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Go Sunless, But Consider These 10 Things First

Contact Author Melissa Weinberg, Perfect Glow Sunless
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Woman with half a tanned face

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As the temperature heats up, many beauty professionals are starting to add spray tanning to their menu of services. The sunless industry is growing at an exponential rate, and more people are turning to spray tanning for a healthier option to get their golden glow. It is not just for the ladies, as both men and women are choosing this beauty treatment on a current basis.

If you are considering adding sunless tanning, here are some benefits.

  • It is a quick beauty treatment, taking approximately 20 minutes.
  • It has great income potential, with salons charging from $45-$75 depending on location. 
  • It's a fun service that makes people feel great. A treatment makes people feel thinner, teeth look brighter and a tan gives many people a boost of confidence.

If your existing client base likes to spray tan (or is going to start), chances are that they are already going to another beauty pro to get one. So why let them pay someone else and give them a reason to go into another salon/spa that might be offering competing services? You already have a business relationship with them, so it can be a great business decision for you to provide them with the spray tan service. There are some key things to keep in mind when starting a spray tan business or adding it on to your current menu, as outlined below.

1. Get specialized training.

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I encounter many estheticians that skip a formal spray tan training because they already have their esthetician license and went to beauty school. The problem is that many estheticians and cosmetology programs only cover a small portion of spray tanning or none at all! Sunless tanning is not a cut and dry beauty process. It is not as simple as buying a spray tan gun and some solution and starting your service. I have worked with many estheticians and new spray tan artists that have done that and wind up struggling and encountering many client issues. Spray tan-specific education is crucial for long term success. Spray tanning is a cosmetic that affects the entire body, and there are many things (Including skin conditions) that can interact with a spray tan and go wrong compared to other beauty treatments. I encourage anyone new to this industry to take a hands-on or online class that can provide you with sunless-specific education.

2. Practice makes perfect!

Even if you are a current beauty pro, if you are new to spray tanning, perfecting your spray tan technique does not happen overnight. This is a new technique and it comes with learning curves. For example, you need to:

  • Make sure your gun settings are perfect,
  • Get used to various body types,
  • Measure the amount of product you are using for a proper application,
  • Familiarize yourself with the products you are carrying, and
  • Be comfortable with what strength/color base to choose for the client.

I always tell students to practice on at least 20-30 people before they start charging. Get family, friends or existing clients that want a free tan in exchange for practice. It is important to see the final results and get honest feedback. You want it to look perfect and get out any kinks (trust me there always are) before you start charging. Fact-people are more forgiving to mishaps if the tan was free. Even if they paid a discount they are still paying for a service and will scrutinize the results. I have seen too many people think that because they are an existing beauty pro, they start charging right away and wound up having unhappy customers and risked damaging their reputation.

3. Evaluate your workspace.

See what set up and schedule can work best for you to add in spray tanning services. If you have a small treatment room, you might not be able to have a designated spray tan area and might need to use a pop up a tent when you get a client. If it is too cumbersome to do on a daily basis, some beauty pros schedule tans for certain days (or block off set hours) so they don’t have to keep setting up and maneuvering other equipment if necessary. Or you might choose to perform the spray tan as a mobile service. Also, don’t forget the extraction system or fan. A proper extraction fan is necessary to eliminate overspray and for you and your clients health (especially in small treatment spaces). Safety first, and always wear a mask and provide one for your clients if they would like one.

4. Consider other services.

It is important to understand how a spray tan will interact with other beauty services and know how to schedule them accordingly.

Ask your clients if the spray tan is for an event (wedding, graduation, shower, party, etc.) With spray tanning, there is certain prep that’s involved, and it is hard to accommodate walk-ins compared to someone wanting a facial, for example.Some beauty services (waxing, manicure, pedicure, etc.) desired by a client for a special event cannot be done the day of (or after), as it can affect the tanning results.  One example of this is that your client should not book a massage and spray tan on the same day. If they are getting a facial first, they might not be able to get their face sprayed. These are all things that a reputable training class will teach you.

5. Research product lines.

When starting your new business, I encourage you to try samples from a few companies to see what you like the best. Evaluate how the color lasts, its odor and the feel on the skin. Read the websites and solution description to see what skin tones the different blends are recommended for. See if the company just offers one color or various color bases. Using a solution brand that just offers one color is like a makeup artist using one color foundation on all skin tones. It is not practical, and you want to make sure you have a good range.

6. Get the word out.

Many people are new to the spray tan process and are not sure exactly what it involves.  Make the effort to educate your customer base on the benefits of sunless tanning via your website and social media. I recommend having an informative Q&A on your website. Also, emphasize that they can get desired results out of just one session. Also, let them know that with a great product and proper instructions, the tan last up to nine days in many cases. There have been great strides in the sunless tanning industr,y and products have come a long way.

7. Research equipment.

Your start-up equipment does not have to break the bank. Realistically figure out how many tans that you plan to do a week, and look for a machine that will fit those needs. In many cases, you do not need to buy an expensive starter kit. For example, if you only want to do 20 tans a week, you do not need an expensive, high-powered machine that can do up to 500 tans. You can get by with a compact machine and upgrade if you grow your spray tan business.

If you have a large salon with multiple spray tan artists, a high-powered machine might be best. Contact the vendor and discuss your needs. Also, it is  important to have a backup machine. Machines can malfunction, guns can clog and the last thing you want is to have a broken machine in the middle of a spray tan and have to stop the treatment. I have seen it happen to many spray tan artists, and it is not a good scenario. Some issues cannot be fixed on the spot and not having a backup can be embarrassing and also damaging to your reputation. Can you imagine doing a bridal tan and the machine breaks and you can’t finish the service?

8. Get insurance.

Get liability insurance or make sure you add spray tanning to your current policy if you already have one. It’s rare, but accidents can happen. For example, someone could trip getting out of the spray tan ten) or maybe you spill the bottle of solution and ruin someone’s rug during a mobile service. Accidents can happen to even the most experienced spray tan artist. I once had a gun malfunction and almost got solution on a client’s Louis Vuitton bag. If you are a male or going to be using a male spray tan artist in your business, consider getting a sexual harassment binder. Or have a policy to have someone else in the room with you if the client seems uncomfortable, since most people tan naked or just in undergarments.

9. Educate the client.

When offering spray tanning services, the clients pre-tan prep and post-tan care are crucial. Regardless if you perfected your technique and use a premium product, what the client does (or does not do) can adversely affect the results of the spray tan service. I recommend that you provide extensive instructions on your website and give them a check list of what to wear when they come in for the spray tan, how to care for their tan and what products to use for the tan. Remember that many people are new to the spray tan process and many are first time tanners. This is a beauty treatment that many clients have questions about and are not sure about all the things they need to do. I have seen many websites fall short on customer education, and that is something that I stress in my training classes. The more information you can provide to the customer, the better chances for a flawless spray tan experience all around!

10. Research ingredients.

Know what ingredients are in your spray tan solution, and always ask the client if they have any allergies or skin conditions during your consultation or on your consent form. Many clients do not realize that some spray tan solutions contain nut extracts and other food-based ingredients, so they would never think to even mention it. That is why you as the professional have a responsibility to ask the client if they are allergic to anything and to also protect yourself from any possible liability issues.

Melissa Weinberg is a spray tan educator and president of Perfect Glow Sunless. Her entrepreneurial journey has been featured in media outlets like Forbes.com and Money magazine and has recently auditioned for Shark Tank. Weinberg's hands-on and online courses has helped many people begin their own successful careers in the sunless tanning industry. perfectglowsunless.com or Learntoairbrushtan.com

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