Spray Tan vs. Tanning Bed – Which Is Best?

girl on tanning bed

Whether you are tanning for the first time or the hundredth time, nothing beats the feel of a bronzed and glowing skin post tan. While tanning feels great, how you achieve the tan also matters. Here, people often debate on spray tan vs tanning bed to find out which one is better.

While both can offer a flawless tan, the process, duration, and cost differ entirely. If you’re confused whether to opt for a spray tan or tanning bed, read on to see the comparison. 

All You Must Know About Spray Tan vs. Tanning Bed:

Before you decide whether to opt for a spray tan or tanning bed, you must understand which one suits your needs and preferences. Here is an extensive comparison to help you choose between the two:


Spray Tan:

Spray tan appointment takes place inside a tent structure. You have to strip down to your underwear usually and step into the tent, where a professional technician will use a spray gun to apply a tanning solution all over your body.

The solution contains bronzer and DHA. While bronzer gives glowing skin, DHA is an active ingredient that binds with dead skin cells in the top layer of skin to give a darker skin tone.

Tanning Bed:

A tanning bed, also commonly known as a sunbed, is equipped with UV lamps or bulbs that emit artificial radiation. You can lie down in the tanning bed either nude or in a bikini for 5-15 minutes, depending on the shade of tan you want.  

The radiation from the bulbs can penetrate deep into your skin and trigger melanocyte cells to produce more melanin which is responsible for the tan. The more the presence of melanin, the darker your skin will be.


Spray Tan:

When comparing sunbed tanning vs. spray tan, you must take into account the duration of the process. Ideally, a spray tan session takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes, provided you have a prior appointment. 

Tanning Bed:

You need to spend very little time in a tanning bed to achieve the desired skin tone. If you’re a beginner, you can tan twice a week, only for 6 minutes. You must not spend more than 10 minutes in a tanning bed since overexposure can lead to skin damage and sunburns. 

How Long It Lasts:

Spray Tan:

A spray tan can last anywhere from 5 to 10 days, depending on your skin type, the shade of tan, and aftercare. A light tan will fade away quickly, whereas a darker shade might stay for much longer.

You can prepare your skin by exfoliating and shaving 24 hours before the appointment. Wearing loose clothes, waiting for 4-8 hours to shower, and keeping your skin moisturized might help you prevent premature fading.

Tanning Bed:

The results from a tanning bed can last for longer than a spray tan since the UV radiation goes deeper into the layer of skin to produce more melanin. A light tan can stay for 1-2 weeks, while any darker shade can last up to a month or even more.

The type and overall health of your skin can also determine the longevity of a tan from tanning beds. 

Skin Harm:

Spray Tan:

In the case of spray tan vs. real tan, a spray tan is among the safest ways to achieve glowing and dark skin. It doesn’t involve radiation and affects only the top layer of your skin. Spray tanning simply involves the reaction of DHA with the dead skin cells, which are scrubbed off when you exfoliate or with natural regeneration of your skin.

Tanning Bed:

When you enter a sunbed, you expose your skin to UV radiation, including both UVA and UVB rays. Exposing your skin to UV radiation for a prolonged period might cause damage to your skin, leading to sunburns or even premature signs of aging. You might even notice the appearance of fine lines, spots, and wrinkles, making them cons of tanning beds. 


Spray Tan:

A spray tan session can be a little expensive, costing around $40 on average. Depending on the tanning salon and the shade you choose, the cost of one spray tan session can start from $18 and go up to even $100. You must carefully consider the pros and cons of spray tanning before deciding to spend on the process.

Tanning Bed:

If you’re opting for tanning beds, you might have to spend $10 for every session. It depends on the type of tanning bed you opt for as well as the salon. Regular users even consider buying a tanning bed for more convenience.    


Spray Tan:

You must wait for 4-8 hours before you wash off the spray tan. It is enough time for the solution to interact with your skin and give you a dark tan. You can then take a cold shower to wash off the excess solution.

One of the spray tan cons is that prolonged exposure to water in long showers or while swimming can fade your tan.

Tanning Bed:

The procedure of tanning beds depends on UV radiation. It implies that your tan will not fade away when your skin interacts with water. You can shower right after your tanning session to help calm your skin. 

What Is Better – Spray Tan or Tanning Bed?

When you have to decide which is better spray tan or tanning bed, it comes down to your needs and preferences. Spray tan proves to be a safer option that can prevent the chances of skin damage or signs of aging. On the other hand, tanning beds can quickly offer you a darker tan that lasts for much longer.

If you want to tan faster, you can go for tanning beds, but if you want a safer alternative, you must opt for spray tanning.

Also in terms of price, spray tans tend to be more expensive, so if cost is your priority then tanning beds may be your preferred choice. 

Related Questions:

How Long Does Spray Tan Last?

While it is advertised to stay for 10 days, spray tan can even fade away within 5-7 days. Lighter tans can fade away within 5 days, whereas a darker tan might stay for up to 10 days. 

Does a Spray Tan Prevent You From Getting a Real Tan?

No, a spray tan will not hinder the natural tanning process. It doesn’t work as a barrier between your skin akin and the UV rays. The radiation can still penetrate your skin and give you a real tan. 

Can I Tan in a Tanning Bed After a Spray Tan?

Yes, you can go in a tanning bed after getting a spray tan. You must keep in mind that spray tan doesn’t offer any protection against UV radiation, so you must use sunscreen.

Using both can lead to a darker tan. Make sure you spend less time in a tanning bed if you already have a base tan from your spray tanning appointment. For more on this check out our article – can you tan with self tanner on.

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