Aug 4, 2015 - Things to Do

So you want a spray tan but think you’ll turn orange? Here’s what to know.

Gorgeous Glo Charlotte

Gorgeous Glo Charlotte

For reasons unknown, I am willing to pay $55 to put on a paper thong and have a perfect stranger airbrush a freezing cold organic walnut brown sugar stain onto my body. This is because spray tans are my guiltiest of pleasures. I only get sprayed once, maybe twice, a year because they’re expensive and fleeting but oh so worth it to me.

Tanning is a curious and controversial phenomenon. I, like many midwestern girls, spent the cold, dark winters of my high school years under the purple ultraviolet glow of a tanning bed. It was stupid and dangerous but everybody did it and somehow no one knew any better.

We’d place little heart stickers on our hips to create a pale flesh-toned tattoo against our artificially bronzed bodies, a mark of some kind of weird teenaged right of passage.

These days the only skin-toned marks on my body are the scars from four different surgical extractions to remove suspicious moles. My fear of skin cancer is real so I’m a sunblock-wearing, mole-watching vigilante who gets an occasional spray tan because a real tan isn’t an option anymore.

Key West pool

Custom spray tanning is exactly as weird and vain and unnecessary as it sounds, but I like it and it makes me oddly ecstatic so just drop the judgment at the door. If you’re curious about getting a spray tan but don’t know where to start, here are some things to know…

Where to go: Gorgeous Glo

Gorgeous Glo Charlotte

This is the only spray tan place I’ve ever visited so I can’t compare it to any of the other options but I can say I’ve never had a bad experience.

What to avoid: auto-spray booths

NO NO NO. Do not step into a programmed booth that blindly sprays you. The results are nightmarish. The only way to do this and do it right is to have a professional human being airbrush you by hand. It’s weird. Deal with it.

Before you go

Make sure you’ve done all waxing, shaving, pedicures, manicures, facials, etc. BEFORE getting sprayed. Anything that involves any exfoliation after the fact will scrub off your tan and that will suck. Before your spray, avoid wearing any lotion or makeup. Wear dark loose clothing. The topical bronzer will only wear off on day one prior to your shower but washes out of clothes.

spray tan

While you’re there

The biggest question I get is about what to wear during a spray session. You can really wear whatever you’re comfortable in. They provide you with sticky pads to put on your feet (to avoid staining your soles) and an optional paper thong. If that’s not enough coverage you can wear your swimsuit. (Yep, guys do it too and can wear disposable paper boxer shorts.)

Gorgeous Glo Charlotte

The actual airbrushing takes a total of about three minutes during which your friendly tan artist (I just made that title up) will direct you to turn, look up, stick out your butt and hold your breath accordingly.

When you’re done you’ll go into a room full of fans to stand and dry and watch streaming ads for 6 minutes.


You might freak out immediately after tanning because it looks really dark and may streak in some places. This is because they use a topical bronzer in the stain so they can see where they’ve sprayed it. This darkness will wash off after your first shower (wait 24 hours or at least overnight before showering or sweating) and reveal a slightly lighter, semi-permanent bronze that will last up to a week. Moisturize a lot to keep your color longer.

Weird? Maybe. Unnecessary? Definitely. Oddly satisfying? Big time.


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