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Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Wait, Will a Spray Tan Ruin Your Manicure?

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Main image – Daryalavinskaya/Adobe

It’s officially summer (whoop whoop!) and that means one thing; bathing suit season is fast approaching.

If you’re anything like us though this can signal something of a frantic dash to bronze, defuzz and otherwise beautify the bits we’ve kept wrapped up over winter.

And fun as the beauty appointment carousel can be, deciding the *exact* order to do all that pampering in (to avoid ruining your fresh brow tint/facial/wax) can be confusing.

One thing we’ve been discussing here at Live That Glow HQ is whether a spray tan will ruin our freshly polished manicure – and we know we aren’t the only ones.

Can tanning solution dye gel manicure or acrylic nails? How long after a nail appointment should you actually book your tan appointment? And how do you avoid smudging that sunless glow if you  go down the nails first route?

No none wants to spend out on a tan session only to have it ruin a manicure, so we spoke to experts Julie Koritko, founder of cult favourite self-tanner GlowPro Tans, and celebrity aesthetician and beauty expert Ian Michael Crumm to get the skinny on the great spray tan-manicure debate.


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – FloralDeco/Adobe


The short answer

In short? No, a spray tan won’t ruin your manicure. This is because nails lack the amino acids your skin has which allow the active ingredient in tan solution (DHA) to stick to it.

However, many tan solutions or airbrush tans contain bronzer (so you can see where you’ve put the product), and this can end up on your nails.

Equally, doing anything before allowing nails to dry completely after a mani is just asking for trouble(!)

That’s why we’ve asked the experts for their advice on the best ways to combine the two treatments- and which you should do first- below.


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – Daryalavinskaya/Adobe


Should you get your nails done before or after a spray tan?

Ideally, you’ll have your manicure before your fake tan, but because the chemicals in tanning solution don’t affect nail polish you can go afterwards too as long as you’re prepared to forgo some of the more pampering elements of having a manicure, (like exfoliation and massage).

If you are getting a manicure afterwards, we suggest always waiting a few hours or however long the manufacturer/nail tech suggests before getting a manicure, however.

Ian tells us, “self-tanning should not directly affect your manicure if you wait for the self-tanner to dry completely before touching your nails.

“However, it’s always a good idea to wait a few hours after self-tanning before getting a manicure to ensure the product has fully set and won’t interfere with the nail treatment.

“Each self-tanning product may have different recommendations, so it’s important to follow the instructions provided by your specific brand!”

Read on for our tips to get the best results from both your tan and manicure whichever way round you do your treatments.


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – Chili/Adobe


Having your manicure after your fake tan?

As we mentioned, if you’re going down the fake tan first-manicure second route there are some things you really should avoid.

  • Firstly, skip manicures that involve harsh scrubs or hot towels which may over-exfoliate the skin and cause a patchy tan (the horror).
  • You should also avoid treatments which involve soaking hands for long periods of time, as well as lotions and oils as these can also cause an uneven finish to your tan.
  • Finally, remove your nail varnish before your appointment so your nail tech doesn’t have to use nail polish remover on your newly-tanned skin, potentially interfering with your colour. If you’re concerned, a good idea is to get a gel manicure which dries within the appointment.

As Julie explains, “getting a manicure will often involve getting your hands wet and cuticle oil being applied.

“Both of these things can be detrimental to the even development of a tan.”

Therefore either skip the scrub/hand soak/nail oils or if you’re intent on having a full-blown mani treatment Julie advises, “wait until your first rinse if you’re getting one after tanning.”

Oh and for some mani inspiration for this year’s vacay, check out the 77 of the best nail designs of 2024.


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – DaryaLavinskaya/Adobe


Self-tanning after your manicure?

If you’re having your spray tan after your manicure, while you don’t have to worry about the tanning solution itself staining your nails for best results let your tan artist know you’ve just had a manicure and follow the tips below to get a sun-kissed glow and a shiny mani (the perfect combination!)

  • Use a barrier cream like lip balm, Vaseline or petroleum jelly on your nails and cuticles which will prevent a buildup of fake tan on your cuticle area (a bit of a tanning giveaway)
  • While protecting your skin from UV rays is always a good thing, avoid sunscreen immediately before your tanning appointment as these can contain oils which can prevent the tanner from adhering evenly to the skin around your nails and interfere with the tanning process
  • If applying fake tan at home, use a tanning mitt to both protect hands and get an even tan result
  • An oil-free makeup wipe or a cotton ball soaked in oil-free makeup remove will take off any bronzer left on your nails, whether they’re painted or you’ve gone for bare nails
  • Finally, if you’re still worried about protecting your nails from any superficial bronzing product used in self-tanner, a clear or coloured coat of nail polish will keep everything off


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – DaryaLavinskaya/Adobe


Self-tanning best practice

We know you know how to self-tan. But given how easy it is to end up with patches/streaks/other tanning disasters, here are some of the main culprits to avoid for a gorgeous glow.


Not exfoliating and moisturising 48 hours before to remove the top layer of skin

Dead skin cells and dry skin can create a patchy finish. An exfoliating mitt is a great way to ensure an even finish and will also help to improve the life of your spray tan.


Getting hot and sweaty

Sweat can interfere with tan development so it’s best avoided.  According to Julie, “avoid hot/humid weather, sweaty workouts… for at least 6 hours after you tan.”


Wearing the wrong clothes at your spray tan

While it might be tempting to wear the bathing suit you know you’re going to be living in this summer to your appointment, to avoid tan lines stick to the disposable underwear your aesthetician will give you on the day of your appointment.


Will a spray tan ruin my manicure?

Image – Anastasia/Adobe


Wearing tight clothes or too many seams straight after your tan

We recommend wearing loose clothes like dark workout clothes, sports bras, and long pants and sleeves to your appointment because tight clothes will cause smudges – nobody wants that! (Check out our guide on *exactly* what to wear after self-tanning for some more tips from us and the experts.)


Showering too soon

It’s tempting to want to remove any residue by getting in the shower, but you really should wait at least 8 hours.

Julie agrees, “DHA can develop for up to 24 hours, but most solutions can be rinsed off within 8 hours.

“I recommend rinsing only, instead of a soap/body wash, for your first shower to maximise colour development.”


The takeaway

The answer? If you’re careful and follow the advice, there’s no issue getting both a mani and a spray tan (yay!)

As long as you use a barrier cream on your nails, carefully remove any transfer before it develops, and use a tanning mitt if doing a DIY tan at home, your manicure should stay in tip-top condition.

Now, to the beach!


Meet the experts

Julie Koritko is a certified aesthetician and the founder of cult favourite self-tanner GlowPro Tans, famed for its professional strength formulas and natural finish.


Ian Michael Crumm is a celebrity aesthetician, beauty expert and co-host of the BeautyCurious podcast with Dr Elyse Love. Ian is known for his passion for skincare and sun safety and is actively involved in philanthropic efforts to promote skin cancer awareness, and believes that #ProtectedSkinWins.




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Senior Beauty Editor

Laura Kemp started her journalism career as a news reporter for one of the largest newspaper groups in Europe before moving into features and editorial writing. Combining her love of hard-hitting journalism with her passion for beauty, she’s now Senior Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she’s not writing, researching, or interviewing her favourite experts, you’ll find Laura practicing her downward dog or drifting on her paddleboard.

Expertise: Hair care, nails
Education: University of Salford

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