The Ultimate Guide to Spray Tanning in Bodybuilding Competitions

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 13, 2023
Spray Tanning in Bodybuilding Competitions

In bodybuilding, how you look is just as important as how strong you are or how big your muscles are.

One important thing that helps show off a bodybuilder’s muscles is using spray tans.

In this guide, we’ll explain why bodybuilders use spray tans for competitions. We’ll also explore the connection between tanning and bodybuilding. Plus, we’ll look at the pros and cons of this trend.

The Basics of Bodybuilding and Tanning

Bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on developing and displaying a well-defined, muscular, and aesthetically pleasing physique. Competitors are judged based on their muscle size, symmetry, definition, and overall presentation.

Tanning darkens the skin tone. This can happen through natural sun exposure or artificial methods, such as spray tans.

The History of Tanning in Bodybuilding

Tanning in bodybuilding has a long history that goes back to the early days of the sport. People think tanning became part of bodybuilding competitions in the 1950s. Athletes noticed that darker skin helped show off their muscles better on stage.

As time went on, tanning became popular with both guys and girls in bodybuilding, and it became a key part of getting ready for a competition. At first, people got tans by spending time in the sun or using tanning beds. But as the sport grew and people wanted safer and quicker ways to tan, things like spray-on tans and self-tanning lotions were invented.

These products let athletes get a uniform, competition-ready tan. They avoid the dangers of too much sun exposure and using tanning beds.

In judging, tanning isn’t directly scored in competitions. But it’s important in how an athlete looks overall. It can affect their final score because it helps show off muscle definition and stage presence.

There have been controversies in bodybuilding about tanning. Athletes have used very dark tans and done “blackface.” This upset the public and caused competition organizers to create stricter rules and penalties for tanning.

The industry is looking for new tanning technologies and products. It’s trying to balance looks, safety, and convenience.

Bodybuilding keeps changing. The use of tanning in competitions will also change. This shows the ongoing search for the perfect look and presentation.

The Golden Era of Bodybuilding

The Golden Era of bodybuilding is a time from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Famous bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, and Frank Zane were the stars of the sport. During this time, more and more bodybuilders started tanning to help show off their muscles better.

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In the Golden Era, bodybuilders mostly got tans by spending a lot of time in the sun or using tanning beds to get darker skin. Many athletes would spend hours sunbathing or going to tanning salons to get a deep, bronze look that would make their muscles stand out on stage.

But this way of tanning had its problems. Spending too much time in the sun can hurt your skin and increase your chances of getting skin cancer.

Modern-Day Tanning Techniques

As the sport of bodybuilding evolved, so too did the methods used by competitors to achieve the perfect tan. Today, spray tans have become the go-to solution for most bodybuilders. They offer a safer and more efficient alternative to traditional sun tanning. Spray tans provide an even, consistent color across the entire body. This is essential for presenting a polished and professional appearance on stage.

There are several advantages to using spray tans in modern-day bodybuilding:

  1. Safety: Spray tans eliminate the need for excessive sun exposure or the use of sunbeds, reducing the risk of skin damage and skin cancer associated with traditional tanning methods.
  2. Customization: Spray tan solutions can be tailored to suit each competitor’s specific skin tone and desired level of darkness, ensuring a natural-looking result that complements their physique.
  3. Convenience: Spray tans can be applied quickly and easily, allowing competitors to achieve a competition-ready tan in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks.

The Connection Between Bodybuilding and Tanning

So, how are bodybuilding and tanning related? Bodybuilders use spray tans to enhance their muscle definition and separation during competitions. It’s the primary reason. A darker skin tone helps accentuate the shadows created by the contours of the muscles. This makes them appear more prominent and visually striking.

Why Spray Tans Are Essential for Bodybuilders in Competitions

  1. Enhanced Muscle Definition: As mentioned earlier, a darker skin tone highlights the muscle definition and separation more effectively. This allows judges and spectators to better appreciate the competitor’s hard work and dedication to their physique.
  2. Even Skin Tone: Spray tans provide an even, consistent color across the entire body, which is essential for presenting a polished and professional appearance on stage. This consistency helps competitors avoid any distractions caused by uneven skin tone or blemishes.
  3. Improved Stage Presence: A spray tan can boost a competitor’s confidence and stage presence, as they know their physique is being showcased in the best possible light. This can translate into a better performance and higher scores from judges.
  4. Adherence to Competition Standards: Many bodybuilding competitions have specific guidelines regarding tanning, making it a requirement for competitors to achieve a certain level of darkness. Using a spray tan ensures that competitors meet these standards and avoid penalties or disqualification.
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Disadvantages of Spray Tans in Bodybuilding

While there are several benefits to using spray tans in bodybuilding competitions, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  1. Cost: Professional spray tans can be expensive, especially when considering multiple applications leading up to and during a competition.
  2. Skin Irritation and Allergies: Some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to the ingredients in spray tan solutions. It is essential to patch test the product before full application to avoid any adverse reactions.
  3. Maintenance: Spray tans require careful maintenance to ensure they remain even and do not become streaky or patchy. This can be time-consuming and may cause stress leading up to a competition.
  4. Temporary Results: Spray tans are not a permanent solution, as they typically last between 5-10 days. This means competitors will need to reapply the tan for each competition or event.


In the end, spray tans are really important in bodybuilding competitions. They help show off muscles, make skin color even, and help competitors look better on stage.

Spray tanning has some downsides. It can be expensive and needs upkeep. However, the benefits usually matter more for serious athletes.

By knowing how important spray tans are in bodybuilding and being aware of the possible downsides, athletes can make smart choices about their tanning. They can make sure they look their best on stage.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.