Preparation For Tanning
The skin prep for UV and sunless tanning are generally the same, with a few exceptions for certain things. Insuring a good look for a tan, makeup or hair, all comes down to the canvas you’re working on and how to take care of it. In this case, we are referring to the skin of the entire body for a tan.
Firstly, exfoliation is a must! Pick a scrub with a grit meant for your skin type and within your comfort level. I have dry skin and love a gritty scrub, so I like to buy sugar scrubs with semi-coarse granules of sugar and some oils in the formula. Be careful when trying new scrubs! Always rub gently and NEVER over exfoliate, this will damage your skin. If your scrub is very oily, make sure to give yourself an extra once-over with some soap or warm water. The best time to exfoliate is right before your sunless/UV session. If you need to shave, specifically for sunless applications, make sure this is done at a minimum of 4hrs prior to sunless service (I personally abide by a 12hr~ period of time.)
Second is staying hydrated internally and externally. This is where it can be a bit different between UV and sunless for external hydration. For UV, moist skin will give you a better, stronger tan as well as a longer lasting one. That being said, the more lotions you apply prior to use and after, the deeper the color. Always make sure you are using approved products for indoor use! Certain products will end up drying your skin out (even if it is a lotion) and can possibly damage the acrylic in sun beds.
For sunless, hydration is very important before and after application, but DO NOT apply a moisturizer before going in to spray or apply self-tanner. Your skin must be clean shaven and free of any lotion for the solution to apply evenly. There are pre-hydration mists and treatments available for purchase in aerosols and booth system applications.
There are products that can further prep the skin for even more success, especially with sunless tans. Making sure the pH of the skin is balanced with a color maximizing gel or pH balancing spray will truly help your sunless tan. Using a color maximizing gel prior to UV tanning with your regular indoor lotion will magnify the effects of said lotion you are using. When the pH is balanced, the DHA will properly oxidize with the epidermis giving an even, gorgeous color.
Maintaining Your Tan
Maintenance is simple, it is just a matter of following the routine and being conscious of what you do to your skin. By using the proper products, you can ensure your color will last as long as possible and fade evenly when the time comes.
Starting from the moment you apply a sunless tanner or have a UV session with a DHA bronzer lotion, do not shower for at least 4 hours. Many people feel they smell and want to shower after both types of sessions, but try to hold out. If you shower sooner than 4 hours, you will wash off the DHA resulting in minimal to no color. For full DHA development, waiting 24 before showering will give you the darkest results. The only exception to this rule is tanning with an Accelerator/Intensifier/Maximizer lotion with no DHA bronzers in them. Bronzers with Erythrulose will take about 48-72 hours to fully develop, but I don't think most people want to wait that long to shower.
When it comes time to shower, make sure you are using a tan extending body wash. They are free of sulfates and are pH balanced to make sure your tan is not completely washed off. The first shower you take, depending on how much cosmetic bronzer is in the sunless solution or lotion, will wash off brown in the water. Do not be alarmed, this is only the cosmetic bronzer that gives a temporary bronze color until washed away. The DHA is oxidized with your skin by this point (if you waited at least 4 hours!) so that is not what is going down the drain. Exfoliation can ruin a new sunless tan, try and avoid this until you are ready to reapply or want to completely remove it.
After showering, you should always use a tan extender to keep your skin healthy and tan glowing. Making sure the skin isn't dry is a huge component in a longer lasting tan for both UV and sunless. Ideally go for moisturizing and nourishing lotions that do not contain any sort of chemical exfoliants (AHA/BHA) or a body oil suitable for your skin type. Avoid lotions that contain drying alcohols, heavy fragrances, skin-lightening agents etc…