Airbrush Tanning Complete Guide

woman airbrush tanning

If you are wanting a spray tan you might have heard of airbrush tanning.

Airbrush tanning is a kind of spray tan than is done manually by an operator using a spray gun. This usually makes for a more smooth and complete tan when compared with using a spray tanning machine. Though the cost tends to be a little more than using a spray tanning machine.

Below we will explain everything you need to know about airbrush tanning so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

What is An Airbrush Spray Tan?

An airbrush tan is where an operator manually applies a spray tan all over your body for a smooth and complete tan. How it compares with a spray tan applied by a machine is that it tends to be more consistent and smooth thanks to being applied by a skilled technician. This also makes application in some trickier areas much easier such as under the arms.

The solution that is sprayed is usually made up of 2 different important parts.

Firstly, you have the bronzer part of the solution. The bronzer gives your skin an immediate tanned look. This is great if you need a tanned look quickly. The problem with bronzer is that is washes off if you take a shower so while it’s great for a fast tan it’s not a tan that would last on its own.

This is where the second important element to the spray tan comes in. It’s called dihydroxyacetone or DHA for short. DHA when applied to the skin creates a reaction that makes the surface level skin become a darker and more tanned color. This is a process that usually takes some hours to take effect.

Therefore, it’s recommended to not take a shower for up to 12 hours after an airbrush tan. Because the DHA can still be developing on your skin. So, washing or showering soon after would stop the development process on your skin which could leave you with a patchy or uneven tan.  The clear benefit with using DHA is that the tan remains even after a shower or washing and typically lasts around 5-7 days in total. For more on DHA check our article – dihydroxyacetone (DHA) for skin care and tanning explained.

Typically, most airbrush tanning lotions include both the bronzer and DHA but sometimes may just include one or the other. For example, if a solution just has the DHA element you should expect to see no immediate effect as the DHA will take time to develop completely on your skin. Though once it’s developed it should offer a beautiful glow and tanned look.

Airbrush Tanning vs Spray Tanning

Airbrush tanning is usually considered as a form of spray tanning.

The clear difference is airbrush tanning is more customizable and tends to offer a smoother application. The second important difference is cost.

Airbrush tanning is more expensive than spray tanning, though some would argue it’s worth the difference in the cost for the better tanning result.

Another difference is the duration. A machine applied spray tan tends to offer a faster application when compared with an airbrush tan. If you are very short on time it may be worth considering.

There are even more differences between the 2, for more on that you should check our article – airbrush tan vs spray tan.

Important Related Questions

How Long Does an Airbrush Tan Last?

Typically, an airbrush tan lasts around 4-10 days’ time. You can make it last longer by keeping your skin moisturized and not showering or washing as often or for as long.

Is Airbrush Tanning the Same as Spray Tanning?

Airbrush tanning is seen as a form of spray tanning. Sometimes typical spray tanning can be thought of as a tan that is applied automatically by a spray tan machine. Whereas an airbrush tan is applied by a technician manually using a spray gun.

Is Airbrush Tanning Worth It?

While it depends on your finances it’s usually considered worth the extra to go for an airbrush tan because of how it offers the best possible spray tan that you can get.

Does Airbrush Tanning Look Natural?

Yes airbrush tanning does look natural. We just recommend going for a lighter shade on your skin to start with. The darker the tan you choose the more likely it might not look as natural depending on your original skin tone.

How Long After Airbrush Tanning Can I Shower?

While it depends on the solution used it’s typically recommended to wait up to 12 hours to allow time for the DHA to develop on your skin before taking a shower.

Some airbrush tanning solutions are quicker to dry and develop but you should ask your salon before considering taking a shower soon after your airbrush tan. For more on this check our article – washing off spray tan too early.

What Do I Wear to Airbrush Tanning?

Both before and after your airbrush tanning session it’s a good idea to wear loose clothes. This means no tight clothes like leggings.

We also suggest darker clothes or older clothes because of how they could become stained by the tanning solution. For more on this check our article – what to wear to a spray tan.

While having your airbrush tan you can do it in the nude, or you can wear dark colored underwear or even an old swimsuit if you prefer. Keep in mind if you do opt to wear underwear or a swimsuit you will have tan lines around these areas.

For some this might not be important depending on where you are going or what you are doing, but it’s something to keep in mind before deciding on what to wear during your session.

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