Who doesn’t love the look of a glowing, sexy, healthy-looking tan? But with the ever-growing prevalence of skin cancer — nearly 5 million people in the U.S. are treated for skin cancer every year — people are looking for a safer, better way to bronze. Enter spray tanning. Spray tanning is easy, convenient, and requires little overhead, making it a great addition to your service menu.

Spray Tanning 101
The concept is easy: The client comes to the salon, enters a private space and strips down to a bathing suit (or nothing), and the operator sprays tanning solution evenly onto the client’s body with a pressurized spray “gun” that looks something like a blow dryer and allows for even application. The client allows the solution to dry, then goes home and waits for her beautiful golden “tan” to develop.

The main component in all spray tan formulas is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is derived from sugar cane and beets. DHA creates a tanned appearance by reacting with oxygen and the amino acids on the upper layer of skin, in much the same way an apple browns when it’s exposed to the oxygen in the air. Most spray tan formulas contain a cosmetic bronzer so that the skin appears tanned immediately after the service, but this will rinse off as soon the client showers. The true “tanning” of the skin will appear in about two to four hours, developing fully after 16 hours, and will usually last five to seven days, depending on how fast the skin exfoliates.

There are many different spray tan products available from different companies, and most of the companies offer training along with purchase of their products and equipment. “The best thing about learning how to spray tan is that it is super easy to learn,” says Drew Warner, public relations director for Aviva Labs. “By the end of a one-day class, you should be more than confident enough to begin charging for your spray tans. We actually had one client not too long ago who had clients scheduled for spray tans later that night.”

In addition to basic spray tan application, there are higher levels of training, often called master programs, that offer body contouring, shading, sculpting, etc. Aviva Labs offers these courses, but strongly recommends that you have a few months of standard spray tanning under your belt before taking a master class because it requires a more artistic approach that is more difficult to learn.
Courses also cover the business of spray tanning. Norvell, for instance, has created Norvell University, which offers more than seven levels of training and certification via webinar, live one-day workshops and weekend symposiums, and covers some of the business and marketing aspects of spray tanning. “Norvell University takes the pain and struggle out of the ‘what to do next’ phases in the business,” says  Brandon Cardinal, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We help you with your skill set and build confidence. It is a simple turn key to success.”

The best thing about spray tanning is the low overhead required to start. “The return on investment for spray tanning is through the roof,” says Warner. “The national average charge for a single spray tan is $35 or $45 if it’s a rapid-tan solution. This means that if you are spray tanning just five clients a day, and only working five days a week, you can make $45,500 per year from adding spray tanning. And that’s just five clients a day; we have many clients who easily do more.”

Keely Freeman of Get Nailed by Keely, in Bedford, England, decided to add spray tanning to her nail business after visiting the Pro Beauty show in London where she met one of the exhibitors. “It seemed like quite an easy add for me,” she says. “After the Pro Beauty show, I came home and started looking up spray tan courses in my area. I was surprised to find them very affordable. I discovered the Rose & Caramel brand, a very natural-looking spray tan that has added moisturizers, sprays much finer for more even coverage, and doesn’t transfer onto clothing. For me this brand seemed great. It wasn’t over-the-top and obviously fake looking.” Freeman says she has no trouble upselling spray tans. “Generally I get a lot of women complaining they don’t like their skin tone and they think certain nail colors would suit tanned skin, so I’ve been offering my nail clients spray tan deals. Everyone seems very pleased.”  

License Required: No specialized license required at this time except in Oregon.
Startup cost: Entry into the industry can start with a very low-cost kit all the way up to an automatic spray tan unit. To get everything you need for a basic spray tanning business, including training and certification, products, and equipment, the total cost can be as little as $400-$500.
Average price charged: The national average to charge a customer is $35 to $45.
Logistics: The most cost-effective way to offer spray tanning to your clients is to have a pop-up tent behind a curtain or in your beauty room, but if you start to do a lot of tans, a purpose-built room is always a good idea — one that can be easily cleaned down and has a window or appropriate ventilation.


Norvell boa

sts a natural sought-after color they refer to as “just off the beach color, every time.” The formula uses a state-of-the-art, secret blending process. Norvell has educated technicians since 1983, and in 2009 launched Norvell University, a comprehensive sunless training program that has more than 15,000 registered and certified technicians. Interested owners/operators can take classes online, via webinar, live one-day workshops, and weekend symposiums. www.norvelltanning.com

All of Aviva Labs’ solutions are oil-free, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, not sticky, fade evenly, and are long lasting. The City Tans shown here are a convenience tan that allows the client to rinse off sooner than other spray tan solutions without any sacrifice to color or quality. Aviva spray tan training is often held either online, at Aviva headquarters, or in conference centers in different cities. A typical class consists of learning how spray tanning actually works, business building ideas, and a few hours of hands-on training. They also offer master classes that teach advanced techniques for body contouring, shading, and sculpting. www.avivalabs.com

U.K.-based Rose & Caramel’s Intensity solution is a water-based solution that includes natural skin-enriching ingredients, such as aloe vera and Witch Hazel, and is free from alcohol or parabens, which can harm the skin. Their Nudity solution is the first-ever spray tan solution based on a cream formula that is compatible with all spray tanning equipment. It doesn’t clog the pores, has a milder scent than water-based solutions, and lasts an average of seven to 10 days. www.roseandcaramel.com

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