How Spray Tanning Works

Spray tanning involves applying an active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, to your skin using a specialist low pressure spraying machine. DHA is a colourless sugar. It interacts with the proteins and amino acids in the outer layer of your skin to produce a golden brown color.

Most spray tans contain an instant cosmetic bronzer that gives you a color guide and instant color when you are first sprayed. These instant cosmetic bronzers will wash away after your first shower and have no impact on the end result for your tan. It’s not the amount of cosmetic bronzers that make the individual solutions darker from one another, it’s the amount of DHA in the solution that creates varying results.

The spray tan will contain various amounts of DHA depending on the solution you choose. The DHA starts to activate immediately, 60% of this process is complete after the first hour yet the actual tan will continue to develop over the next 24 hours. All the cosmetic instant bronzers will wash off when showering. Your therapist will tell you how long to wait until you can bathe or shower depending on your skin color and how dark you want your tan.

illustration of the different shades of tan
scientific illustration of how tanning works on the skin

How DHA Works

Spray tan solution has an active ingredient called DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, that is applied to your skin using a specialist low pressure spray tan machine. The sunless tanning agent is FDA approved and is the most popular way to achieve a natural looking tan without being exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun or tanning bed. DHA is a carbohydrate often derived from plant sources such as sugar cane and taken through synthetic processing. It causes a non-toxic chemical reaction with the outermost layers of the skin that react to produce different tones of coloration from yellow to brown. The pigments are called melanoids which are similar in coloration to melanin, the natural brown substance found in the deeper skin layers after UV exposure, which leads to a delayed development of a natural tan.

scientific illustration of the structure of the skin


The depth of tan will depend on the % strength of the DHA within the product. Overall depth and intensity of tan achieved will also depend on the consumer’s own, natural melanin content and thickness of the skin’s stratum corneum. The tan is more intense where the stratum corneum is thicker (knees and elbows) and less intense where the layer is thin (face). In order to achieve a uniform result, you must remove loose scales from the skin before applying DHA (exfoliating, followed by moisturizing).


The artificial tan immediately appears on the skin’s surface and will continue to dark over 24 hours depending on the formulation. Once the tan has set, it becomes waterproof and will not wash away with soap or water. It will fade gradually over 5 to 10 days, in conjunction with the skin’s normal exfoliation process. Exfoliation, prolonger water submersion, or heavy perspiration can lighten the tan, contributing to rapid dead skin cell exfoliation.

spray tanning results on two clients


It’s also good to consider pH levels of the skin and formulation. An alkaline pH causes the tan to look orange, whereas a slightly acidic pH reduces the color problem.
A surplus of water in any formulation can hinder the tanning reaction; there is optimum water content for both the formulation and skin required to achieve the best results.
A balanced formulation will maintain moisture in the skin, the correct pH balance, and the odor reaction of protein and DHA. Unlike melanin pigments, the DHA-derived polymers do not absorb significant amounts of UV light,
and therefore, cannot protect against UVB radiation.

Every Mine product is scientifically proven to work with all of the factors mentioned, developing a deeper, longer lasting, and odorless tanning result. Refer to each Mine product for developing and washing times.

How to spray tan

Before you begin your spray tan application, make sure that all settings on your machine are ready to go and that the space required for the tan is clean and set up. Here is a simple way to start learning your Mine pro technique.

model standing in spray tan booth


Standing with back facing, start with the left shoulder and work down in vertical strokes from the neck to the buttocks.
Spray down the backs of the arms. Lastly, work down both legs, sweeping off the ankles.

model standing in spray tan booth


Standing to the side with one arm raised spray under the arm and up the side of the body. Continue down the outside of the facing leg to the foot. Spray the inner thigh and down to the foot of other leg.

model standing in spray tan booth


Ask Client to turn and stand in the opposite direction. Standing to the side with one arm raised spray under the arm and up the side of the body. Continue down the outside of the facing leg to the foot. Spray inner thigh and down to the foot of the other leg.

model standing in spray tan booth


Stand with feet and arms held away from the body. Start at the top of the leg and spray vertically down the front of each leg and over the foot. Ask the client to raise their arms above their head. Starting at the hips, spray vertically upwards to below the bust and repeat horizontally across the stomach. Lightly mist over the entire stomach once complete to deepen color.

model standing in spray tan booth


Start at the top of the arms working down each arm. Lightly spray the hands in sweeping motions.

model standing in spray tan booth


Turn arms so the inside is exposed. Start at the top of the arms working down each arm.


