I want my tan to last 21 days – What product will do this?

If you have not heard this as a Professional Tanning Technician – you will :)

The correct answer is – no tanning spray solution “product” can guarantee this. I don’t care what any sales person tells you, about any brand , this is not a guarantee you can, nor should, ever make to you clients.  You will be proven a liar at some point, by some client. :)

What does a client REALLY mean when they say they want a tan that lasts 21 days?

Generally, every client wants a smooth, even, perfect, “brown” tan that looks, and fades exactly like a UV tan with no skin or health concerns/damage. Not just tan color, but they are requesting something much more specific, this is important, as you will see below.

A well formulated sunless tan can certainly mimic a UV tan in coloration and tone. It may not exactly mimic “your” personal unique UV tan color created from “your” skins pigmentation mix, but it can certainly  look exactly like an attractive UV tan. People tan in many tones and colors with UV tanning, so it can passably mimic a natural looking, pleasing, appearing, brown UV tan. “Someones” tan, it just may be a bit different then your “normal” UV tan.

Skin  pigmentation is not involved in the sunless colorant process, therefor a sunless tan can not fade exactly like a UV tan, because it is not the same as a UV tan.

UV tans are created when the skin is damaged from UV exposure, and increases pigmentation levels in the deeper living skin tissues to help shield them from further damage. This is a protective reaction. This is not a complete or broad spectrum protection, (nor does it work as well as a high SPF sunscreen) and its appearance means the skin cells have already been damaged. It is a semi-sheer protective layer, within the living tissues, below the dead skin cell surface.

Tan color with a UV tan, disperses through living tissues, from underneath the top dead skin layer. The coverage is in a fairly smooth even manner (based on where exposure occurred). So color is usually uniform throughout, and as the pigmentation fades with time, it fades generally in a gradual, all over lightening process.

Sunless tanners are a cosmetic colorant applied to the top, outside, surface, protective layer of skin. Solution must try to evenly penetrate overlapping , unevenly layered dead skin cells from the top, and then absorb/seep down. Sort of like painting an onions tough outer skin covering with food coloring, and hoping it penetrates deep enough to color lower layers, in a smooth and even manner.

An onion bulbs center,  has multiple fresh, healthy, moist living tissue layers inside; with millions of very tiny, overlapping individual cells, layered upon each other. As you move outward to the surface, these same layers become thinner, and less moist, harder (more protective) dryer, and separate more easily.  They become brittle, and break off very easily. Just like living human skin, and our protective cell surface layer.

Sunless tanners are a sheer tint, applied over the pale unpigmented tissues underneath.    Skin health and condition will all be reflected in the final sunless tan appearance. The solution tints the dead cells on the skin surface (not the live tissues underneath)

Solution is not opaque, like a heavy facial foundation cosmetic, so you cannot “hide” or block, skin imperfections, they will still appear, though may blend better with surrounding skin. Appearance and fade will reflect whats going on with the skin. It will not be perfectly even and uniform, as dead skin cells naturally flake off unevenly.

The tan fade rate is tied in to how smoothly and evenly your skin exfoliates. If your skin exfoliates fast, or very unevenly, your tan will fade fast or very unevenly.

If you are a slow exfoliater, that exfoliates cleanly and evenly – Lucky you!  – You will have excellent self tanning fade, with little effort. I have a 70 year old Aunt who is one of these people, and her tan always last 21 days or more, doing absolutely nothing special  (using the exact same products I personally use)  I am not so lucky, though I am of the same skin depth as she is, similar (though not identical genetics) and similar skin care products and enviroment.


Many people when sprayed, will have SOME tan color, somewhere on their body after 10-14,  and in some cases even 21 days or more. So they are still tanned, for 10-21 days. But is the tan smooth, even and attractive all over?  For the majority, this would be a negative . But they are still “tanned”  :)  But that is NOT what they meant at all.

