Guy Smarts ​7 ways to make your tan last

You’ve got the glow, here’s how to hang onto it.

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make tans last

(Photograph by Getty Images)
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Yes, sun is bad for your skin, but a tan is good for your spirits. You feel more outdoorsy, better looking, fitter.

You walk into the office and people say, “You’re so tan.”

A tan becomes a billboard for your vacation—think of it as a visual humblebrag.

It lets people know about all the fun-in-the-sun you’ve been enjoying, without you having to say a word. (“Oh this? I hadn’t noticed. Must have been those two weeks in Croatia.”)

Once you’ve got that summery glow, you want to enjoy it as long as possible. So how are you going to make it last?

There are some tricks you can use. And the surprising thing is that many of them are the same whether your tan comes from the sun or from a spray. (By the way, those UV rays are going to age you, and pose a cancer risk, so we’re a big fan of sprays.)

We talked to Lindsay Plotkin, the owner of the airbrush tanning service Glowjob, based in NYC.

She let us in on what you can do to lock in the effects—starting even before you set foot in the booth, or out in the sun.

Start with a "fresh canvas."

A tan is a change in the top layer of your skin—one caused by either the sun or chemical agents in a spray. (No, spray tans are not dye. At least, not good ones.)

The longer that top layer of skin sticks around, the longer you'll look tan. So exfoliate before you tan.

"Prepare a fresh canvas," says Plotkin, "the freshest skin possible. I recommend dry brushing because it will gently buff off dry skin, but won't be irritating like a harsh scrub."

Give yourself a gentle, dry scrub with a soft-bristled bath brush. Even if you're already tan, you might want to shed before you re-tan yourself.

"If you do spray tans all the time, I still recommend a 'tan detox' where you remove all of it once a month and start over," says Plotkin. "We have an infrared sauna here, which is a really good way to exfoliate your skin and get a fresh start."

Guys, shave before you tan.

Speaking of exfoliating, you're already doing it. Every time you shave, you're shedding skin cells. And if you wax anything (like your chest) you're shedding even more.

"Shaving is a great exfoliant," says Plotkin, "but always shave before you get a tan—a day in advance, so you're not irritated."

Check your spray tan ingredients.

A good spray tan is going to use a chemical agent to bring out pigment in your skin. But some solutions contain more alcohol than others, and alcohol dries you out.

"If your tan dries within one second of being sprayed on, then it probably has a lot of alcohol in it," says Plotkin "which will make you exfoliate faster."

Look for a salon or spray service that minimizes the alcohol content, and avoids irritants such as parabens. Even better, take a reco from a friend whose tan you admire.

And trust your senses. "If you smell a crazy chemical odor coming down the hallway in the tanning place," says Plotkin, "that's not good."

Take a tan booster home with you.

Many tanning companies will send clients home with a moisturizer that contains small amounts of whatever tanning agent was used. This can be a good way to touch things up afterward.

Just go easy. "You don't want to layer too much self tanner on top, because overdoing it can turn you orange, or dry and scaly," says Plotkin.

Also, avoid products that contain petroleum or mineral oils, which can fade a tan prematurely.

Don't wash it off.

"A spray tan should never just rinse off," says Plotkin. "If it does, then someone totally messed up."

That said, if you're getting a spray tan, let the solution sit on your skin for a few hours afterward. And with any tan—spray or sun—avoid experiences that will wash it away.

Chlorine, for instance, is a bleach. "I tell everyone, if you're going on vacation you should still go swimming and enjoy yourself," says Plotkin. "But obviously sitting in a hot tub for six hours isn't a great idea."

Don't dry it off, either.

Oh, and when you get out of the pool, hot tub or ocean, pat dry. Giving yourself a vigorous toweling is a great way to exfoliate. And you don't want that right now.

Like always, hydrate.

Final piece of advice? You already know what we're going to say. It's the same thing we prescribe for all types of skin care: plenty of water.

"Keeping your body hydrated from the inside—not just using products—is one of the best ways to prepare for a tan, or extend one," says Plotkin.

And those umbrella drinks are actually dehydrating, so do your tan favor and order a pacer at the beach bar.

It will be worth it that first week back in the office.

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