Bronze Buzz

During the winter, skin is usually at its fairest for many people living in cooler climates. The days are shorter, and the cold weather seems to last forever. While there is an end in sight with spring right around the corner, now is the time to get glowing a healthier way. Sunless tanning continues to be a popular option, as more spa-goers realize the harmful effects of damaging ultraviolet rays and seek effective alternatives. As a result, sunless-tanning companies are developing formulas that are not only safer but also offer additional skincare benefits. 

Enticing Ingredients

Sometimes, it really is what’s inside that counts. Sunless-tanning formulas have come a long way since the days of unnatural color and a foul smell. In fact, many of today’s formulas contain components that prevent those negative effects and also provide benefits to the skin. Here are some of the hottest ingredients found in current sunless-tanning formulations:

coconut oil: Coconut oil helps nourish and firm skin and improve skintone.

marula oil: Featuring antioxidants and essential fatty acids, it helps to heal and hydrate the skin without clogging or irritating it.

hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is often considered the fountain of youth because
of its ability to plump and moisturize skin.

matrixyl 3000: Made from two peptides, palmitoyl-tripeptide and palmitoyl-oligopeptide, this ingredient has collagen-boosting and deep hydration properties.

neroli oil: Neroli oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and is great for toning, cleaning, and tightening the skin.

saccharide isomerate: Saccaride isomerate is an emollient and an effective moisturizer for long-lasting hydration.  

tahitian monoi oil: This ingredient offers healing, skin-repairing, and moisture-locking properties. It also shields the skin from external damage.

Dos and Don’ts

Proper application is the key to a natural-looking and long-lasting tan. Sunless-tanning experts believe there is a wrong and a right way to apply the formula. Here are some handy tips to pass along to your clients:

“Do exfoliate before applying sunless tanners; do make sure to apply to clean, dry skin; and do remove makeup and deodorant beforehand. Don’t apply lotion with the self-tanner, and don’t apply more product than what skin can absorb.”—LaDonna Sheridan, director of sales and marketing, Fake Bake

“Do exfoliate to get rid of dead skin cells; do hydrate by drinking lots of water; do eat your greens to enhance and deepen your color. Don’t put moisturizer or oils on before applying tanning products, as they will block the development of the tan. Avoid any products containing essential oils or moisturizing shower gels, as these can leave a film on the skin, causing a streaking effect.”—Alyson Hogg, founder and CEO, Vita Liberata

“Do exfoliate before you tan to knock off dead skin buildup for an all-over even tan; do shave at least 12 hours before to prevent skin irritation; do use an applicator mitt for easy, streak-free application. Don’t use lotion before your tan, because it acts as a barrier to the tan and could cause streaks; don’t shower right after your tan, wait at least four to six hours to let the tan develop.”—Kristin Strah, marketing brand manager, Mystic Tan and VersaSpa

Package Deals

Want some ideas for enhancing your spa’s sunless offerings? Discover some of the tempting treatments and packages spas are offering this season.

Sun and Sand ($165, 50 minutes) at SiSpa at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa (Riviera Beach, FL): This treatment starts with a full-body scrub before an application of South Seas sunless-tanning formula. The 15-minute Sun Goddess ($70, 15 minutes) service is also available for those with limited time. It features a light dusting to start, with additional cycles by request depending on how dark the client wants the color to be.

Solar Glow ($120, 2 hours) at Elements of Bodywork (Marlborough, MA): This sunless-tanning service includes a 60-minute custom massage, body scrub, hot-towel treatment, and an airbrush tan using either Aviva Labs ( or Fantasy Tan ( sunless tanner.

Single Tan ($40) and anti-cellulite moisture lock ($10) at Simply Golden (Austin, TX): This treatment includes an application of a custom-blended sunless tanner followed by a moisture enhancement, which contains a special patent-pending ingredient that helps the tan last longer and eliminates the appearance of cellulite by plumping the skin.

Glowing Reviews

Want to get attention for your sunless-tanning services? According to Fake Bake’s LaDonna Sheridan, social media is the easiest and most cost-effective way to do it. “Know your audience, and go where they go,” she says. Here, Sheridan shares the following tips.

  • Provide before-and-after images
  • Share testimonials from satisfied customers
  • Offer mobile airbrush-tanning options     
  • Provide sunless-tanning services to brides and others attending special events and participants at muscle and fitness shows

At-Home Tips

While prepping skin for a sunless-tanning application is an essential part of the process, spas should encourage clients to take the necessary steps to ensure an even longer-lasting sunless-tanning result. Recommend these at-home maintenance tips to your sunless-tanning clients for the best results:

  • Wait at least 8 to 12 hours after application before showering, swimming, or working out.
  • Do not apply moisturizer until after your first shower. And after that, be sure to moisturize daily with an alcohol-free water-based moisturizer.
  • Do not exercise, and, if possible, avoid sweating until after the first shower.
  • Do not exfoliate skin for at least 48 hours after your sunless-tanning application. When you do exfoliate, be gentle to preserve an even sunless tan.
  • If sunbathing, remember to wear sunscreen, as sunless-tanning products generally do not contain SPF.
  • Use a tan extender to make the tan last longer.

Tanning Technology

Today’s tanning formulas have nearly banished once-common complaints. For example, Vita Liberata’s sunless-tanning formulations do not have the odor typically associated with sunless tanners, as the company removed perfumes, parabens, and alcohol from its products. Also, of the nine amino acids on the skin that result in color when exposed to dihydroxyacetone (DHA), Vita Liberata ensures that all are colored to create the most natural shade of tan. What’s more, the formulas use time-release technology, which enables tans to last longer, and organic extracts for a more natural experience. Fake Bake’s formulas now include hyaluronic acid, which is typically only found in facial products, according to LaDonna Sheridan. This helps plump and moisturize the skin. “All self tanners have the active ingredient DHA, but we have added two other tanning actives to our products, erythulose and DMI,” says Sheridan.

Also, spray booths and application methods are getting high-tech updates. Mystic Tan recently launched a new Automated Spray Tan Booth, which features MagneTan Technology and MT Connect. “MagneTan Technology is a patented technology that energizes the tanning solution to attract mist to the skin for a perfect tan while providing a gentle sweeping spray with multiple passes for complete coverage,” says marketing brand manager Kristin Strah. “MT Connect reads booth operations, communicates any issue to a Sunless, Inc. technician, who can remotely diagnose an issue and connect with spas to maximize booth uptime and reliability.”