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If you want to give your skin some color and a little bit of a glow, tanning is one of your best options.
With summer just around the corner, you’re probably already making arrangements to give yourself a tan, whether it’s by sunbathing, applying tanning lotions, or visiting your favorite tanning salon.
But how do you make sure your tan stays on for as long as possible? Well, you should follow a few aftercare instructions.
One of these is knowing when you should shower after you tan.
Being unaware of the right time to shower and the products and habits you have to avoid while in the shower could easily ruin your lovely tan.
So should you shower before or after a tanning bed session? Can you take a shower after sunbathing or using a self-tanning product? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about showering after tanning.
Common Methods to Get a Tan
Before we get into the details of why, when, and how to shower after getting a tan, let’s take a look at the most common tanning methods.
The conventional way to get a tan is to expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, specifically UVA rays. These travel through lower layers of the epidermis and activate melanin production to make your skin appear darker.
All you need to do is go to your favorite beach, wear your favorite swimsuit or bikini, and frolic under the sun. It’s a fun and essentially free activity in summer. So it’s a go-to tanning method for many.
Some say you can get a nice tan from sunbathing for 10 to 15 minutes, while others say you may have to go out for a few hours.
To minimize the risks that come with deliberately exposing your skin to UV rays, always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Many people have been choosing tanning beds for years because they will give you a tan much faster than a natural sun tan.
Tanning beds can give you a tan in just 10 to 15 minutes. Those that feature lamps or light bulbs with higher wattage can give you a nice tan in just 8 minutes.
However, keep in mind that tanning beds pose a significant number of health risks.
As such, it’s best to avoid frequent and excessively long tanning bed sessions. Make sure to use an SPF 30 sunscreen or higher before each session as well.
If you want to skip UV exposure completely, you can get the so-called sunless tan by using a tanning lotion or getting a spray tan.
Some people also use tanning mousse, which works like a tanning lotion but has a distinct foamy texture. Many love its airy consistency because it’s relatively easier and less messy to apply.
These tanning methods use an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone or DHA, which mimics the effects of a sun tan and temporarily darkens your skin tone.
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.
How Long Should You Wait to Shower After Tanning?
Different tanning methods employ different techniques to give you a gorgeous golden glow. So the best time to shower for each method varies depending on how they tan your skin.
Sun tanning and tanning beds expose your skin to UV rays that can penetrate deeper into your epidermis. This mechanism stimulates melanin production.
As you may recall, melanin is the brown pigment that gives the skin its color. This is how tanning with UV rays gives you a noticeable tan after a certain period.
So 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.
With sunless tanners, however, you’re essentially applying products that give your skin more color. They affect only the outer layers of the skin. As such, they may fade easily if you shower too quickly after using them.
Let’s take a look at the specifics of when to shower after using each tanning method.
When Should You Shower After Tanning in the Sun?
Showering after sun tanning is essential, especially if you use cold water. This will help your skin relax and allow you to avoid developing a sunburn.
But how long should you wait to shower after getting a sun tan?
If you went for all-natural sunbathing, just let your skin rest for a few minutes before showering.
However, if you used a tan accelerator to increase the tanning effects of sun exposure, you’ll have to wait 2 to 4 hours before hopping into the shower.
When Should You Shower After Tanning Bed Sessions?
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.
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 is because sunless tanning products need a lot of time to settle into your skin.
Since most tanning bed sessions only last around 15 minutes or less, waiting for a couple of hours or more before showering will prevent you from unintentionally washing your tanning products away.
When Should You Shower After Sunless Tanning?
Just as with sunbathing and tanning beds, it’s also advisable to shower after a sunless tan. But how long you should wait before taking a shower will depend on your preferred sunless tanning method.
When to Shower After Using a Tanning Lotion
It’s advisable to wait at least 2 to 3 hours before showering after tanning with a tanning lotion.
But if you want to guarantee that you won’t wash away your superficial tan, you can postpone your shower for 6 to 8 hours after applying the tanning lotion.
Avoid sweating or getting your skin wet during this period as well.
When to Shower After a Spray Tan
After a spray tan, you must wait at least 4 hours before showering. You can even delay your shower for longer than that and still get a great result.
But make sure you 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.
When to Shower After Using Tanning Mousse
As mentioned above, self-tanners need a few hours to give you your desired bronze complexion. Tanning mousse, in particular, can take up to 8 hours to settle.
So to avoid wasting the product and give it time to take effect, avoid showering or sweating for 8 hours or more.
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:
Never shower with hot water after tanning, especially after a sunbathing or tanning bed session.
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.
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.
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.
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
When it comes to taking a shower after tanning, it isn’t just about when you should do it. Another question you should ask is how long to shower after tanning.
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 other sunless tanning methods, avoid shaving and exfoliating for 3 to 4 days to ensure you don’t end up scrubbing off your tanning products.
Take note that this is less of a concern after UV tanning. Shaving and exfoliating are unlikely to fade your tan after sunbathing or a tanning bed session because their effects are not superficial.
That said, 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Better to Shower Before or After Tanning?
The truth is that one isn’t better than the other; showering before and after tanning both have their benefits.
Showering before tanning will prepare your skin to soak in the UV rays needed to add some color to it. And it also cleanses your skin’s surface to absorb sunless tanning products better.
Taking a shower after tanning — when done at the right time — is also helpful in calming your skin down or removing excess product.
Is Sunless Tanning Risk-Free?
Not exactly. It’s advisable to use tanning lotions and bronzers that only include FDA-approved ingredients.
Should You Put Sunscreen Before and After Tanning?
Absolutely! Using a high-quality sunscreen will help reduce your risk of UV damage from tanning under the sun or a tanning bed.
Plus, it won’t completely prevent your skin from getting a tan. You’ll still get a nice pop of color without leaving your skin totally defenseless under the sun.
Using sunscreen after tanning is also important. You don’t want to expose your skin to even more sun damage after getting a tan. So applying sunscreen to your skin as part of your daily routine is a must!
Additionally, if you’re worried that sunscreen will make your self-tanning product fade or smudge, don’t fret. Sunscreen will not affect your tan.
Should You Shower After You Tan? It’s a Definite Yes!
Unless you opt for traditional sunbathing, getting a tan can cost you time, effort, and money. It’s then important to know the basic aftercare tips to preserve your tan as long as possible.
It all starts with knowing the right time to take a shower after tanning.
The idea is to let your skin rest after tanning and let sunless tanning products develop on your skin to give you the golden glow of your dreams.
The latter will require you to wait for several hours before your first shower after tanning, but having patience will be rewarding.
Letting the tanning products work their magic before washing your skin will make sure that your tan will stay on as long as possible.
Avoiding the shower shortly after tanning with such products will also keep you from getting a blotchy tan.
But you don’t have to completely avoid the shower regardless of the tanning method you choose. You should take a shower after tanning to help your skin relax, rehydrate, and get rid of excess tanning products.
Most importantly, don’t forget essential skincare practices such as using sunscreen and keeping your skin moisturized to enjoy glowing bronze skin!