The most important decision to make when getting a spray tan is the shade you want to go. There is a wide range of different spray tan colors, but only a few that would be suited to your skin tone.
Someone with fair skin should not go the same shade as someone with darker skin, and vice versa. You cannot simply pick any spray tan color, or snatch any self-tanner from the shelves at the store. You need to put some thought into it.
How do you choose the right tanning shade and color? Choosing the right tanning shade and color comes down to multiple factors, including your skin tone and undertone, the weather, and personal preferences – such as opting for organic, chemical-free options.
To help you decide which color would be best for your skin tone, here is the ultimate guide to spray tan colors and tanning shades, and how to choose the right one for you!
Take some time to read through the below guide to make sure that you get the most natural-looking tan, while still enjoying a beautifully toned shade.
How To Choose A Spray Tan Color
There are a few factors that go into deciding which spray tan color to choose for your skin. While most salon attendants will be able to help you make the right choice, it is always a good idea to look this up yourself and know more or less that shade you want to choose ahead of time.
To make choosing a color easier, you should take a photo of your naturally tanned summer skin to the salon. This way they can base the color off of that, and possibly do a patch test before the session to see if the chosen color will work out well.
However, some factors need to be considered when determining which spray tan color is right for your skin. Going through the below list will definitely put you in the right direction of the shade that will look most natural on you!
These factors include:
- Skin tone
- Skin undertones
- The season
- DHA content
These factors all work together to determine which spray tan color looks best on your skin type, so they are important to keep in mind!
Choosing A Spray Tan Color Based On Your Skin Tone
The most important factor when choosing a spray tan color is your skin tone, it is the most influential factor on what your resultant tan should look like.
Fair skin tones and dark skin tones could not be more different when it comes to the spray tan color they require, so you cannot just guess what color might work.
Understanding your skin tone is the best way to ensure you give your skin the right shade and tones, and that your tan looks beautifully natural, and it does not look too dark or too light.
Here are the different skin tones, and the matching shades that go best:
Very Fair to Fair Skin Tones
Those with pale or fair skin should start with a shade lighter than their desired shade when they get their first spray tan application. You can always go darker, but taking the tan back lighter can be difficult. As the spray tan will make quite a difference on pale skin, a lighter shade is best at first.
For a natural-looking tan, very fair and fair skin tones should opt for a soft golden tone. This will add a sun-kissed finish to the skin, as well as a beautiful glow, without looking too unnaturally dark.
If you want to achieve a darker look in the following sessions, choose a spray tan with a violet or red base, as these will brown your skin tone further for a darker, richer tan.
Medium Skin Tones
Medium skin tones are lucky enough that they do not necessarily need to go much darker, but simply need a spray tan to enhance their bronze tones. The aim would be to bring out your existing bronze tones and to perfect the sun-kissed look.
To accomplish this, a classic color spray tan would be best. Caramel shades, sunset shades, or even colorless spray tans will work to give a striking shade and make it look like you’ve spent a week on an island in the sun.
Medium skin tones are more forgiving when it comes to darker spray tan colors, but you do still need to be wary not to go too dark so that it starts to look unnatural.
Dark To Very Dark Skin Tones
Some say that those with dark or very dark skin tones do not need tans, but you can ignore them if you’re excited to tan!
With a dark skin tone, a spray tan can help to accentuate shades and tones, and can really allow your skin to glow. For darker skin tones, a chocolate shade, or a classic shade with an added golden glow are best.
These colors will help to bring out your natural shades more and enhance them slightly with that extra bit of golden glow.
Mixing Spray Tan Colors
You do also have the option of mixing spray tan colors together to achieve the desired tone. There are different looks you can achieve by mixing spray tan colors together, but this should really be done by a professional who can give you some advice along the way.
Skin Types And Matching Spray Tan Colors [Chart]
Here’s a chart to help you figure out where to start with spray tan colors based on your skin tone.
|Skin Tone||Matching Spray Tan Color|
|Very Fair to Fair||Try one shade lighter at first. Golden-based color, or violet or red based for brown tones.|
|Medium||Classic, sunset, caramel, or colorless tans to highlight bronze tones and give sun-kissed look.|
|Dark To Very Dark||Chocolate or natural classic color to enhance a golden glow and bring out natural tones.|
Working Out Your Skin Tone
Working out your skin tone is fairly easy because it really is just looking at your skin!
However, if you are having a difficult time working out exactly where you fall, here are some things to look for:
If you have a light complexion and red or light hair, and burn quite easily in the sun, chances are you have very light to light skin.
For darker skin tones, you are more likely to have thick, dark hair, that won’t burn easily in the sun.
Between these two are medium skin tones!