What your client is expressing, is that they want a tan to be smooth, even, and attractive – but just a bit lighter each day, until it all dissapears seamlessly.  This is not something you can guarantee with any solution anywhere, no matter how specialized, unique or “perfect” it is. Nor would it be guaranteed with all clients, even with the best products in the world. (whatever “best” means, which is a very subjective term)

This is not to say you cannot help every client reach something closer to their expectations, just make sure they understand what is realistic in terms of their sunless tan, and their specific situation.

Tan fade rate is primarily, and firstly related to your clients normal skin exfoliation rate (not the product or blend, or brand used)

Spray 20 women, different ages, and genetics, using the exact same blend, and same DHA level on them, and you will have a wide range of wear and fade rates, and fade off evenness.  Each persons unique skin cell separation rate is the first factor dictating their fade rate.  This is not something you can control.

When you spray tan someone, your are tinting the dead skin cells on the body surface. These cells detach from the skin surface (millions a day), as each tanned cell falls off, more pale skin underneath is visible. This is why you tan lightens everyday. And can be more or less even in different body areas.

Anything that causes additional wear in one area vs another – will cause a faster fade in that location (Washing your face, tight gym wear rubbing on skin, tissue rubbing against tissue at arm folds, between breasts, excess sweating which can cause dead cells to loose faster, shaving, swimming, long tub soaks etc)

Unless you “stop” these dead skin cells for falling off completely, your tan will ALWAYS lighten a bit everyday.  And you DO NOT want to completely stop this detachment, as this is part of healthy living tissue growth. It is necessary.

As new cells are birthed beneath the dead skin surface, they need to push to the surface, meaning they need to displace the dead skin cells on the top, so they have somewhere to go. :)

If they don’t do this effectively, you will have very thick, discolored, non flexible, cracked surface skin. A number of skin conditions, exhibit symptoms of slow or limited exfoliation of the dead surface skin cells. With time, skin becomes unhealthy, itchy, thick, and very uncomfortable.


Common reasons skin may exfoliate fast (tan may fade faster)

  • Older skin tends to exfoliate faster then Younger skin
  • The amount of UV damage a skin has can increase the exfoliation rate
  • Dry skin will exfoliate faster then oily skin
  • Skin with a damaged skin barrier (true of diseased skin, very dry skin, acne prone skin) will exfoliate more unevenly,  then skin with an in tact healthy skin barrier – this can be improved with treatment in many cases
  • Environment is a factor – as humidity and dryness levels of your enviroment can alter your skins exfoliation rate. (skin dryness is effected)
  • Genetic makeup and overall body health, as well as skin health influence your exfoliation rate.
  • Lifestyle habits choices and diet can effect exfoliation rate (heavy exercise and sweating, daily swimming, low fat diets, Un protected UV exposure or active UV tanning can all effect skin exfoliation and tan fade rate)
  • Poor prep pre tan,  poor maintenance post tan
  • Medications or hormonal products that effect the skin

Will a “darker” solution or “Better” solution make the tan last longer?

Since the fade is first and foremost, due to the skin , not the product, then a darker tan is not better.

Changes to a solution “may” help.  This would be only one step though, in making adjustments to the clients overall skin enviroment, and care.

For example using a blend that provides ingredients to help heal and repair the Skin Barrier, and minimize Anti-oxidant damage, and dryness can – in the long-term – help the skin heal. This will enable the tan to fade better with time. All Tampa Bay Blends, use ingredients of this type in every blend. But client will also need to look at all skin care products used, and how they are impacting skin health.

Using a blend with added ingredients to extend a tan, such as erythrulose, or different penetration enhancers, different moisturizer types, can help – assuming these are what this client needs to help “Fix” the issue. Tanfastic is a blend that used Erythrulose. Different blends have different moisturizing levels, and ingredients, some may suit one client better then another.

Going to a higher DHA level (a darker product) is one thing many people try, thinking this will make the tan last longer. Actually the reverse is often true, the tan tends to appear to fade faster, especially if the DHA level is to high for the clients skin type.

You are “painting” a darker product on the surface, but you still have the same pale skin underneath, and as the dark tan flakes off, you will still see the untanned skin below. (because tan fades from the top). The contrast difference between the pale and dark tan will be much more apparent with a dark tan vs a medium or light tan. This will make the differences more visible, very quickly. Especially if the client exfoliates fast already.

