Glow With the Flow

The dangers of unprotected sun exposure have long been spelled out. But many sun lovers still crave a golden glow—a tan can help pasty-skinned clients look healthier and cover up unsightly skin blemishes and cellulite, just to name a few of the beauty benefits. As such, sunless tanning is growing in popularity across all age groups and demographics, and sunless-tanning services can be a lucrative part of any spa’s menu. Meet your bronze-loving clients’ needs, and keep them coming back for more with the help of our handy A-to-Z get-glowing guide. This assortment of pre-tan suggestions, application advice, and post-tan tips will help them look like they’ve had fun in the sun, minus the premature wrinkles and skin damage. Time to get glowing!


Encourage clients to avoid skincare and bodycare products containing fruit and other acids, because these ingredients will shorten the lifespan of a sunless tan. “Skip creams or lotions that contain alpha or beta hydroxy acids, because they encourage quicker cell renewal, which causes the skin to lose its color much faster,” says Lydia Sarfati, founder and president of Repêchage.


Building a treatment room used exclusively for sunless tanning can enhance the client experience and their results. “Having a private tanning suite allows for a dedicated space with a proper filtration system as well as specific lighting, so the technician can make sure there is an even tan at all angles,” says Shannon Taylor, lead therapist at Spa Gregorie’s (Newport Beach, CA).

Carrot oil

Do send clients home with moisturizers containing hydrating ingredients like carrot oil to prolong the tan and make it look more even and luminescent. “Carrot oil contains natural beta carotene and essential fatty acids that will help rebuild the skin barrier and make skin look darker,” says Sarfati. “Antioxidants will also prolong a tan, because they prevent scavengers from attacking the top layer of the skin.” Grapeseed oil, mafura oil, sunflower seed oil, and vitamin E are a few other ingredients endorsed by Sarfati to preserve a sunless tan.


Help clients avoid staining their clothes following a sunless-tanning service by suggesting they forego deodorant before a treatment. “Self-tanner washes out of almost everything,” says Dera Enochson, founder and CEO of Xen-Tan. “It can be harder to get out of shirts if guests are wearing deodorant, because the deodorant and tanner attach to the shirt and don’t rinse out.”


Do prep clients’ skin with a dry manual exfoliation. “You want skin to be dry and free of oils and perfume,” says Lindsay Turmelle, CEO and president at Tan in the Raw. “Scrub with a seafoam loofa or a standard wash cloth that isn’t abrasive or irritating to the skin.” Brandon Cardinal, vice president of sales and marketing at Norvell, agrees and recommends that clients should also be encouraged to exfoliate up to two days before tanning. He says, “This allows the technician to spray the newest, healthiest skin, which will make the color more natural and the tan last much longer.”


Post-service, clients should avoid using scented lotions and creams with synthetic fragrances. According to Turmelle, products containing fragrances and alcohol can break down a tan.


While exfoliation is important, be sure to do so gently. There is such a thing as too much exfoliation for the body as well as the face. “If you exfoliate so much that you remove your clients’ entire epidermis, then we don’t have anything for the tanner to stick to,” says Enochson.


Focus on treating your clients’ hyperpigmentation before performing a tanning service. “If your clients have visible hyperpigmentation on the skin, it’s difficult to achieve an even-looking tan,” says Sarfati. “The spots will look darker than the other skin. In fact, your clients may end up looking like a Dalmatian dog.”

Intense Pulsed Light

Don’t allow clients to schedule intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments during the week leading up to a sunless-tanning appointment. “IPL draws the pigmentation up, and then it takes about seven days to slough if off,” says Tina Zillmann, founder and executive director of Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts. “Self-tanner will grab onto the pigmentation, and your clients will end up with white spots and uneven coloring when it sloughs off.”


Suggest your clients wear loose-fitting clothing to and from their sunless-tanning appointments. “Clients shouldn’t wear something very tight,” says Alyson Hogg, founder and CEO of Vita Liberata. “Skinny jeans that leave a mark down the leg with the seam will rub and create uneven patches.”


Remind clients not to rest a cheek on their knuckles or lean on their arms while their tans are developing. “Tell guests not to touch their own skin,” says Hogg. “When they sit and put their hands on their thighs, cross their legs, or lean their faces on their arms or hands, the tan will transfer,  creating uneven patches.”


Don’t combine lasers and sunless tanning in general. “Laser reads the color in the skin from the tan and will burn the skin, even if it’s a synthetic color,” says Zillmann.

Monthly cycle

Women’s monthly cycles affect the pH of their skin. This can impact how well a sunless tan adheres and develops. “Female guests shouldn’t book tanning appointments three to five days before or at the beginning of their menstrual cycles,” says Turmelle. “For some women, the pH level of their skin is off when menstruating, and the tan doesn’t develop like it normally would.”