Choosing A Spray Tan Color Based On Your Skin Undertones
Many people do not understand their skin’s undertone, but it is such an important thing to understand about your skin to help you make the right decision on spray tan colors, foundations, and even hair color.
There are three different types of undertones, which can affect your pigmentation. By knowing the shade of your skin, and your base pigmentation, you can further choose the right spray tan color.
Here are the different skin undertones and how to determine yours based on the appearance of your skin:
- Cool Undertone – Skin has a pink or bluish-red appearance
- Warm Undertone – Skin has a yellowish appearance
- Neutral Undertone – Skin has a grey appearance
Once you have determined your skin undertones, you can then work with this to determine the undertones that the spray tan should have.
Your spray tan should match your undertones to create a more natural look. For example, you don’t want to put too warm of a spray tan on top of a neutral undertone, as it won’t look natural at all.
Letting your salon attendant know your undertones, and the type of foundation you use, will also help them pick out the best spray tan color for your skin.
I love this foundation from DermaBlend because it comes with undertone options for everyone.
How To Determine Your Skin Undertones
If you cannot determine your skin undertones by simply looking at your skin, there are some ways to help you figure it out. These are some ways to check what your undertones might be:
1. Vein color – Checking your vein color is the simplest way to check the undertones of your skin. In natural light, hold your wrist out and look at your veins. The color of your vein will let you know your undertones.
- Green veins mean a warm undertone.
- Bluish-purple veins mean cool undertones.
- Blue-green veins mean a neutral undertone.
2. Wear white – One trick to determine your skin undertones is to have a white and an off-white piece of fabric. Place both near your face without any makeup on, and see which looks better, and which suits your skin tone better.
If the white looks better, then your undertones are warmer. If the off-white is better, then you have cooler undertones. If both are great, your undertones are neutral.
If this seems odd, remember undertones are different from regular skin tones, so don’t go checking your color season in panic if your undertone surprises you!
3. Try on jewelry – Gold and silver jewelry can also help to work out what your undertones are. Gold jewelry usually looks best on warm undertones, with silver looking better on cool undertones. Both will look great if you have neutral undertones.
Choosing A Spray Tan Color Based On The Season
You must definitely match your spray tan color to the season! You don’t want to have a too golden, sun-kissed look in the dead of winter. Your skin should match the season, this the best way to make it look more natural.
Each season has its own tones and shades, and keeping in line with these is important when going for regular spray tans.
Here are the different colors and shades to have during the different seasons:
Summer is known for bright sun and long days, and summer is when you get your best tan! You can go beautifully golden and dark in summer, to show off a sun-kissed glow which is actually believable when the sun is strong.
For the best summer look, go for shades like dark brown, orange, chocolate, or dark ash. These will accentuate the golden glow in your skin, and allow you to show off your richest tones to match the season. Just remember not to go too dark for your skin tone, as it would look unnatural.
Spring has a magical glow about it, but it is not as bright and obvious as that of summer. However, you can still opt for a darker glow to match the sunny season and to ease into the hot summer months.
The best spray tan colors to choose for spring are a darker shade, but still, a shade that matches your skin tone. Look for undertones of brown and chocolate, and even those with a hint of sunset.
Always make sure to not go too dark, you want a natural-looking glow to match the season.
Autumn brings through a cooling of tones and you can begin to bring out your tan again to match the changing of the season.
Gearing down for winter, you need to start cooling down the tones, but you can still enjoy the warm glow of autumn through your tan.
Classic tan colors are perfect for the season, but you can choose to warm it up a bit if you want to have more of a golden glow. Just remember to keep colors cooler than summer and spring, but still with a hint of a glow and caramel tones to suit the season.
Winter calls for a more subdued tan, for lighter tones that suit the winter clothing that you will now be wearing daily. You don’t want to have a dark, rich tan when there is no possible way you could have been sitting out in the sun achieving it! It has to be believable.
Choose soft golden tans, classic tans, and caramel tans to suit the dull light and cool tones around you. A lighter tan would be best, to not stand out too much when the environment around you is frosty and cool.
Stick to just a few shades darker and warmer than your skin’s winter tone.
Choosing A Spray Tan Color Based On The DHA Percentage
The DHA percentage in a spray tan is important. It’s a good idea to start paying attention to this if you haven’t been already.
DHA (dihydroxyacetone), is the active ingredient contained in spray tans which gives you that dark tone. When it comes to spray tans and DHA, the higher the DHA percentage, the darker the spray tan color will be.
To understand the percentages better, a spray tan with a 6% DHA content will be light, whereas one with 15% or higher will be quite a lot darker. Most spray tan charts will show the DHA percentage for you to get some idea of what the results will be. If not, speak to the salon attendant.
