A Celebrity Tanner on How to Get (and Maintain) a Spray Tan Like a Pop Star

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Photo: Diego Alvarez de Toledo

Let’s say you’re not a pop star or a Victoria’s Secret Angel but you want to look like one, at least in the fake-tan department — there’s hope, if you follow the advice of their spray-tanner, Kristyn Pradas. Though Pradas doesn’t want me to reveal which pop star she travels with and sprays — sometimes every day — here are some hints: She was a child star … who had a small scandal … and redeemed herself with her talent. That narrows it down to about 60 people. I’m not saying any more; I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.

Pradas’s technique can extend the life of a spray tan to nearly two weeks. Because mine starts looking like a skin disease by day six, I’ve started following her advice. I’m on day eight, and it’s not terrible.

Scrub like crazy. No, harder!
The day before the tanning session, give yourself a near-Silkwood shower with a sea-salt or sugar scrub and an exfoliating mitt. Coarse salt or sugar mixed with a body wash works well because most commercial scrubs contain oil, and oil prevents the tanning solution (dihydroxyacetone, or DHA) from latching onto your skin cells. The result is an uneven mess. Pradas likes St. Tropez Tan Enhancing Body Polish, which is made for this purpose, and a flat, oval loofah. I prefer the Supracor Stimulite Bath Mitt because it’s antimicrobial and antibacterial.

If you have sensitive or pale skin and it turns red after scrubbing, then congratulations. You’ve passed the test and can now go on to the next step, which is hair removal. Wax or shave now so your skin has time to recover.

Embrace nature.
On spray-tan day, don’t even look at lotions, oils, perfumes, or deodorant. If that’s simply unacceptable, then apply what you must and take a vigorous shower with bar soap a few hours before spray tanning.

Don’t sweat.
Immediately after the spray session, load on baby powder anywhere you might sweat. Pradas takes a fat body brush and coats powder on the underarms, under boobs, under butt, inner thighs, inner knees, and feet. There will be a cloud of powder hovering around you, and you might choke. Deal with it, because there’s no such thing as too much powder.

Loosen up your buttons, etc.
Baggy sweatpants, the XL KALE sweatshirt you wear only when you’re alone and watching The Bachelor? Put them on. Skip the bra and anything that’s tight enough to leave a mark on your skin, because that can also remove the self-tanner. Pradas has seen clients with inseam stripes down their legs from tight pants. Even crossing your legs can create a white spot, so stick with baggy pants.

Leave it on.
The longer the spray tan sets, the longer it will last. Pradas suggests a minimum of six hours, but eight is better, and ten is better than that. When it’s time to shower, use a pH-balanced body wash. I’m sorry to say that Pradas likes Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash, and yes, that’s actually a feminine hygiene product. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is also good — and less douchey (literally).

Avoid everything.
From now on, you will single-mindedly devote your life to protecting your spray tan. Do not apply oils, fragrance, exfoliators, anti-aging lotions (AHAs, BHAs, salicylic acid, and retinoids are Kryptonite). “If you must shave, don’t press hard on the skin,” says Pradas. Keep the showers short and not too hot. Pat your skin daintily rather than rubbing it dry, and apply moisturizer when it’s still damp. An unadorned lotion — free of fragrance and anti-aging ingredients — is best; Pradas likes coconut oil or a spray lotion, like Vaseline Spray & Go (I’m partial to the Aloe Fresh one), because it doesn’t involve any tan-destroying friction.

You’re not finished yet.
If you notice the tan fading in certain areas — usually the feet, underarms, hands, and face — apply a gradual self-tanner around day three or four. St. Tropez Gradual In-Shower is virtually foolproof. Perfectionists may want to take a makeup sponge and dab the self-tanner on the tops of the feet and hands, blending well between the toes and fingers.  

Don’t be a Bachelorette.
Now that your skin is all gorgeous and bronze, don’t get any wild ideas about drinking Champagne in a hot tub. “I have a client who got a spray tan for her wedding,” says Pradas. “On the honeymoon, she jumped in a hot tub and came out white. She was not happy.” The combination of heat and chlorine leaches the tan right off the skin. Instead, frolic sexily in the ocean. Or just pose like a pop star at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.