Self-tanners and spray tans are amazing. They give us that gorgeous summer glow without us having to sit in the sun for hours damaging our skin.
As with many things, self-tanners and spray tans have their pros and cons, and one of these cons is the odor that is sometimes left behind after a sunless-tan application.
Luckily, you are able to control some factors that cause this odor to be stronger, and sometimes even avoid it altogether.
Knowing what causes the odor and ways to prepare your body before a tan will be the best way to have a freshly applied tan without any of that freshly applied tan smell!
Don’t worry, I’ll tell you everything you need to know in this guide, let’s get started!
What Causes The “Self-Tanner and Spray-Tan Smell”
Self-tanners and spray tanning products contain an active ingredient called DHA (Dihydroxyacetone). This ingredient reacts with the epidermis of the skin to produce a coloration which resembles a tan.
The DHA has a distinctive smell which can be considered “yeasty”. This smell usually appears while the sunless tan is developing. The smell can differ from person to person, from resembling old gym socks to yeasty bread.
The odor caused by DHA does differ from person to person, as it reacts with each person’s individual chemistry – some people don’t notice a smell at all.
You won’t be able to smell the product in the bottle to see if it has that yeasty smell. It isn’t the smell of the tanner that cause the odor, instead, it is the chemical reaction that the DHA has with the body.
How To Combat The Sunless Tanner Smell
Use A Quality Product
The best thing you can do, is use a self-tanning product that doesn’t smell. The bottom line is, some self-tanning products just smell worse than others. Some have a stronger DHA smell, and some just do a better job with their fragrences to cover the smell.
My favorite self-tanning product in general (and it doesn’t smell) is this one you can get on Amazon.
Or, just scroll down for some of the other top self-tanning products that don’t have a smell!
Some tanning products contain ingredients that do add a pleasant smell that help to mask the DHA scent in the product. These fragrances do help to give a fresh scent after tanning, but they do wear off soon after application.
It isn’t a long term way to fix the DHA smell but does make the tanning experience much more enjoyable with a fresh scent. In order to keep the scent last longer, you will have to reapply fragranced products often.
There are certain odor neutralizing ingredients or types of encapsulating technologies that can be formulated into self-tanning products that help capture the DHA scent as it sets on the skin. Depending on the client’s skin and the environment, the odor neutralizers might wear off soon.
In order to make the odor neutralizers last longer, you can use some home remedies to capture the smell. Baking soda and baby powder, along with other body powders can go a long way in neutralizing odors.
Different self-tanning products and spray tans have different levels of DHA. The yeasty smell is a direct result of the DHA reacting with your skin’s chemistry, so by using a product with a lower DHA< you might be able to lessen the odor produced.
Some people also seem to notice a difference between naturally derived DHA from organic products like this one, and the DHA that is synthetically produced.
Showering and rinsing off the product sooner might also reduce the odor caused by the DHA. This might cause the tan to be lighter or less developed, but the scent will also be lessened.
The odor also seems to present itself at night often, so showering before bed and applying a fragranced product to the body might also help to combat the smell.
Just be careful you don’t shower before the tan has had time to develop, or there was no point in self-tanning in the first place.
Try Different Blends
All self-tanning products and spray tans are made differently. They all attempt to perform the same function in the end but do so with different formulations.
There is no way to tell how one tanner will react with your skin and which product will cause an intense odor or not, so it might take you some time to work through different products to find the one that works with your skin best.
Each person’s individual chemistry has an effect on whether or not there is an intense odor from the DHA or not. There are many things that contribute to this, such as sweating. Using air-conditioning might help lessen the odor.
Certain medications and diets can also have an effect on how much the scent presents itself.
On top of that, menstruation, pregnancy, and other hormonal factors can also affect the smell – it really is a guessing game at times to figure out what is making the odor present more than other times.
These hormonal factors can also make you more sensitive to the smell when other people wouldn’t even be able to smell it at all.
Other Odor Factors
You might be the only one who notices the smell on your body, but it can cause some self-conscious feelings. There are some other ways to combat this smell:
- Scented body washes can help cover the smell after showers and for some time after that. Citrus and vanilla scents are great at masking the yeasty smells.
- Body lotions, powders, and perfumes can also mask the smell, giving you a fresh and “normal” scent.
- To avoid ruining your tan by applying perfume to your skin, you can spray a cloud of perfume into the air and walk into it. It will cover a larger area of your body and help mask the scent.
- A scented moisturizer applied 30 minutes after the tanning application can help lessen the scent, but this should be applied with a glove or mitt to avoid any tanning product transferring to your hands.
Combatting Body Odor
Body odor can play a big part in how strong the smell of the DHA develops. In order to lessen the factors of the reaction, you can combat your own body odor.
- Antibacterial cleansers will help remove any dead skin bacteria and excess sweat.
- Using a towel to remove sweat from the skin.
- Exfoliate all areas of the body before a sunless tan, focusing under the arms, on the knees, feet and other odor-producing areas.
