Spray Tan vs Self Tan – The Differences and What to Choose

spray tan application

If you are unsure whether to go for a spray tan or a self-tan here we have you covered.

There are a host of obvious and less obvious differences between spray tanning and self-tanning. Each have their own pros and cons depending on your own experience and if you are planning on getting a tan for a special occasion for example.

Below we will break down each option to help you decide which you should opt for.

Spray Tan or Self Tanner

To give the best comparison between the 2 options we will compare each for different categories to help focus in on the pros and cons of both spray tanning and self-tanning.


The first and most important thing to compare is the results of each option. Spray tanning usually offers the best and most consistent results.

It should also be mentioned that you have 2 kinds of spray tanning. Spray tanning booths and airbrush tanning. Airbrush tanning is done manually by a technician whereas the spray tanning booths are done automatically. Airbrush tanning is the best especially if you have a skilled technician operating. Don’t forget to check our article – Airbrush Tan vs Spray Tan.

Airbrush tanning makes tanning in harder areas more simple. Using the spray tanning booths also offers a smooth application and is also considered a good option.

In comparison to self-tanning, spray tanning is considered better with less likelihood of a mistake happening due to the way the spray tan is evenly spread and applied.

Self-tanner results are also quite good but not considered as reliable as spray tanning. Though self-tanner can still be applied smoothly and offer a flawless tan.

Just keep in mind it is a little more likely you might mess up a self-tanner but the more experienced you get with it the less likely that is to happen.

The best and easiest kind of self-tanners to apply are the mousses. Sprays are also a good choice. Lotions are okay though you are slightly more likely to make an error with lotion in comparison to the other choices. For example, if too much lotion applied to one area this can lead to a tan imbalance or even an orange build up in some cases.

Overall, we prefer the spray tanning results a little more simply because the chance of any mistakes to the tan is less likely. This means that if you are planning a tan before an important event like a prom or a wedding we suggest going for a spray tan.

Spray Tanning5/5



When it comes to comparing the price between the 2 options. Spray tanning tends to work out to be more expensive. In fact, in our recent study, we found the average price of a spray tan in America was $44.91. In comparison you can easily find a self-tanner for $10-20.

So, when the 2 options are compared in terms of price self-tanner is almost always going to be the cheapest option.

Spray tanning should be categorized into 2 different sections, spray tanning using a booth and airbrush tanning. The spray tanning booths are less expensive than airbrush tanning typically and are a good middle ground you can choose without breaking the bank.

Overall if you are on a tight budget we recommend opting for self-tanner. If you have a little extra to spend go for a spray tanning booth and if you want the best experience without compromise go for an airbrush tanning session.

Spray Tanning3/5



In terms of development speed spray tanning and self-tanning are comparable. Both options have access to rapid development (4 hours approx.) spray tanning where the tan will develop more quickly and standard development (8 hours approx.) also where the tan will take more time to develop. There is not much difference in terms of the development speed.

The main difference when it comes to speed is in the travelling to the salon to have the spray tan done or finding an available appointment. When you consider self-tanning you can immediately apply it at home whenever you need to.

So, if you are in a big hurry applying self-tanner might just be a little quicker than spray tanning. Of course, if you don’t have any self-tanner at home going straight for a spray tan may intend be quicker than going to the store to buy the self-tanner first.

Overall, though both options are quite quick and effective but applying your own self tanner at home might just be the fastest option if you are in a big hurry!

Spray Tanning4/5



In terms of application spray tanning and airbrush tanning are quite simple and easy. Airbrush tanning is considered the best choice because the spray tan technician can manually apply to harder to reach areas.

Self-tanner is relatively easy to apply but can become difficult to apply in certain areas such as the back where help from another person may be needed.

Also, with self-tanner certain areas such as around the ears and eyes application is more tricky to apply evenly and more smoothly. These kinds of areas make application more difficult and for some people that fact alone may sway them to choose spray tanning over self-tanning.

Overall, this makes spray tanning the better choice because application is more simple and seamless without the need for help. Of course, once you have experience and someone to help apply in difficult areas such as the back self-tanners can be as good if not even better than a spray tan.

Spray Tanning 5/5


Overall, Round Up

Overall as you can see both options here came to the same overall scores of 17/20. Indicating that both options are quite similar and are great choices if you want a natural looking tan.

Of course, both have their own pros and cons. For instance, if you want to spend the least amount of money opting for a self-tanner will be your best choice. Whereas if you want the best and most complete tanning experience spray tanning and more specifically airbrush tanning would be your best choice.

Before choosing which to go for just consider what factors are most important for you and then go for the ones that suit you best!

Spray Tanning 17/20


Related Questions

How Long Does a Spray Tan Last?

A spray tan typically lasts around 4-8 days time depending on how well it is maintained.

Is It Cheaper to Self Tan or Spray Tan?

Self tanning usually is cheaper than spray tanning. So if you are on a budget self tanning may be the best choice for you.

Are Spray Tans Worth It?

Yes spray tans are worth it. They give you a wonderful amazing golden tan in only a matter of hours without any concern of skin damage that can happen with traditional sun tanning or tanning beds.

Can I Self Tan Over a Spray Tan?

Yes you can self tan over a spray tan. Ideally the best time to do this is a day or 2 before the original tan will start to fade. This is usually around 3 days after your spray tan.

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