Why Does my Spray Tan Smell Like a Fast Food Restaurant?

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Often when customers look into spray tanning, they try to find where they can get the most bang for their buck—and who can blame them? Many think that smelling like a grease fryer is just the price you have to pay for a spray tan; surprisingly though, the type of tanning product you choose will determine whether or not you come out smelling like a burnt French Fry.

So what goes into these tanning products that make me smell like a Frialator?

  • Aloe and Heavy Oils
  • Alcohol
  • Improperly treated DHA (the stuff that makes you tan)
  • Fragrance Oils

When treated incorrectly, DHA produces that disgusting French Fry smell; when it is treated by scientists who actually know what they are doing, the end product will have no smell whatsoever.

No doubt you are already noticing the amount of oil that is used in some spray tanning products and you are probably wondering: Why all the oil?

DHA, or Dihydroxyacetone to you scientists out there, comes from the sugar cane plant and is the tanning ingredient of the mixture. Unfortunately, DHA dries out your skin; but, there are two ways to counteract this:

  • Oils
  • Water-based moisturizers

Why use an Oil over a moisturizer?

Simple: cost. Oil is cheap. Unfortunately it is also thick, greasy, and the same thing used to make French Fries. It’s actually kind of gross if you think about it: would you rather shower with oil, or with water?

Oil works great to counteract the drying quality of the DHA, but now you have a bigger problem: oil takes about a week to dry. On top of that, oil also stains clothes, bed sheets, and upholstery (like the seats in your car) so unless you are willing to stand naked in front of a giant fan for an hour, or walk home in your newly tanned birthday suit, too much oil can turn into quite a problem. Oil also clogs pores, causes acne, and will leave your skin feeling tacky like fresh paint: not a pleasant feeling.

To dry out the excess oil, alcohol is brought into the equation. Unfortunately there is a specific balance required between oil and alcohol to ensure that your skin neither feels too sticky nor too dry, even more unfortunate is the fact that alcohol causes your skin to dry in patches, causing your tan to fade irregularly and making you look like you’re wearing leopard print which, I’m sorry, is NEVER in style.

So now you have the stinging, antiseptic smell of alcohol and the odor of burnt French fries.

To try to get rid of these terrible odors, companies will often use oil-based fragrances similar to the air fresheners you have in your house. While this will get rid of SOME of that horrible smell, it will not get rid of it all. Because there is more oil used, you guessed it, now there needs to be even more alcohol introduced to dry it out. It’s a vicious cycle of drying and smelling, and in the end companies usually decide to choose a faster drying product over one that smells better.

Okay, so how do I get rid of that French Fry smell?

1.       Clothespin on your nose
2.       Use a tanning product developed by the best scientists in the field, and a solution that uses water-based moisturizer rather than oil.

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