- Antiperspirants applied leading up to the tanning application can also help lessen the effects of the DHA yeasty smell. Most of these can last up to 48 hours, which means they can be applied the day before, as to not mess with the tanning process on the day.
- Certain body products that contain zinc and aluminum can help lessen the smell.
- Scented powders work wonders to absorb body odors and sweat leading up to tanning.
- Make sure to only wear clothes and shoes that are clean and free of sweat.
- Spicy foods and hot peppers can also cause you to sweat more. It might seem trivial but these can cause excess sweating that will only make the odor worse.
Most times the smell is only really noticeable to the person who has just had the spray tan, and not so much to others around them. However, you deserve to feel comfortable in your skin and combating these odors is one of the best ways to ensure this.
Self-Tanning Products With No Smell
There are some self-tanning products that claim to have no self-tanning smell.
These usually contain masking agents or fragrances that cut out the yeasty smell.
I’d also encourage you to check out my full post on the Best Smelling Self-Tanners of 2019.
Pick it up on Amazon.
The Skinerals Self-Tanner is made with natural and organic ingredients that are gentle and kind on the skin. It produces a natural and consistent tan that is long lasting. The minerals used in place of chemicals in the self-tanner help avoid that extensive self-tanning smell, and instead leaves a fresh and pleasant scent in its place.
The resultant tan is streak-free and has a beautiful glow that lasts for up to 7 days.
Pick it up on Amazon.
Only premium quality ingredients are used in the formulation of the Miami Gorgeous Self-Tanner. It is infused with argan oil and coconut oil, making it nourishing for the skin while giving it a beautiful bronze tan.
The organic DHA is formulated with vitamins A, C, and D, along with olive oil, jojoba oil and elderflower extract which leave a pleasant smell after application. It is a non-streaky tanner and will not leave an orange tone on the skin. The product is gluten free, paraben free and is made using eco-certified DHA.
Check it out on Amazon.
You can achieve a perfectly bronzed tan without any damage to your skin. The Golden Star Beauty Self-Tanner is made using natural and organic ingredients, including jojoba oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, and evening primrose oil. Along with the calendula and meadowsweet extract, the self-tanner leaves a fresh and pleasant smell on the skin.
There no harsh chemicals, which also helps avoid that chemical smell after a self-tanning application. It is a streak-free and orange-free tanner that gives you all the benefits of a sunless tan, without that harsh and offensive smell.
Check it out on Amazon.
This overnight tanner will leave you without any smell or streaks.
It moisturizes as it tan, using ingredients such as organic aloe, frankincense, jojoba esters, and sweet potato extracts. The tan will not transfer onto clothing or hair, thanks to the all organic ingredients.
The slow development times actually cuts out the self-tanner smell as it does not use any harsh chemicals or a high concentration of DHA for a quick tan. You are also able to control the color of your tan by washing off when it has developed to your desired color.
Check it out on Amazon.
This light tanning mist packs a punch when providing a beautiful, natural looking tan. It contains natural and organic ingredients that are perfectly suited for all skin types – sensitive, light, medium or dark.
It contains no fake tan smell and applies streak free. The infused moisturizers and organic oils protect the skin, leaving it looking nourished and healthy. There are no harmful parabens, no formaldehyde, and no alcohol, taking away from that dreaded fake-tan smell.
Check it out on Amazon.
By using a gradual tanner, you are cutting out a higher concentration of DHA that might cause a bad odor. This gradual tan odor will build your tan gradually. It applies clear and has no smell. This is thanks to it containing 100% natural ingredients.
It smooths and nourishes the skin, but does not contain any perfumes, parabens, or alcohol. By not containing perfumes, it won’t leave you with a scent that might clash with your other moisturizers or scents, and also the alcohol won’t dry out the skin, making the tan fade faster.
How To Keep Self-Tanner From Streaking
Along with the lasting odor that many people find stays after a self-tanning application, many people battle with a streaky application. It is one of the most important things to perfect when self-tanning, as a streaky tan looks unnatural and not great at all. Here are some ways to ensure you have an even and smooth tanning application:
• Use a body scrub or exfoliating mitt to properly exfoliate your body beforehand. By removing all excess dead skin, you are preparing an even and smooth canvas for the self-tanning product to be applied to.
• Moisturize the drier areas of your body leading up to your tanning application. This will make all the areas of your body properly hydrated and ready to be sunlessly tanned.
• If your self-tanning application doesn’t go as planned and you land up with some streaky areas, simply cut a lemon in half and squeeze some juice onto a cotton ball. Wipe this on the streaky areas which should become diluted after a while.
If you do not have a lemon, you could try a paste made with baking soda and a few drops of water, this also helps remove darker streaks.
The Baby Powder Secret
As with every niche in the beauty industry, there are many tips and tricks and house-wives tales that are sworn to work by certain people. However, there is a trick that really does work when it comes to self-tanning.
