Spray tan and airbrush tan are popular alternatives when seeking a sun-kissed glow without sun exposure. These methods provide a safe and effective way to achieve a tan complexion but differ in application techniques and results. Differences between spray tan and airbrush tan encapsulate the focus of this discussion.

In this comparison, we will delve deeper into the distinctions between these two methods regarding application technique, customization, longevity, and potential costs, helping you make an informed choice for achieving that desired sun-kissed appearance.

Sunless Tanning

Sunless tanning refers to methods that darken the skin without exposure to the sun. It includes spray tanning, where a machine applies tanning solution, and airbrush tanning, which involves a technician using an airbrush gun for a customized tan. These methods offer a safe alternative to UV exposure and can result in a natural-looking tan.

What is Airbrush Tanning?

Airbrush tanning is a sunless tanning method where a trained technician uses an airbrush gun to apply a fine mist of tanning solution onto the skin. The technician controls the application, allowing for precise customization and contouring to achieve a natural-looking tan.

This method offers more flexibility in adjusting the tan’s intensity and shade, making it suitable for individuals looking for a personalized and even sun-kissed glow without UV exposure.

Pros of Airbrush Tanning

  1. Customization: Technicians can tailor the tan’s shade and intensity to suit your preferences.
  2. Natural Appearance: Airbrushing allows even coverage and contouring, resulting in a more authentic sun-kissed look.
  3. Even Application: Skilled technicians ensure a uniform application, reducing the risk of streaks or patches.
  4. Personalized Contouring: The airbrush technique allows targeted shading, enhancing muscle definition and body contours.
  5. Attention to Detail: Technicians can address specific areas, such as scars or blemishes, for a flawless finish.
  6. Reduced Health Risks: Unlike sun exposure, airbrush tanning eliminates UV-related skin damage and health concerns.
  7. Quick Process: The application is relatively swift, making it convenient for those with busy schedules.
  8. Temporary Results: The tan fades naturally over time, providing flexibility to maintain or change your tan’s appearance.
  9. Special Occasions: Ideal for events or photoshoots, as it offers immediate, temporary results with a desirable tan tone.
  10. Boosted Confidence: A sun-kissed glow can enhance self-esteem and body positivity.

Cons of Airbrush Tanning:

  1. Cost: Airbrush tanning can be more expensive than other sunless tanning methods.
  2. Maintenance: The tan’s longevity varies, and maintenance may involve additional appointments to sustain the desired look.
  3. Skill Dependency: The quality of the tan relies on the technician’s expertise, which might vary between sessions.
  4. Possible Unevenness: If not appropriately applied, airbrush tanning can result in uneven patches or streaks.
  5. Drying Time: The tanning solution needs time to dry, which could be inconvenient for some individuals.
  6. Preparation Steps: Before the session, specific preparations such as exfoliation and avoiding lotions are required.
  7. Sensitivity or Allergies: Some individuals might experience skin reactions to the tanning solution ingredients.
  8. Limited Availability: Airbrush tanning might not be as widely accessible as other sunless options.
  9. Temporary Results: The tan will gradually fade over time, requiring maintenance if you want to sustain the appearance.
  10. Color Development Time: The full tan color might take a few hours to develop after the session.
What is Spray Tanning?

What is Spray Tanning?

Spray tanning is a sunless tanning method where a person stands in a booth while an automated machine sprays a fine mist of tanning solution onto their body. The solution contains DHA, a colorless sugar that interacts with the skin’s surface to produce a tan-like pigment.

Spray tanning offers a quick and convenient way to achieve a tan without sun exposure, but the results can vary based on the machine’s settings and the person’s skin type. The process typically takes only a few minutes and provides temporary color that gradually fades.

Pros of Spray Tanning:

  1. Convenience: Spray tanning is quick and automated, requiring minimal time and effort from the individual.
  2. Event Coverage: Automated machines ensure consistent application, reducing the risk of uneven patches.
  3. Speed: The process is fast and ideal for individuals with busy schedules or last-minute events.
  4. Immediate Results: The tan’s color is visible immediately after the session, providing instant gratification.
  5. Customizable Shade: Some machines offer different intensity levels, allowing individuals to choose their preferred tan shade.
  6. Limited UV Exposure: Spray tanning eliminates the need for sun exposure, reducing the risk of UV-related skin damage.
  7. Temporary: The tan fades naturally over time, making it suitable for experimenting with different looks.
  8. Special Occasions: Perfect for events or occasions where a temporary tan is desired.
  9. Appropriate for All Skin Types: Spray tanning can be tailored to suit various skin tones and types.
  10. Minimal Preparation: Unlike some tanning methods, spray tanning may require less pre-session preparation.

Cons of Spray Tanning:

  1. Inconsistent Results: Depending on the machine’s calibration and individual skin characteristics, results can vary.
  2. Potential Streaks: Incorrect booth positioning or movement during the spray can lead to streaks or uneven color.
  3. Limited Customization: Automated machines may not offer the same level of customization as manual techniques.
  4. Short-Lived: The tan’s longevity is generally shorter than other tanning methods, requiring frequent reapplication.
  5. Drying Time: The tanning solution needs time to dry, which might be inconvenient for some individuals.
  6. Scent and Feel: Some people might experience a temporary scent or sticky feeling post-application.
  7. Preparation Steps: Exfoliation and avoiding certain products beforehand are recommended for best results.
  8. Allergic Reactions: Certain individuals could experience sensitivity or allergies to the tanning solution’s ingredients.
  9. Maintenance Costs: Regular sessions may add up over time, making it a potentially costly option.
  10. Potential Mess: Overspray or uneven application in automated booths might lead to unwanted residue.

What Are the Differences Between Airbrush and Spray Tan?

Spray tan and airbrush tan are two popular sunless tanning methods, differing in application techniques and outcomes. Differences between spray tan and airbrush tan encapsulate the focal point of this comparison.

Spray Tan:

  • Application: Automated machines spray tanning solution in a booth.
  • Consistency: Offers even coverage due to automated application.
  • Customization: Limited customization based on machine settings.
  • Speed: Quick process, suitable for busy individuals.
  • Results: Immediate tan with potential for streaks or unevenness.
  • Cost: Often less expensive than an airbrush tan.
  • Maintenance: Requires frequent sessions due to shorter tan lifespan.
  • Allergies: Potential for skin reactions to solution ingredients.
  • Convenience: Offers quick, convenient, and accessible tanning.

Airbrush Tan:

  • Application: Applied manually by a technician using an airbrush gun.
  • Consistency: Precise application allows for tailored contouring.
  • Customization: Highly customizable for shade, contouring, and detailing.
  • Speed: Application takes longer due to manual process.
  • Results: More natural-looking tan with fewer streaks.
  • Cost: Generally, it is more expensive than spray tanning.
  • Maintenance: Tan lasts longer but still requires maintenance.
  • Allergies: Possible skin sensitivity to the tanning solution.
  • Convenience: Offers a personalized approach with attention to detail.


Ultimately, choosing between spray tan and airbrush tan depends on individual preferences, desired results, and considerations for cost and maintenance.

Both methods offer a safe alternative to sun exposure, allowing individuals to achieve a sun-kissed glow without the need for UV exposure.