To Shower After Tanning or Not: Timing Is Everything!

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Planning to keep that summer glow?

Whether you’re sunbathing, using tanning lotions, or visiting a salon, post-tan care is crucial.

One essential aspect is the timing of your shower and the dos and don’ts to maintain your tan.

tan woman taking a shower after tanning

Should you shower after tanning? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about showering after tanning. 

Fast Facts

  • The timing of your shower after tanning is crucial, and it varies depending on the tanning method you use.
  • Sun tanning and tanning beds expose your skin to UV rays that stimulate melanin production in the skin, so you can shower shortly after these sessions.
  • Self-tanners and spray tans affect only the outer layers of the skin, so you should wait several hours before showering to ensure the tan develops properly.
  • As you shower after tanning, avoid hot water, harsh soap, long showers, and aggressive towel-drying.

How Long Should You Wait To Shower After Tanning?

The best time to shower for each method varies depending on how they tan your skin. 

Tanning MethodHow Long To Wait Before ShoweringTips
Sun tanningA few minutes
Sun tanning with accelerator2 to 4 hoursAllow tanning accelerator to settle.
Tanning bed without acceleratorLess than 30 minutes
Tanning bed with acceleratorAt least 2 hoursAllow tanning accelerator to settle.
Tanning lotion6 to 8 hoursAvoid getting skin wet during this time.
Spray tanAt least 4 hours (or longer)Shower within 24 hours to avoid issues.
Tanning mousseUp to 8 hours (or longer)Allow the mousse time to take effect.

Different tanning methods employ different techniques to give you a gorgeous golden glow.

Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds

Sun tanning and tanning beds expose your skin to UV rays that can penetrate deeper into your epidermis. This mechanism stimulates melanin production. 

The tan you get from these methods is not superficial; it’s a result of a natural darkening process that occurs in the layers of the skin. 

This means you can’t simply “wash away” your tan, so you can shower shortly after a tanning session.

  • Sun tanning without accelerator. Showering after sun tanning is essential, especially if you use cold water. This will help your skin avoid developing a sunburn. If you went for all-natural sunbathing, just let your skin rest for a few minutes before showering.
  • Sun tanning with accelerator. If you used a tan accelerator to increase the tanning effects of sun exposure, you’ll have to wait two to four hours before hopping into the shower to allow the accelerator to settle into your skin and work its magic.
  • Tanning bed without accelerator. If you went under tanning lamps without applying additional tanning products, you could shower less than 30 minutes after your session without worrying about your tan fading.
  • Tanning bed with accelerator. If you used a tan accelerator before your tanning bed session, you’ll have to wait at least two hours before getting into the shower.

    This will prevent you from unintentionally washing your tanning accelerator away.

Self-Tanners and Spray Tans

With self-tanners, on the other hand, you’re essentially applying products that give your skin more color. They affect only the outer layers of the skin, allowing you to skip UV exposure and its effects completely.

As such, they may fade easily if you shower too quickly after using them. 

These tanning methods use an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone or DHA, which mimics the effects of a sun tan and temporarily darkens your skin tone. 

  • Tanning lotion. If you want to guarantee that you won’t wash away your superficial tan, postpone your shower for six to eight hours after applying the tanning lotion. Avoid sweating or getting your skin wet during this period as well.
  • Spray tan. Wait at least four hours before showering after a spray tan. You can even delay your shower for longer than that and still get a great result.
  • Tanning mousse. To avoid wasting your tanning mousse and to give it time to take effect, avoid showering or sweating for eight hours or more.

Quick Tip

Make sure to take a shower within 24 hours after getting a spray tan. Not showering for more than 24 hours could lead to an uneven or excessively dark tan.

Things To Avoid in the Shower After Tanning

Showering after UV tanning or sunless tanning has its benefits, especially when you do it right. But you have to tweak your usual shower routine to make sure your tan doesn’t fade too quickly. 

Here are a few things to avoid when you shower after getting a tan:

Hot Water

Never shower with hot water after tanning, especially after a sunbathing or tanning bed session. Instead, opt for a shower with cold water. Lukewarm water is considered safe as well, but anything hotter may irritate or even inflame your skin.

Why? The UV exposure in these methods can make your skin more sensitive than usual. So you don’t want to introduce more stressors — like hot water — to your skin after getting a tan.

