs against the skin and will interfere with the even development of the solution," she explains.

Maintenance matters.

If you're pleased with your glow, do everything you can to extend its life. "A spray tan can last anywhere from five to 10 days, but it also depends on the at-home after-care and the unique skin of each client," says Kulaksiz, adding that a spray tan on lighter skin tones can last about five days, seven to eight days on medium shades, and up to 10 days on darker tones. To make it to these benchmarks, Kulaksiz notes to pay special attention to how you shower and moisturize post-tan. "After the spray tan is fully developed, the first shower is a rinse with lukewarm or cold water. Soaps, shampoos, and conditioners need to be avoided," she says. After that initial rinse, you can return to your regular shower routine. As for moisturizing? Kulaksiz recommends avoiding heavily fragranced products and opting for those formulated with cocoa butter and other deeply hydrating ingredients. "Keeping the skin moisturized will help the color last longer and also ensure gradual fading," she says. "If the skin is dry, the color will flake off with the dead skin, making the spray tan look blotchy."

Time it right.

Now that you know how to make the most of your big-day spray tan, it's time to book your official pre-wedding appointment. "We generally recommend getting a spray tan two days before the date," Canfora says. "This will allow plenty of time for the tan to set completely. You will also be able to get a couple of showers in to remove any bronzer and soften the color so it is perfect." Those rinses do more than improve the color-they minimize the chance of transfer, too, notes Kulaksiz. "The part of the spray tan that could potentially rub off on the dress is the cosmetic bronzer found in most solutions," she explains. "For this reason, take two to three showers before the wedding, which should be enough to ensure the bronzer is completely off your skin."


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