If using to high a DHA product for the client, the skin may also become over-dry, and the fading is often more patchy and “speckled” looking, or “yucky” much sooner then it should. be. Clients that leave product on the skin to long, may also notice more dryness. or rapid fading.

A darker bronzer product can add a few days extra to tan wear on some clients, due to the added skin stain effects added into the DHA tan. But for some very fair clients, the tan may fade more unevenly, because of this same effect. For them the stain from the bronzer does not fade as evenly. In which case they would do better with a lighter bronzer type product (Tan Extraordinaire, Revive are two examples)


Which Brand will be “better”

As noted above, one special “brand” of solution will not be the “fix”. Rather using the correct type of product, and/or formulation type, or specific ingredient mix, can make a difference. But no one special brand can say they are the answer to this, for every client or every situation.

One brand, or blend may last better on your clients – but this is due is more often due to the other factors noted above.

Ideally you want blends with a good level of beneficial antioxidants and skin healing ingredients, which help strengthen and repair the protective skin barrier. They should be added in at percentages that are high enough to impact the skin, not only in trace amounts that look good on the label, but are at levels to low to accomplish anything.

A range of blends with differing moisturizing levels and types, so your have options for all clients, and locations

A good DHA level range in light, medium and dark to match a range of skintype – so you can provide both good tan color AND a good even and smooth fade off.

Blend options WITH and WITHOUT erthulose. Some clients find this helps their tan fade slower, (usually adds on 3-4 days or so to fade off process) but not all clients skin will be reactive to this ingredient, so for some it creates no added benefit. A few clients find they have more yellow tones, or a more difficult tan removal process from erthrulose.

How to guide your clients, to get the best tan they can have

This will help slow initial tan fade off.

  • Correct pre and post tan care products and technique – review what products client uses and how.
  • Correct and even exfoliation pretan is important for many clients. See links below
  • Correctly formulated skin care products (cleansers moisturizers, shave products)
  • Mositurizing as need, and correctly for your skin needs
  • Correct DHA level for your skin type (to dark speeds tan fade) See links below
  • Tanning products with added ingredients to help the tan fade slower (erythrulose for example if it works for you)
  • Tanning solutions with correct formulation for “your” skin needs (moisturizer type, and level, bronzer depth and darkness etc) Experiment to see what works best for your client.
  • permoisturize your skin before tanning especially if you are prone to a tan that appears crackly immediately after application , common on the lower legs of women (legs are very dry, and we shave them, drying them more) Moistaire dry oil works well for this.
  • gently rinse and cleanse skin after swimming, prolonged water submission will fade a tan faster. See tips below on preservation while swimming
  • Diets low in healthy fats will alter skin health consider adding in EFA Oils supplementation along with dietary changes (All EFA Oils not just Flax)
  • Humidity changes per time of year (or geographic location) can directly impact skin exfoliation rate
  • Coach clients about proper shower off times, leaving a product on for 24 plus hours can overdry the skin. Do not leave Rapid Tan type products on to longer for the client skintype
  • If client has been tanning back to back for a number of weeks and tan is fading poorly or unevenly, it may be time for client to take a break of 1-2 weeks and exfoliate off all old tan color, to provide a fresh smooth colored surface for fresh tan application.  (as someone who is pale, I need to do this about every 8 weeks)

A good rule of thumb: Most clients will need to get sprayed roughly once a week, to have a tan that fades evenly and smooth. Some need a shorter time between sprays, some can go longer – but the best advise for new clients, is to plan a respray about once a week approximately, based on their tan wear rate.


Some other Blog Posts that may help:

Will drinking more water help my spray tan last longer?

Does the soap or cleanser used, matter when spray tanning?

Why wait 24 hours after shaving before you can apply a spray tan?

Can I still swim with a spray tan? Yes, with these tips…….

Extending the life of your Spray Tan

Winter Spray Tans – Tech Tricks for Prefect Results

Erythrulose – Is this a good thing?

Whats the best Spray Tan product for me?

Humility Levels and how it impacts a Spraytan