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Airbrush vs Spray Tan: Which is Better for Tanning?

by  Doris Harris -  Last Updated On 1st July 2021

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What is the difference between an airbrush tan versus a spray tan? Which one will look better, last longer and generally be a better choice? We will be taking a look at the key differences.

You may be considering the idea of getting a nice looking tan that will complement your overall look. However, you want to avoid the dangers of tanning beds. That will leave you with these two options: airbrush or spray.

If you still want that golden tan without spending a lot of time in the sun or a salon, keep reading. But what if you don’t have time to read through this? We have taken the liberty to put together this quick reading list of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Airbrush Tan vs Spray Tan at a Glance

Airbrush Tan Advantages

  • A very fast process. Should take no longer than 20 minutes to complete
  • Because of frequent use, the instruments are cleaned regularly and thoroughly
  • The application is accurate and is distributed evenly
  • Lasts at least 10 or more days
  • Can darken your skin almost instantly, but not more than 12 hours

Airbrush Tan Disadvantages

  • May involve undressing in front of the technician, which can be a bit uncomfortable
  • Booking an appointment may be a hassle at times
  • Can get expensive depending on how good the professional technician is
  • Your options may be limited depending on where you are

Spray Tan Advantages

  • Process is just as fast as airbrush tanning
  • Spray and timing are both pre-calculated. You will have a good idea of what your tan will look like after the application is complete
  • Spray nozzles are positioned at suitable angles
  • Affordable for those looking for sunless tanning on a budget

Spray Tan Disadvantages

  • May not be as accurate in covering some parts of the body
  • Spray booths are not cleaned as often, thus the sanitary conditions are questionable
  • May last less time compared to airbrushing
  • May leave streaks or stains

Winner: If you do not have the time to read through the details, the winner between the two is airbrush tan.

What’s The Difference Between Them?

Natural Look

With airbrush tanning, the professional technician will choose a formula based on your natural skin tone. If you are looking for something that will give you a more natural look, then airbrush tans come out on top.

To ensure that it looks as natural as possible, the professional technician will apply the tanning formula as optimally as possible. If you want, you can choose which parts of your body can be airbrushed and which can be left alone. Aim to go for fairly even coverage, having one part of your body overly airbrushed won’t look as natural as you want it.

With spray tans, you will be standing in a booth operated by a number of different nozzles. The issue with spray tans is that they lack accuracy compared to airbrush tans. Therefore there’s a good chance that you won’t get that natural look that you do from airbrushing.

In spray tanning, there won’t be a technician that will be operating a nozzle. Therefore you need to be in the right position in order for the spray tan to get all the right places. You are unlikely to achieve a completely even spread. So it will definitely miss some spots once all is said and done.

Winner: The clear winner in terms of natural look goes to airbrush tan. That’s because they are professionally done and do a better job at making your skin look naturally tan. With pinpoint accuracy and the task itself performed by a human professional rather than a machine, there is no doubt that the airbrush tan is the best option.

Streaks and Stains

Nobody wants to deal with streaks and stains. Especially when they are wearing their favorite clothes outdoors. With airbrush tans, you will never have to deal with any streaks nor stains. If applied properly, you won’t see any of it come off or stain any of your clothing.

With a spray tan booth, the solution may not stay on the skin quite as well. This means that it can streak or stain, especially as some parts of your body might be sprayed a lot more than they need to be. This can leave a mess and it won’t do a good job at retaining what is supposed to be a natural look.

Winner: Once again, airbrush tans take the win here. Since the tanning mixture is most likely to be sprayed evenly all over your body, it won’t look streaked and it can dry faster. This also means that your clothes won’t streak or smudge.


The good news is that both airbrush and spray tans use what is known as DHA. It is a harmless organic chemical that is found in tanning mixtures. It’s a lot better than having to risk your health with harmful chemicals. Not to mention, it’s a lot better than dealing with harmful UV rays of the sun or a tanning bed that can cause skin cancer if your skin keeps getting exposed.

Winner: It’s a stalemate between the two here. Either or is a lot better than having to spend time in the sun or a tanning bed.

Lasting Results

How long can airbrush tan stay on your skin? What about spray tan? Let’s take a look at the two.

Airbrush tans will last up to 10 days. The good news is that it won’t fade away when you are showering. After the first application of airbrush tanning, it will take at least 12 hours before your skin darkens.

Most airbrushing solutions will have a bronzing solution that will have an immediate effect that will create an instant tan. For this reason, it will allow the professional airbrush technician to apply the optimal amounts to areas that may need more tanning than others.

What about a spray tan? Spray tans usually last at least a week. It is more likely that some may be washed off in the shower, but this can depend on how long it’s been applied on the skin. In terms of how often it needs to be applied, it may seem like a hassle having to go back to a tanning booth every seven days to repeat the same thing.

Winner: Once again, airbrush tans win. At this point, it has a commanding lead in this competition. Shall we declare a winner already? Maybe. But we still have a bit of a way to go. If you are not sure which is the more affordable option for you, let’s see if airbrushed tans are that option or if spray tans can finally get a win here.


Yes, everything comes down to affordability and what will fit your budget. The answer will depend on several factors. It can depend on how good the airbrush technician is at what they do. And it may also depend on what a salon offers at the right price.

On average, if you are going the airbrush route, you can expect to pay anywhere between $35 to $85. Not a bad price range, but you want to factor something into how good the professional technicians are. The better of a job they do, the higher the price will be.

It’s simple really. High-quality service yields a high price. But what about spray tans?

The price of a spray tan will range from anywhere between $25 to $50. As you can guess, spray tans are the affordable option even though they have the potential to perform less than their airbrush counterparts. That doesn’t mean you cannot get a good quality spray tan anywhere.

Winner: Spray tan finally gets a point on the board for affordability. However, if you are willing to spend a little bit extra because of quality and other benefits, airbrushing might be the best course of action. You can find a spray tan that is affordable and gives you good results.

Scheduling and Timing

When it comes to scheduling and timing, there is a stark difference between the two. Especially when you need to find the time to get a tan applied. Both methods don’t take a long time in terms of application.

However, you do need to set up an appointment if you are looking to go down the airbrush route. But you will run into some issues along the way. One common issue is that your appointment may be months after you’ve originally booked it.

You may also run into limited options on who does airbrush tanning depending on where you live. The more populated the area, the more options you may have. With spray tans, you can go to a booth and walk right in.

No need to set up an appointment or have to wait long periods of time. The tanning process will take the same amount of time compared to airbrush tanning.

Winner: Once again, spray tans score another point because there is no appointment needed.


If you are looking for the best option between these two types of sunless tanning, airbrush tans are by and far the best option. That’s because they provide accuracy, long lasting results, and will give you the best quality. Yes, an airbrush tan can be a bit pricey but it is worth every penny at the end of the day.

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