Spray Tan vs Self Tanner

Spray Tan vs Self Tanner featured photo

Having tan skin is a personal preference, and may or may not be dependent on the season. Sunless tanning techniques and methods have been around for a long time, and are available are varying levels of cost, with or without professional application.

When comparing spray tan vs self-tanner, the methods are quite different and the results are variable and dependent on the applicator. If cost is not an issue, a professionally sprayed-on tan can look the most natural.

In recent years more and more innovations are giving consumers their best tan yet. There are more considerations to keep in mind in choosing which of these options is a better fit for you.

In this article, we’ll be diving deep into spray tan vs self-tanner, how each process works, and how you can choose between them.

The Coveted Sun-Kissed Skin

Everyone wants that sun-kissed, glowing skin. As summer is just around the corner, many are getting concerned about pale winter skin.

All skin tones are beautiful, but there’s just something about tanned skin that makes people flock to it.

Not everyone is gifted with naturally tan and olive skin.

For years, we see people lying down under the sun to sunbathe to achieve a glowing tan.

Then, tanning beds offered an alternative to sunbathing.

But as people realize as they got older, unprotected sun exposure for long periods of time (i.e. sunbathing) is very serious. It damages the skin and is a leading cause of skin cancer. That “tan” you get from the sun only means you’re damaging your skin cells and aging them faster than they should.

Its offered alternative, tanning beds, aren’t even a real safer alternative to the sun either. Tanning beds use and expose users to huge amounts of UV rays and a safe UV tan is impossible. Prolonged exposure can also lead to damage and is a huge risk of developing skin cancer.

Experts agree that sunless tanning is the only way to achieve that sun-kissed glow without risking your health.

Sunless Tanning 101

There is no such thing as safe UV tanning. So once you throw away the possibility of sunbathing and tanning beds, what are you left with?

Two words – sunless tanning.

Sunless tanning is the only real safe method to achieve that beautiful tan, glow, and sun-kissed skin without risking damage to skin cells, premature aging, and skin cancer.

How does sunless tanning work?

There is a plethora of sunless tanning products on the market right now – from sprays, lotions, creams, or mousse.

Though they come in different forms, most sunless tanning products contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone or DHA. DHA is a carbohydrate derived from beets or sugar.

When DHA makes contact with the skin, amino acids react with the outer layer of the skin, resulting in a tanned or bronze color.

Because only the outer layer is affected, the tan effects are also temporary and will fade once dead skin cells are shed.

The more DHA the sunless tanner has in its formula, the faster and deeper your tan will be.

How to sunless tan

There are two methods you can try if you’ve decided that sunless tanning is for you:

  • Spray tan; and
  • Self-tanner.

Is sunless tanning good or bad for the skin?

Self-tanners are totally safe products and DHA is FDA-approved for external application.

This means, though, that consumers should avoid any DHA inhalation and application near the eyes or mucous membrane.

Rest assured, self-tanners are the safest way to achieve that tan and glow in your skin.

Spray Tan vs Self Tanner

When you choose to go the sunless tanning route, you have two methods to achieve this – with a spray tan or a self-tanner.

What is a Spray Tan?

In spray tanning, a light mist of color or bronzer is sprayed on the skin. Spray tanning solutions range from a variety of formulas and bronzer tones to choose from depending on your preference.

Spray tanning often involves a handheld gun a technician sprays the tanning solution with. This can be done by a professional in a tanning or beauty salon. There are, however, professionals who do home services so you’re in the comfort of your home.

There are also spray tanning booths. In this setting, you don’t need a professional to spray the bronzer on you. Instead, you’ll be standing in a booth with automated sprayers.

Spray tanning means you need to be totally naked or just in your underwear, whichever works best for your comfort.

If you feel too conscious standing naked (or almost naked), you can spray tan yourself without going to a spray tanning salon. Do this with spray tan guns widely available in the market. If you decide to do it yourself, just make sure you know what you’re doing.

The tanning material can sometimes get concentrated on hands and feet, so learn how to get spray tan off your hands if this happens to you.

What is a Self-Tanner?

If you’d rather use a tanner in a bottle, opt for a self-tanner because that’s exactly what it is.

A self-tanner is a tanning product directly applied to the skin without mists or sprays. These can come in lotion, mousse, or moisturizer form and can be applied as easily as any of those.

Self-tanning products can be applied with bare hands, though usually not recommended. The recommended way to apply is with a tanning mitt applicator. Not only does it give a smoother, even finish but it also protects the hands and fingers from uneven and excess tan.

Spray Tan vs Self Tanner: Which is Better for Sunless Tanning?

Now that we’ve got the basics of spray tanning and self-tanning out of the way, we’ll now focus on how they’re different from each other and which one would work better for you.


Spray tan: When done by a professional, a spray tan offers even and uniform results. You can also achieve darker, deeper results with it than with a self-tanner. And because a spray gun with mist is used, you have a smaller chance of missing hidden or hard-to-reach areas.

Self-tanner: A self-tanner offers a better alternative to spray tans if what you’re after is a quick and easy color pick-me-up. These give the skin a beautiful glow but nothing ever too drastic. Many also like to incorporate a self-tanning mousse or lotion in between spray tanning sessions to touch up areas that faded already faded.


Spray tan: Spray tanning sessions involve either a handheld gun or a spray tanning booth. Either way, there’s mist involved and this gets sprayed on you. One would need to strip down for the entire process. You can spray tan yourself if you prefer, but a professional knows what to do and can guide you and tell you how to position your body for the best results.

Because there is mist involved, you need to pay extra attention to not inhale any of the solutions. Making some mess is also to be expected so do this in bathrooms where it’s easy to wash everything down. Learn more about how spray tan works.

Self-tanner: Self-tanner application is as easy and convenient as applying body lotion. You only need to ensure you have the correct techniques down to a t for even application. If you’re doing it by yourself, you might have trouble reaching hard-to-reach areas too.

Just like with spray tanning, this can get messy so it’s highly suggested to do it in bathrooms too.


Spray tan: Usually a professional service, to get a spray tan costs more than self-tanning. A session typically costs $25 to $50. You can choose to DIY spray tan yourself with the many spray gun options out in the market – but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to stick with a professional.

Self-tanner: Self-tanners are much cheaper than spray tanning. A bottle can cost as low as $6 or as expensive as $60. It can typically give about four applications so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth no matter how much your bottle costs.

When to Choose Spray Tan vs Self Tanner for Sunless Tanning

Choose to spray tanning…

  • If you’re ready to pay for what it costs;
  • If you want that glow and radiance for a big event;
  • If you want a drastic change in your tone; and
  • If you don’t mind getting naked or in your undies while getting sprayed.

Choose to self-tan…

  • If you prefer a cheaper alternative to spray tan sessions;
  • If you need a quick pick-me-up;
  • If you quickly need to add some color to your skin between spray tanning sessions to maintain a natural-looking tan; and
  • If you want to tan on your own and in the comfort of your home.


A quick tanning session is a perfect way to give your skin a beautiful glow and radiance. It’s also a must for many before they hit the beach or leave for an important event.

When it comes to sunless tanning, you’ve got a few options: spray tan, self-tanner, and tanning bed. While tanning beds aren’t really recommended, spray tanning involves a light mist from either a handheld gun or a tanning booth. On the other hand, self-tanners are self-application products, similar to lotions and moisturizers.

If you don’t mind the cost, a professionally applied spray tan can often result in the best and most natural looking glow. Of course, this is dependent on the skill of the person applying it!

We hope this has helped in your tanning journey and for any questions, get in touch with us right below!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson