The 4 Best Exfoliators to Use Before A Spray Tan

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The 4 Best Exfoliators to Use Before A Spray Tan
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:


ZELEN Life Exfoliator


belif Mild & Facial Scrub

Ever wondered about the best exfoliator to use before a spray tan?

In this article, we aim to go over precisely this subject.

There are many exfoliators available, and not everyone uses a spray tan or needs one. However, this is a common concern that many of our readers have.

We all know that spray tans are practical and much safer than going outside and baking in the sun for a few hours. However, it may help to prep your skin for a spray tan by using an exfoliator.

What exactly does exfoliation do? Exfoliating your skin helps remove dead keratinocytes or skin cells, revealing new and fresh skin underneath.

This skin is ready to be primed with an exfoliator, which helps to absorb the solutions in a spray tan to show your new color more richly, evenly, and in more resonant tones. This may translate into holding your new spray tan for a more extended period of time.

In this review, we will be looking at the best exfoliators to use before a spray tan in the hope that it will make the process more effective.

Thus, lasting longer, looking and feeling better on your newly exfoliated and prepped skin.

Quick Summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Exfoliator
  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin
  • Handmade organic formula, rich in vitamins and antioxidants
  • Intense yet gentle exfoliation, sugar powder means less irritations
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bb2-table__imageLa Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub for Sensitive Skin
  • Contains a physiological pH
  • Great for sensitive skin, can be used 2-3 times per week
  • Made with ultra-fine particles of pumice stone
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bb2-table__imagebelif Mild & Facial Scrub
  • Unique Napiers detox formula
  • Can be used as a daily exfoliator
  • Effectively cleans pores and hydrates
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub
  • Refreshes skin texture and helps dryness
  • Botanic formula unclogs pores and invigorates skin
  • Smoothes out the skin reducing dullness
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Before you buy: 3 things to consider when purchasing an exfoliator to use before a spray tan

1. How do you exfoliate before a spray tan?

To exfoliate before a spray tan, it helps take a warm bath or shower for about 10-20 minutes with lukewarm water. After the surrounding environment is pleasant and steamy with humidity, it is helpful to begin using your pre-tan exfoliator in a circular motion to spread it out evenly.

Ideally, the exfoliator should be oil-free and all-natural, organic for optimal results. While some may use a washcloth, it is not necessary. An exfoliator will then help remove dead skin cells, which allow for easier absorption of the self-tanner.

It is helpful to spend a bit more time where the skin is the thickest such as the ankles, knees, and elbows. Then dry your skin, and you are ready to go!

2. Why does it help to exfoliate before a spray tan?

It helps to apply an exfoliator before a spray tan to get even coverage and results that last longer.

It also helps the spray tan stick better and look more evenly distributed and uniform. After exfoliating, the self-tanner can be applied in sections such as the torso, arms, and legs for more even distribution.

It should be massaged into a circular motion. Wash your hands at the end to avoid orange appearing palms. It is important for a more natural look to blend the self-tanner and give your skin time to dry to allow the material to settle evenly.

It is also important to wait about 10 minutes for the item to settle and to wait a few hours and apply loose clothing, avoiding sweating. In addition to a spray tanner, it is also helpful to wear sunscreen, at least SPF 30 or above, as it is vital to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

3. What happens if you don’t use an exfoliator before spray tanning?

While nothing bad may happen, most seem to agree that exfoliating before using a spray tan helps sustain the spray tan’s color and maintain it for longer periods.

While applying a spray tan to non-exfoliated skin isn’t necessarily bad, it won’t exactly help to hold the color or assist with making it last longer.

The 4 best exfoliators to use before a spray tan

1. ZELEN Life Exfoliator


ZELEN Life Exfoliator

Best features:

  • Natural, organic, and eco-friendly
  • Handmade, plant-based, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic product
  • Rich in vitamins and antioxidants

The best exfoliator for:

Those on a budget given its competitive price point for a premium, organic product.


This ZELEN Life Exfoliator is a natural daily scrub designed for the face that provides intense cleansing without irritating the skin.

It is ideal for all skin types, including normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive skin. It contains a sugar powder base that is blended with pure sunflower and organic jojoba oil.

It aims to clear pores, blackheads, and whiteheads, revealing a new and fresh complexion when used. Also, it contains antibacterial and anti-aging properties that reduce inflammation and regenerate skin, helping older and acne-prone skin.

It can be used as an exfoliant for the beard, neck, and body and is unisex, geared towards both men and women.

The ZELEN Life Exfoliator is a hypoallergenic product that contains few if any allergens as it is free of fragrances, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, silicones, mineral oil, parabens, sulfates, and is cruelty-free, steering clear of animal testing.

This eco-friendly product is handmade, organic, containing natural and botanical ingredients, and rich in antioxidants and vitamins.

Jojoba is a natural ingredient found in a variety of skincare products and contains antiaging properties that help speed up the skin’s natural healing properties, regulating sebum and preventing acne and clogged pores. (1) It also helps to balance the hormones in the skin. (1)

Sunflower oils serve as moisturizers and skin hydrators that quickly absorb into the skin and seal the moisture within the keratinocytes. (2)

This helps to make the skin less sensitive while balancing its oils, reducing redness, and contains a wealth of beta carotene, which eventually is converted into vitamin A, which also has many benefits for skin health. (2)

Other active ingredients within this cosmeceutical include sesame seeds, shea butter, orange peel oil, geranium flowers, reship, rose flowers, and vanilla extract.

The good:

  • Natural face scrub made for daily use
  • Provides intense exfoliation without irritation
  • Perfect for all skin types, including oily, dry, normal, combination, and sensitive skin

Things to think about:

  • May want to test the product on a non-sensitive area of the body, such as the foot or the inner thigh, before applying. Particularly if you have not used the product before or are not accustomed to using exfoliators, to see how your skin will react.

Bottom line:

This natural and daily exfoliator for the face is designed to provide intense cleansing and exfoliation without unwanted irritation. It also is free of many allergens and fragrances, is eco-friendly, organic, and non-comedogenic. It is a plant-based botanical and handmade product that contains a wealth of vitamins and antioxidants and is suitable for everyone.

2. La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub for Sensitive Skin

La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub for Sensitive Skin

Best features:

  • Purifies and gently smoothes the skin
  • Suitable for sensitive skin

The best exfoliator for:

Those with sensitive skin, given its indication for individuals with sensitive skin types.


This face exfoliating scrub is formulated for sensitive skin types but can be used in all types of skin. It contains ultra-fine particles of pumice stone designed for gently exfoliating the skin.

This cleanser allows for comfortable application and has a texture that facilitates its application and cleansing. It also helps to gently remove excessive dead cells from the skin.

This cleanser is free of alcohol, parabens, and soaps. It also contains a physiological pH and is formulated with thermal spring water and antioxidants that soothe skin.

Thermal spring water is curative, and its therapeutic uses are well known. Its clinical benefits are provided to patients due to the biological activity of its composition and its physicochemical properties. (3)

Its waters are rich in selenium as an active ingredient, which helps to improve the quality of life in patients with chronic skin conditions when used topically. (3)

The good:

  • Can be used 2-3 times per week
  • Best used if massaged gently and rinsed thoroughly
  • Respects physiological balance

Things to think about:

  • Some customers have complained about the relatively small amount of product given considering the price point.
  • Like other skincare products, some customers mentioned redness and breakouts after applying it to the skin. If you have sensitive skin, it may be worthwhile to try it on a non-sensitive part of the body prior to applying it to your face.

Bottom line:

This product is geared toward sensitive skin but can be used by most skin types. It is a gentle exfoliator aimed to purify and smooth. It also gently exfoliates the skin while respecting your natural balanced physiological parameters and smoothes the skin effectively.

3. belif Mild and Effective Facial Scrub

belif Mild & Facial Scrub

Best features:

  • Cleanses the skin while providing hydration
  • Effective, refreshing face scrub
  • Eliminates dead skin cells and cleans pores

The best exfoliator for:

Those who are in search of a gentle product that is geared towards rougher and bumpier skin types.


This gentle exfoliator for rough skin presents a unique formulation of lemon balm with a citrus-like scent, which helps to soothe your skin, promote calmness and remove dead skin cells.

It was created to serve as a luxurious cleanser that helps with hydration and combines quality herbs for an effective skincare solution.

Active ingredients include calendula, oat extract, raspberry leaf extract, chickweed extract, arnica flower, wild yam root extract, damascus rose flower extract, hibiscus flower extract, and fragrances of natural origin.

Calendula protects against UVB-induced oxidative stress in the skin due to matrix metalloproteinase secretions and reduced glutathione levels. It is also antibacterial. (4)

Damascus rose is an important species of the family of rose flowers. Besides having a great scent and being ornamental, it is also medicinal with pharmacologic properties such as antioxidant, antibacterial, and relaxant effects. (5)

It is usually used after cleansing the face; you apply a sizable layer on your face, massage evenly for a few seconds, and rinse off with lukewarm water while patting the skin dry. Avoid the eyes and mouth.

The good:

  • Rids your pores of external wastes
  • May be used once daily on the face
  • Hydrates thoroughly while cleansing the skin

Things to think about:

  • The product contains a citrus-like fragrance, which may be a bit problematic if you are looking for a fragrance-free product and devoid of allergens.
  • Some customers feel that the price point was a bit too high for the product they were receiving.

Bottom line:

This facial scrub is effective and refreshing for rough skin but can also be used in oily/normal and combination skin types. It helps cleanse the superficial dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, followed by a French cotton scrub to eliminate superficial pollutants and wastes. It can be applied on the face, massaged, and rinsed off with lukewarm water.

4. Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub

Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub

Best features:

  • Smoothes out and refreshes skin texture
  • Nourishes dry skin
  • Unclogs pores

The best exfoliator for:

Individuals who are in search of a skincare product that is plant-based or from botanical derivatives.


This exfoliating scrub is aiming to refresh dull skin and unclog pores within the skincare Eline of Mario Badescu.

It contains botanicals and ivory palm seeds from Ecuador, as well as green tea, aloe, coconut, ginkgo, and ginger, to refine pores and clear your skin. It removes dead skin cells that may otherwise cause breakouts.

Regarding its active ingredients, green tea is effective as an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, hair loss, aging, and the prevention of cancer. In addition, it helps to reverse the adverse effects associated with ultraviolet light therapy. (6)

In some skincare products with ginger as well as some dermo-cosmetic products, improvement of existing acne eruptions was observed, reducing the appearance of seborrhea, inflammation, and increasing tolerance and quality of life. (7)

In addition, it helps to achieve more radiant and youthful skin that appears clearer. It contains a fragrance, so it may not be the item of choice for those desiring a fragrance-free product.

The good:

  • Contains botanical products such as green tea, ginkgo, and ginger
  • Helps to reduce dullness and buildup in the skin
  • Can be used 2-3 times a week on wet skin and rinsed

Things to think about:

  • Exfoliators (like other skincare products that you may be trying for the first time) can cause redness or breakouts if using it on an impaired skin barrier or in an individual with very sensitive skin.
  • Remember to order your products from a reputable source. If ordering from Amazon, choose a seller with high ratings who have been around for a longer period of time to make sure you receive a timely shipment of your product.

Bottom line:

This botanical exfoliator by Mario Badescu specifically tries to reduce buildup, unclog pores and reduce dullness in the skin by refining the skin texture and also providing nourishment with botanical ingredients such as green tea, ginkgo, and ginger.

How we chose these products

We select these products after an extensive review of the available exfoliators. We also sift through a multitude of reviews to look at which products have the highest ratings.

In our review of the ratings, we look at the comments and individuals who provide the ratings to make sure they are authentic and not fabricated.

In our review of the lowest ratings, we also look at the comments made to see if there are any red flags with the product and areas of improvement or constructive criticism.

Our team of experts and dermatologists then review the list of products and select the top ones to provide our readers with the best suggestions.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

How do you use an exfoliator?

When using an exfoliator, it is essential to be gentle with your skin. If you scrub too harshly, you could be damaging your skin barrier, which predisposes the skin to possibly harmful skin conditions, such as eczema or atopic dermatitis.

You may use the ball of your fingertips to roll on the material in tiny circular motions.

The exfoliators can be applied directly to the skin. There is no need for an exfoliating tool or brush, which may contribute to further abrasions on the skin. You may exfoliate your skin using the product for a few seconds and then rinse with lukewarm, not hot or freezing – water.

Exfoliators can be used in the shower or when performing your usual skincare routine in the mornings or evenings.

What are some things to keep in mind when using an exfoliator?

Some important tips to keep in mind when using an exfoliator include the fact that it can be used at any time of day, morning, or evening. In the beginning, when testing out a product on your skin, it is important to use it sparingly to see how your skin reacts.

If you experience excessive redness or a burning sensation, your skin may be too sensitive, or you may need less of the product.

Exfoliators also do not need extra tools to be able to use them. There is no need for a brush, washcloth, sponge, or mechanical exfoliation tool to be able to apply the item. Start by using it a couple of times a week to see how you tolerate the item first before using it on a daily basis.

Can an exfoliator be too harsh for my skin?

It is always wise to speak to your dermatologist when considering using a new product you haven’t tried before.

It’s also important to read reviews and go back to sources that you trust. That is one of the reasons we started this blog with medical experts.

If you have any questions on whether your skin is suitable for the exfoliator or if it may be too harsh, it is best to ask a medical professional who knows your skin well.

If you suffer from an impaired skin barrier or a skin condition such as eczema, which is uncontrolled, it is important to get your skin under control first before considering other items to apply to this sensitive area.


Exfoliators are a hot topic in skincare and a unique skincare item that many individuals feel they must use and can’t live without.

What is your experience using an exfoliator?

Which ones have you tried, and what do you like (and not like) about them?

Please feel free to share your experience and comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Also, if you have any friends who are “spray tan fans”, feel free to share this article with them.

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  1. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Ghassemi MR, Kazerouni A, Rafeie E, Jamshydian N. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013 Dec;148(6):687-91. PMID: 24442052.
  2. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
  3. Seite S. Thermal waters as cosmeceuticals: La Roche-Posay thermal spring water example. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2013;6:23-28. doi:10.2147/CCID.S39082
  4. Fonseca YM, Catini CD, Vicentini FT, Nomizo A, Gerlach RF, Fonseca MJ. Protective effect of Calendula officinalis extract against UVB-induced oxidative stress in skin: evaluation of reduced glutathione levels and matrix metalloproteinase secretion. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Feb 17;127(3):596-601. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.12.019. Epub 2009 Dec 22. PMID: 20026397.
  5. Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Saberi Z, Amini S. Pharmacological effects of rosa damascena. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2011;14(4):295-307.
  6. Pazyar N, Feily A, Kazerouni A. Green tea in dermatology. Skinmed. 2012 Nov-Dec;10(6):352-5. PMID: 23346663.
  7. Poláková K, Fauger A, Sayag M, Jourdan E. A dermocosmetic containing bakuchiol, Ginkgo biloba extract and mannitol improves the efficacy of adapalene in patients with acne vulgaris: result from a controlled randomized trial. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:187-191. Published 2015 Apr 10. doi:10.2147/CCID.S81691

About The Author


Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dermatology (University of Southern California)

United States

Dr. Anna Chacon is a board-certified dermatologist from Miami, based in South Florida. She graduated from Brown University’s highly selective Program in Liberal Medical Education. She completed her dermatology residency at the University of Southern California, where she learned firsthand about skin disorders that others only read about. She loves to write, see patients, and practice all aspects of dermatology.

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