Using Harsh Soap

You don’t have to forgo using soaps and body cleansers for showers after tanning, although it’s important to be mindful of using the right products.

Your skin is likely still more sensitive, especially during your first shower after tanning. Using harsh soaps and cleansers with artificial scents or strong sulfates may lead to irritation.

Harsh cleansers may also wash away your tan sooner than expected.

Quick Tip

For best results, choose mild soaps that are free of sulfates and harsh chemicals. Plenty of unscented soaps do well in keeping your body clean while preserving your tan as well.

If you can’t let go of your favorite soap and body wash with stronger cleansing formulas, try only to use them in areas typically covered by your clothes to avoid getting a visibly uneven tan.

Taking Long Showers and Baths

Another question you should ask is how long to stay in the shower after tanning.

Woman taking a bath as an example in shower after tanning post

The general rule is to avoid long showers, especially after sunless tanning. You wouldn’t want to wash away your bronzer or tanning lotions too quickly by spending too much time in the shower.

For the same reason, it’s best to avoid soaking in a long bath right after tanning. 

Shaving and Exfoliating

Shaving and exfoliating should be part of your pre-tanning prep, which should take place a day before your tanning session. 

However, after using self-tanners or spray tan methods, avoid shaving and exfoliating for three to four days to ensure you don’t end up scrubbing off your self-tanners or spray tan products. 

On the flip side, this is less of a concern after UV tanning, like sun tanning and tanning beds. Shaving and exfoliating are unlikely to fade your tan after sunbathing or a tanning bed session because their effects are not superficial. 

Quick Tip

You should still wait at least 24 hours to make sure your skin is already relaxed before shaving or exfoliating. This way, it’s less prone to getting irritated by the excess friction that these two activities create.

Towel-Drying Aggressively

This one’s quite self-explanatory, especially on your first shower after tanning. Rubbing your skin too aggressively with a towel can remove your fake tan easily. 

Instead, lightly pat dry your skin after a shower and make sure you’re using a towel with soft fabric.

Skipping Your Moisturizer

Your skin is more susceptible to dehydration after exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. So it’s vital to keep your skin as healthy as possible by using moisturizer, especially after your first shower after tanning.

Applying moisturizer after using a tanning lotion is equally beneficial as it will help lock in your artificial tan to the surface of your skin.

Benefits of Showering After Tanning

Many tanning enthusiasts are under the misconception that showering after tanning can hurt their skin or make their tan fade quickly — neither of these is true.

The truth is you can and should shower after tanning. In fact, doing so offers plenty of benefits like the following:

Helps Your Skin Relax

After getting a sun tan or going through a tanning bed session, your skin will feel some sort of irritation or discomfort from UV exposure. The easiest way to alleviate that is by hopping into the shower.

Provides Much-Needed Hydration

Your skin will likely become dehydrated after a session of UV-induced tanning. So it would be nice to give it a little hydration boost by simply showering after tanning.

Washes Away Chemicals

Some tanners might include harsh ingredients that can also irritate the skin. Taking a shower after using them can wash these chemicals away as well as remove excess product.

Makes Your Spray Tan Look Natural

Spray tans usually look darker than your intended shade of tan. This is why professionals say you must shower a few hours after a spray tan appointment, which will help even out your tan and give you natural-looking results. 

A woman is taking a shower after tanning in a bathroom.

Should You Shower After You Tan? It’s a Definite Yes!

To keep that golden glow for longer, start with the right post-tanning care. It all begins with timing your shower correctly. Waiting a few hours after UV tanning allows those sun-kissed results to develop, ensuring your tan sticks around.

But be patient with self-tanning and spray tan products; let them work their magic on your skin before rinsing, and you’ll enjoy a longer-lasting tan without splotches.

However, don’t skip showers altogether! They help your skin relax, rehydrate, and remove excess products. Enjoy your healthy, radiant bronze skin!

Find More Skincare Tips and Products Here!

Authors

  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

  • Kelly Goforth

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Kelly Goforth has mastered the art of hair and makeup. Trained at The Redken Exchange in NYC and mentored by industry legends like Sam Villa and Lauren Hagan, she's a sought-after bridal specialist in Colorado Springs. From managing a Denver salon to now offering bridal hair, makeup, and airbrush spray tans, Kelly's expertise shines.

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