The needs of a mobile spray tanning service and a salon-based fake tan have many similarities – quality and performance being the most obvious – but there are a few key differences. For a salon-based service, brand is far more important, and which brand you choose to use in your salon plays a much greater role in the success of your spray tanning service.

Mobile beauty technicians, to a great extent, are their brand. Client loyalty is gained through their personal skill and expertise as much as the quality of the products that they use. Unless they make a point of informing their clients and selling branded aftercare products, many clients of mobile technicians don’t even know what spray tan brand their beautician is using. It’s this fact that has fuelled the growth of low-end brands like SiennaSol.

While the skill and interpersonal skills of the individual beauticians are important for salons as well (and undoubtedly clients have their favourite members of staff who they will attempt to rebook with), the aim for the salon owner is to build loyalty to the salon itself, rather than personal attachment to only one technician. After all, staff come and go over time – hopefully not taking clients with them!

For this reason, many salons choose to stock premium or niche tanning brands that compliment their values and those of their clients. St Tropez epitomises the premium tanning brand best of all, with its tanning solution and supporting products commanding a very high price in the market, even in the absence of particularly spectacular results: the power of mainstream brand perception in action.

An example of a more niche tanning brand is Fresh Indulgence. This brand came to prominence during a time when there was an explosion of interest in natural-based, organic cosmetics, and made a name for itself with well-informed, honest – and at times controversial – articles, such as an exposé on the tanning industry and its widespread misuse of the term “organic tanning solution.” Fresh Indulgence thus positioned itself as an authority in the arena of alternative, safe and ethical spray tanning, and has gone on to specialise in other under-represented areas like vitiligo. This brand is the first choice of independent high-end salons looking for a point of difference, and of mobile technicians whose clients value natural-looking tans with high quality ingredients, fewer harsh chemicals, and are thus very gentle on the skin.

Lift Your Way’s tanning range (Tan Your Way) also serves a niche market, and was originally created with bodybuilders and competition dancers in mind. After great success in this market – and after many requests from clients who often supplemented their tanning business with regular spray tans outside of show season – the brand added 14%, 12% and 10% DHA levels to the range. This has enabled the brand to appeal to a wider audience, whilst remaining true to its core raison d’être by basing all of its professional tanning solutions off its original formula: high quality, high performance DHA, which delivers a strong, long-lasting and even tan.

How do you choose the right brand for your salon?

Here are a few key points to consider:

– Values. Does the brand’s message and values match your own? Think not only about ingredients and their sources, but also overall marketing and branding. Do the brands’ models portray elegance?
Strength? Or more traditional sexualised imagery? Does this fit with the other brands you stock, and the overall feel of your salon?

There are some serious ethical issues surrounding brands such as ‘Skinny Tan’ and Morocco Tan’s dangerous anorexic model; brands such as Suntana make no effort to avoid perpetuating traditional,objectifiying images of the female body, even to a primarily female audience. Some brands avoid using models altogether. Lift Your Way uses models sparingly, and only to emphasise power and strength for both men and women.

– Shades. Natural tones versus florescent attention-grabbing shades (yes, some people really do like the orange look) – what kind of look are your clients aiming for?

– Support. How important is this to you? Larger brands like Sienna-X or St Tropez will not offer you personal support or advice. These brands have now been bought out by large companies for whom tanning is a side line in a larger portfolio, not a main focus. Specialised brands like Lift Your Way will work with you to solve your problems.

– Pricing. One litre of tanning solution will deliver approximately 18 spray tans. At £60 per litre, your cost (before staff time, consumables and equipment) is £3.33 per tan. At £30 per litre, it’s £1.66. Whether your clients are willing to pay £45 per tan or £20 per tan will inform your decision on how much you can afford to pay for your product.

How much should a litre of tan cost?

A good tip on solution pricing is that £30, give or take £5, is the ‘sweet spot’ combination of price and quality. Any tanning solution that is priced below £25 a litre is highly suspect; high-quality DHA and active tanning ingredients simply cannot be blended for below this price. Solutions sold for less than £25 are likely generic blends made with a high water content and lower grade DHA (usually chemically derived and imported from China, as opposed to the more natural DHA that brands like Lift Your Way prefer, derived from certified USDA organic sugar cane from the United States).

Any tanning solution priced above £35 per litre, and you’re likely paying a premium for the brand name only.

Which shades do I need?

It can be difficult, when introducing a brand new service, to know how many shades you will need. One money-saving tip is to buy the higher and lower ends of the DHA scale all of the same scent, and you can then always mix up the in between shades yourself. If your chosen range begins at 10% and goes up to 14%, for example, you can skip the 12% because the beautician can simply fill the tanning gun cup with half of one shade and half of the other, resulting in 12%.

Unless you know that you will be serving bodybuilders or competitors, super dark tans like our 20% are not necessary for mainstream salons.
Skin preparation and aftercare advice

A spray tan should last 7-10 days with good preparation and aftercare. Before a tan, the client’s skin should be free from all products (no creams, moisturisers, oils, deodorants, perfume or makeup), and they should wait at least 20 minutes after having a shower to allow the skin’s pH to rebalance. The client should also avoid shaving right before a tan, because this can lead to pooling in the pores, and the moisturising strip that many razors now come with can leave oily residue on the skin.

The client should wear loose-fitting clothing after their tan, and avoid showering for 8 hours. The ideal scenario is to leave the spray tan on overnight. Clients should also avoid excessive sweating (so no gym workouts or saunas) and swimming pools for as long as they intend to wear their spray tan.

Many first time tanners panic when they finally do get into the shower and watch “their tan” go down the drain. Warn them before they go home that they will see tan washing from their skin, but not to worry – this is only the guide colour (the superficial bronzer that gives them an instantly tanned look and allows the technician to see where the product has been applied).

Skin should be moisturised with an oil-free moisturiser only (readily available from shops like Boots), and exfoliation should be avoided until the tan begins to fade and the client wants to remove it.

What equipment do I need?

Obviously, you need a tanning machine. It is advisable to go for something durable – our preference is the tried and tested TS50 spray tan machine, but the Aura Allure is also popular. If you want to protect your walls (hint: you do), buy a spray tan tent.

If spray tans will be performed in a small, unventillated room, you will definitely need an extractor fan. These used to be enormous contraptions, but extractors like the Aura Spray Tan Extractor Fan are now much more compact, yet without sacrificing on power.

There are fabulously expensive starter kits out there, but you really don’t need to spend more than £250 to get things going.

Got questions?

If there is anything we haven’t covered that you still need to know, let us know, so we can fill in the gaps! We would love to hear from you.