Speak To The Professionals
One of the best ways to ensure that you choose the right spray tan color for your skin, on top of considering all of the above, is to speak to a professional at your tanning salon.
They will have tons of knowledge on skin tones and matching spray tan colors to help you decide. They will be able to give you personal recommendations on what they think will be best as an experienced professional who’s not too close to the subject – it’s hard reading yourself perfectly, after all!
Be sure to have some information to provide them when you do go to the salon. They will more than likely be able to determine your skin tone and undertones, but you will need to let them know what your tanning goals are, and if you are wanting to build up a tan over time.
They will be able to give you a tanning schedule to stick to in order to achieve and maintain your tanning goals, and at least you can trust that your spray tan choices are in good hands!
There will be many spray tan colors to choose from at the tanning salon, so try and take in the recommendations and choose a color that would be best suited to your skin tone.
Other Things To Look For When Choosing A Spray Tan
There is a little more that goes into choosing a spray tan other than deciding on the perfect color. A few other factors can go into making the most perfect spray tan for your skin. These are some other great benefits and bonuses you can look for in the ideal spray tan:
There are some wonderful organic spray tans available on the market. These are free from any harmful chemicals, and often use naturally derived DHA. Most are also alcohol-free and paraben-free.
Just ask your salon attendant if they have any for you to choose from.
No Artificial Colors
Sometimes spray tans contain artificial colors, such as bronzers, which sit on top of the skin to give the appearance of a tan while the actual tan is still developing.
While this is great if you have a function to attend straight away, many also don’t like the fake look of bronzer and complain that it often rubs off onto clothing.
There are spray tans that do not contain any artificial colors. These are known as colorless or invisible spray tans.
There are concerns that too much DHA and other chemicals found in spray tans, over time can lead to early aging. There are now many spray tan options that have wrinkle-free, skin-lifting properties that hydrate the skin and work to keep skin elasticity.
If you want to smell as great as you look, you could opt for a spray tan that has a fragrance. There are so many different fragrances to choose from, and which will give you a wonderful aroma for a good few hours, just uplifting your tan overall!
Why Is My Spray Tan Darker Than I Wanted?
So if you have gone through the process of choosing the perfect spray tan color to suit your skin tone, only to walk out of the salon and find the tan is way darker than you wanted – don’t panic!
Most of the time, the spray tan will appear darker immediately after the tan. This is due to a bronzer added into the spray tan solution. This is a temporary bronzer that gives you a tanned complexion straight after your tan, but it will go away!
This tanner is just to give you a golden glow while you wait for the spray tan to develop, and to prevent any unwanted golden undertones from showing through.
This bronzer is not permanent and will wash off. Once you have waited the recommended amount of time after your spray tan – usually between 8 to 10 hours – and jump in the shower, you will notice the bronzer washing down the drain.
It will not disappear completely, but it will lighten substantially and you will still have the spray tan left behind and developing on your skin.
Remember to give the spray tan a few days to develop. It will darken over the first 48 hours and settle into the gorgeous shade you wanted!
If your look is still not the way you want it, we have a full guide to help you lighten your spray tan.
Choosing The Right Spray Tan Color – Review
It is really important to take the time to get to know your skin tone, and which spray tan color would work best with it.
Consider your skin tone, your skin undertones, the season, and the DHA content in a spray tan to work out your perfect shade. You deserve to have beautifully glowing, natural-looking skin, and taking the time to find your perfect spray tan color is the best way to do this!
Should I Get a Light Spray Tan in Winter?
Your winter spray tan should be one or two shades lighter than the spray tan you usually get in summer. Even if the color seems a bit too light, it is better for the spray tan to not look unnatural in frosty weather!
When in doubt, chat with the spray tan attendant to get their recommendation on season-friendly shades and tones, they will be able to offer some great advice.
How Do I Get the Best Possible Results From a Spray Tan?
To get the best results from a spray tan, you need to focus on your preparation.
Exfoliating the day before the spray tan is essential. Exfoliating removes excess dead skin cells and helps to remove any old spray tan residue if there is any. It offers up a fresh slate for the new spray tan to work on.
You should also moisturize your skin the day before the tan, to give it some hydration to latch onto the spray tan formula and to help it develop evenly. Do not apply any lotions just before the spray tan application, as this will act as a barrier and cause blotches and patches.
Will a Spray Tan Turn My Skin Orange?
One of the biggest concerns with getting a spray tan is that it will turn your skin orange. It is true that too much DHA in a spray tan formula can turn skin orange, but if you are having a spray tan done professionally, this should not happen.
It is so important to take the time to choose the right spray tan color for your skin tone, to prevent any unwanted colors and shades!