Not only does it help you keep your spray tan for longer and not sweat it off, but it helps minimize the odor caused by spray-tanning as well.
After tanning and air-drying your body, apply a generous amount of baby powder to your body.
Use a fluffy make-up brush or poof for application, and powder it on from head to toe. The powder stops the tan from streaking, smearing and won’t interfere with the color development of the spray tan at all. It absorbs the oils on your skin, as well as any sweat, so you won’t be left feeling sticky or gross after your tan.
The powder will also absorb the odor that many people battle with after a spray tan. It does this by preventing sweating which can aggravate the smell, and by absorbing any resultant smell of the spray tan.
Any baby powder should do, but the Johnson & Johnson Calming Baby Powder has a fresh and light scent that isn’t overpowering, and it is gentle and kind to the skin.
How To Not Sweat Off Your Tan and Cause A Bad Odor
There are certain ways you can avoid sweating off your tan. This is important to know because excessive sweating can lead to your tan becoming patchy and streaky, as well as aggravating the DHA smell. Knowing how to avoid sweating off your tan will help it last longer and smell better.
• Use a lighter self-tanner – Using a light self-tanner gives you the opportunity to fix your self-tanner when lighter patches start to appear. It also won’t be a thick coverage which could cause your body to sweat and pores to become clogged. Lighter self-tanners also contain less DHA, meaning there will be less of an after-tan smell.
• Wear light clothing – Especially in the warmer months, you need to avoid thick or heavily woven materials that will cause you to overheat and sweat. Lighter clothing will be more breathable, keeping you cooler in the warmer weather.
• Take cool showers – Take cool showers to lower your body temperature when it is warm. After your shower, pat dry and apply a generous amount of moisturizer to your skin. DHA tends to dry out the skin, so moisturize regularly to keep your skin healthy.
• Keep a tanning kit handy – You never know when something might go wrong with your tan, or when you might need a touch up on the go. Keep a small waterproof bag with some essentials in your purse to have whenever you need it. Inside the bag, keep exfoliating and tanning wipes. These are usually a two in one wipe that both exfoliates and tans at the same time, which helps with touch-ups on the go. Lastly, keep a moisturizer in your bag to touch up any dry areas. An SPF moisturizer is a plus as it gives you added protection from the sun.
What do I wear to bed after a spray tan?
The first night after your spray tan is an important one. The things you do and wear can play a big role in ensuring your tan lasts long and looks great as well. Follow these tips and steps the first night after your spray tan:
• Wear thin and loose clothing to bed. This will help you avoid excessive sweating during the night.
• Apply moisturizer to your hands to prevent the spray tan from transferring to your palms.
• Avoid using white sheets, there is always a chance that the spray tan might transfer onto them.
• Shower as you wake up in the morning and moisturize.
• Continue to moisturize after each shower as this will keep the hydration locked in, keeping your tan looking healthy for longer.
• Try to use air-conditioning or a cooling fan to help you stay cool at night. Otherwise, you will sweat and potentially ruin your tan.
What do I wear to my spray tan?
Wearing the right clothes to your spray tan will allow for minimal spray tan lines and will be sure not to ruin any of your nicer garments.
• Wear dark swimwear or underwear so the spray tan won’t stain it.
• If you are wearing white and it becomes stained, it might wash out over time but it does usually cause lasting damage.
• Remove all jewelry and tie hair up in a bun.
• Men can wear a thong or briefs for a bigger skin surface area.
• Women sometimes attend spray tan sessions nude or in just a thong.
What to wear after a spray tan
Your new spray tan will still be fresh on your skin and there is a chance that it might transfer onto any clothing put on straight after your spray tan. Obviously, this is to be avoided at all costs but you also can’t walk out of the tanning salon naked.
• Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing, a sundress is always a great choice.
• Flip flops or loose fitting shoes will help your feet dry and will not smudge the tan.
• Avoid wearing tights, bras, and socks.
• Lay down a towel over your car seats to avoid the tan transferring onto them.
Should I moisturize after a spray tan?
Moisturizing regularly after a spray tan will do a good job in ensuring the tan lasts longer. Try and avoid taking hot baths or showers as these can be exfoliating for the skin and make the tan fade faster.
After a shower, pat your body dry and moisturize. Avoid rubbing your skin dry as this could rub off some of your tan. Moisturizing after a self-tan or spray tan will help keep the tan lasting longer, and moisturizing regularly after that will enhance the look of your tan by keeping your skin looking healthy and nourished.
How To Deal With The Self-Tanner And Spray Tan Smell
You don’t need to be self-conscious of your self-tan or a spray-tan smell anymore. Use the right products that work best for your body and take a few special steps to ensure that your body is prepped and ready for a great sunless tan application.
Just by practicing a few simple routines, you are able to have a gorgeously glowing, bronze tan, without all the bad stuff associated with it. You don’t need anything getting in the way of how much you are enjoying your new tan!
Hope you found this article helpful!