Discover how easy it is to give the ultimate professional spray tan with our Master Esthetician Spray Tan Booth Kit.

spray tanning in action


When spray tanning with our professional spray tan machines, it is best to hold your applicator gun 1.5-2 inches (4-5cm) away from the client’s skin during the tanning process. Move fairly quickly and evenly through your tanning process to avoid excess build up of solution or wet patches.

If you are new to tanning or new to this tanning technique, set your applicator gun’s level of flow to a low number (1-4) until you are familiar enough with the technique to move quickly and evenly. Once you are familiar and comfortable with the equipment, you may progress to levels 5-8 allowing for a high flow of solution during the application process – allowing you to move quickly while applying the perfect amount of product.

spray tanning in action


Our applicator guns are designed to minimize overspray & product waste, saving you money while allowing you to apply the perfect amount of actives to your client’s skin.

Hold your applicator gun no more and no less than 1.5-2 inches (4-5cm) away from your client’s skin to avoid overspray and deliver the perfect tan.

Tip: If you are new to tanning or new to this tanning technique, set your applicator gun’s level of flow to a low number (1-4) until you are familiar enough with the technique to move quickly and evenly.

Mine Professional

Training Manual Cover with model

Advice For Customers

Giving your clients plenty of information and advice on best practices before and after their spray tan application will enhance their overall experience with you.


  • Exfoliate and moisturize

    24 hours before you apply your self tan, paying particular attention to elbows, knees, ankles and problem areas.

  • Avoid using

    high pH shower products, or in shower moisturizers for the entire 24 hours before your treatment.

  • Wax or shave at least 48 hours prior to treatment.

    This allows the pores time to close. Dotting in pores may appear if not adhered to.

  • Don’t apply moisturiser, perfume, deodorant or makeup on the day of application.

    These products may act as a barrier against your skin and can prevent the DHA tanning actives from developing evenly.

  • Collage of tanning prep steps and prep products


  • Wear dark loose clothing.

    Tight clothing or underwear may cause marks. Wear shoes that slide on or are loose fitting.

  • Shower lightly in cold - lukewarm water

    for 45 seconds after the first hour for a light to medium tan. The longer the tan is left on, the darker the tan (no longer than 8 hours).

  • Shower in plain water

    don’t use shower gels, scrubs, shampoos or a loofah during the first 24 hours after your treatment.

  • Pat dry and use aftercare products

    including moisturizers and gradual tanners after your first shower to extend the life of your tan. Moisturizing daily ensures long lasting results that fade evenly.

  • Avoid sweating

    and don’t exercise or swim for the first 24 hours after your spray tan treatment.

  • Try not to touch your skin during development time.

    Any marks on your hands, therefore, are due to your hands touching the developing tan which can cause discolored, darker hands compared to the rest of the body which can be difficult to remove.

  • Long exposure to water and sweating

    from exercise will fade your spray tan. Your outer cells will start to soak up water which dilutes the effect of the tan. The longer you are in water the lighter your tan will get.

Commonly Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive everyday from trade pros. For more FAQ’s please click here.

tanning shades icon


There are different strengths of DHA and your spray tan artist will advise you of the best one for your skin tone and desired skin finish. The darker you tan naturally, the darker your spray tan will be. We recommend leaving your spray tan on for 1 – 4 hours before your 45 second rinse. You can leave the Pro Spray Mist on for up to 8 hours for the deepest, darkest results. You can shower normally 8-16 hours after your initial rinse, as the tan with slightly deepen in that time frame.

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YES. It is MUCH safer than exposing your skin to the harsh UV rays of the sun or tanning bed, while you receive the same results. DHA has been approved by the FDA for use in the personal care industry for over 30 years. No adverse affects have been reported other than minor skin irritations on allergic people. This is extremely rare, but we do recommend a skin patch test first. We also recommend to be sprayed in a well ventilated area or an area that includes a clean air/extraction unit.

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Anyone who is allergic to sunless tan or has breathing difficulties. If you are a client in doubt or have further questions, please speak to your Spray Tan Artist or consult your local doctor before you book an appointment. Although considered mostly safe in a well-ventilated area while wearing a face mask or nose plugs, it is recommended women who are pregnant to always first consult their doctor if they want a spray tan.

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