Does Spray Tanning Make You Orange?


When you get a spray tan, whether you arrive at a nice golden brown or a brilliant orange depends on several factors. Knowing how to choose the right tanner for you and how to prepare your skin will get you that much closer to that coveted sun-kissed glow.

The Facts

According to the New York Times, sunless tanners “nearly all still rely on DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, a simple carbohydrate, which causes a chemical reaction with the amino acids in dead skin that turns it brown. But by balancing DHA with other agents like erythrulose, a natural keto-sugar that also reacts with amino acids, some manufacturers, including Fake Bake and Vani-T, have inched toward a natural looking tan, as opposed to the Oompa-Loompa orange often achieved in the industry’s youth in the 1990s.”


After years of sunless tanning products only being available to the general public in lotion form, a do-it-yourself spray version was finally introduced to the market and there are now options that start at less than $20 and range all the way to $1,000 or more. You can buy kits at grocery stores, department stores, specialty stores and more.

Many salons offer spray tanning. The least expensive option is a booth that automatically sprays you with a fine mist of tanning solution. The most expensive option is for a specialist to customize the solution for your skin tone and spray you by hand. In general, this second option is far less likely to turn you orange and will last days longer than the booth or at-home options.


Exfoliate and exfoliate well. Most at home kits will come with an exfoliator, but if you plan on going to a tanning salon or purchase one that doesn’t, make sure that you don’t skip this step. Instructions will likely say to apply the spray tanning solution sparingly on your elbows and knees. This is because the skin in those areas is rough and anywhere there is a crease, there is a chance the solution could pool and cause uneven coloring.

What to Avoid

In some cases, money doesn’t mean much and the price of an item is only for the name brand associated with it. This is not one of those cases. Generally speaking, the less expensive the solution, the more likely you are to come away looking like a Tropicana spokesperson. Drugstores have started to carry some upscale brands, but beware of ones that come with "prizes" like plastic keychains and stickers. Anytime a company adds bonuses that don’t have anything to do with its product, it’s usually because the product is having trouble selling on its own.

Department stores are your best bet. Ask the cosmetologist at the make-up counter about how the product works and whether she would recommend it to her best friend.


Test a small area of your skin before spraying your whole body. If any itching, redness or swelling occurs then you may be allergic to it. If you have trouble breathing or feel faint, seek medical attention immediately.

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