All Things Fashion DC | Getting The Right Spray Tan in the DC Area!
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Getting The Right Spray Tan in the DC Area!

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20 Jul Getting The Right Spray Tan in the DC Area!

by ATFDC Contributor Kelsi Zimmerman

So we’ve all heard the horror stories about cases of skin cancer caused by indoor tanning, seen the news about laws banning those under 18 years of age to tan as well as the federal tax that was placed on sessions in indoor tanning units as of July of 2010, but somehow we all cant seem to get over the confidence boost you gain from being a little more bronze! (Especially this time of year.)

So with that, I present to you the in’s and out’s of the spray tan – at home or in a salon right here in the Nation’s Capital.

Whether you are planning to spray yourself down at home, get airbrushed by a salon technician or jump in a Mystic booth, the preparation is pretty much all the same. First and foremost, you should prepare yourself for the fact that you will not be able to shower for a minimum of 4 hours after the spray. In most cases, the longer you let the spray sit in without showering, the darker your results will be. You want to arrive to your session fully exfoliated and shaved/waxed as the duration of the tan depends on how often and how much you exfoliate and shave. Make sure you wipe off all face make-up (eyes are OK) prior to the spray. For most even results, try to avoid using any moisturizers prior to the spray, as the substance will clog your pores and make for uneven results.  I have found that if you prefer to spray the lengths of your underarms and sides, you will want to wipe off all deodorant prior to the spray. When you arrive at the salon, in most cases they will provide you with a DHA Blocking Cream, this cream is used ONLY for the areas that you do not want color to develop, as it literally does what it says and blocks the DHA- which is the substance in the spray tan which makes you bronze.

You will want to be sure to use this cream on your nails and toenails, in between your fingers and in between your toes. If you have longer nails, putting cream on the inside of the length of your nail is also advised. If you are worried about color gathering on your hands, feet and elbows, a LIGHT SHINE of the blocking cream should be applied, the more cream you put on, the more blockage you will get. Along with the blocking cream, most salons will provide a hair net, you will want to make sure you hair is up for the session and tucked into the cap. I have found that leaving the hairnet a little bit above your hairline is best so that you do not develop a tan-line across your forehead. (No the spray will not turn your hair bronze.)

Now, for the difference in it all. The Airbrush vs. The Mystic Booth. An Airbrush Tan session is done by a salon technician, where they hold an “airbrush gun” about 6 inches away from your skin, which is perfect for those of you who are all for being naked-friendly as long as it means an even, detailed tan. Doing an airbrush session is great for covering up tan lines, stretch-marks, scars or even freckles as the technician will be able to get up close and personal to touch up on any part of your body you would like!

Fit To Be Tan found on 1626 U Street Corridor NW has a super friendly and helpful staff that informed me that you can stay in your underwear and bra or bathing suit top and bottom if you feel more comfortable in front of the salon technician during your apointment and because the spray will not stain your garments! Just know that you will have tan lines. However, if you do not want to have the bra tan-line option, you can go topless! They suggest that you bring a pair of dark baggy clothing, such as a long-sleeve loose fitting shirt with baggy “pj pants” and NO BRA with flip-flops to wear upon leaving your spray tan appointment, and to keep in mind you will want to remain in those clothes for the following 8 to 10 hours after your appointment to allow for the color to fully develop. My opinion? Take the latest appointment that they offer and sleep on the your tan in the dark baggy pj’s until you can shower in the morning time.

Glow Tanning located at 1334 Wisconsin Ave NW has been featured in several national publications and lifestyle magazines such as Lucky Magazine resulting in their airbrush sessions to be in pretty high-demand and by appointment only. The tan will last you for about 5-6 days (again also depending on how often/much you exfoliate and shave) and they actually provide a disposable Ahould be able to feel comfortable in whatever you choose to wear for your session. Like Fit To Be Tan, Glow Tanning suggests to bring a pair of loose, dark-colored clothing to wear home from your spray tan session and the longer you let your spray set in prior to showering, the darker color you will receive. Glow Tanning also offers sessions where you can come in to specifically just get your legs sprayed if you prefer not to have a full-body spray, or just your face (for only $15!). And we all know, having a tan face is a great feeling!

Now for the Mystic Tan! In comparison to Airbrush Tanning, the Mystic Tan is where you are in a booth, directed by a voice activated machine that directs you where and how to stand on the number plates provided in the booth as you are getting sprayed. The Mystic Tan is great for those who want to be able to choose from a wide variety of levels of bronze and build your own tan through a personal cartridge with additives the Mystic Tan has to offer. A client can choose their level of tan based on their skin tone. Most Mystic Tans offer shades in: Glow, Light, Medium and Dark. For those who have naturally fair skin, the Glow will leave you 1-2 shades darker, the Light will leave you 2-3 shades darker, the Medium will leave you 3-4 and the Dark may be a little too dark to appear natural but would leave you a dark 5-6 shades darker. In comparison to a person who has more of an olive toned skin, using a Glow you would not see much of a difference, whereas the light may leave you 1-2 shades darker, the medium 2-3 and the dark 3-4.

The mystic is designed to spray and cover all angles of the body from a console within the booth about a foot away from where you will stand as the sprayer moves from head to feet and then back up. At Hollywood Tans located at 625 D Street NW, you can receive a quick and easy Mystic Spray Tan with no appointment necessary! With Mystic spray tans in comparison to Airbrush, they are often cheaper in price and you do not have to worry about your tan rubbing off on your clothes during the hours that the spray is developing. As long as you avoid any contact with sweat or water from 4-8 hours after your session, you will be golden (literally.) Again, the longer you let the tan set in, the darker you will get. At 4 hours post-spray tan you can start judging the development of your tan and around 8 hours you will start to see the maximum color. At any time in between if you decide you don’t want to get any darker, just shower and that will be the shade you will end up with!

Or, if you prefer to have your own “tan in a can” and have an airbrush session at your fingertips at all times, you may want to try these personal favorites of mine, either Toma’s Airbrush Spray or Ed Hardy Mermaid Sunless Spray. Each can be found while browsing the internet and average at about $15 a can! With the option to spray yourself at home, this is a great way to build your tan through the spray tan. Simply follow the same procedures as you would any other spray tan, spray on after showering, at about 6 inches away from your body in a circular motion. Let the airbrush set in for about 2 minutes then with a towel pat your skin dry, DO NOT RUB. Avoid putting clothes on for about 20 minutes afterwards. And- if you want to avoid having a once white-now bronze bathroom door like I now have, try spraying in your tub while standing on a towel!


Now, for the maintenance and aftercare of your spray tan session. The most important thing to remember is to listen to the specific time set for development by your salon technician to wait to shower after your spray. Most spray tans last an average of 5-7 days, depending on how often you exfoliate, shave or swim in chlorine. It is also important to remember that when using a daily moisturizer when trying to preserve any sort of tan, that you will want to make sure your moisurizer is aloe-based, whereas most lotions are alcohol based. Aloe based lotions help to preserve your tan, where most alcohol based lotions (any lotions that are heavily scented…Dove, Bath & Body Works, Victoria Secrets, etc.) will break apart your tan, especially spray tans! I prefer Hempz Lotions that can be found in beauty supply stores like Ulta Beauty, located in Silver Spring, Maryland at 914 Ellsworth Drive, just a short drive from the city!


A 21 year old Maryland Native and Senior Fashion Merchandising major at Stevenson University fashion has consumed Kelsi’s life from a young age and continues to as she travels to experience the fashion scenes from various cities across the world. Kelsi is thrilled to be back in the DMV and help bring to light the rising fashion scene right here in DC.