Encourage clients to use homecare products that contain natural, nourishing ingredients like aloe, ginkgo biloba, green tea, herbs, and shea butter, which won’t break down the tan, according to Enochson. “Soothing, firming products work well with self-tanners,” she says.


Many experts advise clients to avoid using oily products before a sunless-tanning service and to avoid using essential oils after tanning. “They can contain ingredients that break down the skin’s surface, and, therefore, break down the tan,” says Hogg.


Creating a skin prep-and-tan package ups the luxe factor  and sales. The Body Bronzing Sunless Tanning Treatment ($55,  45 minutes), which includes a scrub and solution application,  “is a quick way to care for someone, and next time they’ll come back  for a massage or facial,” says spa director Elizabeth Walsh-Zimmermann at Well Spa at The Pfister Hotel (Milwaukee).


Do encourage clients to quench their thirst before a tanning appointment. “If your clients have plenty to drink and keep their hydration levels high, the skin will be plumped and in better condition,” says Hogg.


When prepping clients’ skin, don’t use exfoliating bodycare products that leave a residue, as they can block the absorption of the tanner. “If you do use a body scrub, it should be from a self- tanner line, as these companies have done research to uncover ingredients that extend a tan’s duration,” says Enochson.


Do tell your clients to hold off on showering immediately after a service. The latest tanning solutions dry quickly and stay put while they work on the skin, but most formulas are still susceptible to water during the first six to eight hours. “The tiniest splash of water can cause a blemish,” says Turmelle. “Tell your clients to stay away from water until they shower off the tan.”


Tell clients to avoid spending long periods of time soaking in water, especially warm baths and hot tubs before a tan. “It can loosen the top layer of skin,” says Hogg. Prolonged soaking should also be avoided post-service. “Long showers and hot tubs dehydrate the skin while chlorine causes it to exfoliate faster and shortens the duration of the tan,” says Lindsay Dickhout, CEO of Million Dollar Tan.


Remind clients to protect against ultraviolet rays when spending time outside. “A common misconception is that you will just tan in the sun after receiving a sunless tan, but you can still burn,” says Hogg. “You must wear an SPF.” However, skin should be dry and free of any suncare products before a spray. “Less is more before a spray tan,” says Cardinal. “Avoid using harsh chemicals, SPFs, shaving gels, moisturizers, and perfumes.”


While clients can  do chores like vacuuming  right after a service, encourage them to delay those involving water until after showering off the solution. “Don’t work with wet laundry or do the dishes,” says Dickhout. “The water can splash and speckle the tan.”


Remind clients to avoid hair removal procedures right before a tan, as they sensitize the skin. “Skin will need 24 hours to recover from the waxing process before tanning,” says LaDonna Sheridan, national sales manager for FakeBake. Shaving too soon before tanning also causes issues. “If you shave right before tanning, the self-tanner will sit in the pores and make the pores more visible,” says Zillmann. Don’t schedule a wax for clients immediately following a tan either. “It strips the top layer of skin that holds the color,” says Hogg.


If the worst case does happen, and clients develop streaks, there’s a simple solution. “The best thing to do is re-tan clients,” says Enochson. “You can’t remove the old tan, but if you spray them from head to toe again, making sure to hit all the problem spots, you will almost always give them a perfect tan—even and smooth.”


Encourage clients not to plan a Bikram yoga or other high-intensity class right after a sunless tan, because the sweat will cause streaks. “Tell them to hit the gym first and then tan,” says Hogg.


If your clients’ schedules can accommodate it, book sunless-tanning services in the evening, and suggest they get some zzzs while the solution develops on the skin. “A tan will appear darker if your clients sleep with self-tanner on,” says Enochson. “Anything you do for the skin at night works better, so if dark is your clients’ goal, suggest they put on dark pajamas and sleep on it.”

Help clients achieve a golden tan from head to toe with one of these sunless-tanning options.—Jessica Morrobel


1. B.Bronz Sunless Tanning Solution: Designed for use with a professional tanning system, this paraben-free solution contains aloe vera, caffeine, and lactic acid to ensure optimum skin conditioning and natural-looking color.

2. Body Drench Quicktan Instant Bronzing Spray: This bronzer improves the skin’s texture and  contains a 360-degree spray nozzle for easy  application.

3. Guinot Paris HydraBronze Moisturizing Lotion:  This self-tanning lotion moisturizes the skin while gradually delivering even coverage and a sun- kissed look.

4. Infinity Sun Rapid Development Ultra Dark  Tanning Solution: This walnut-based bronzer  quickly absorbs and develops a tan in one hour.

5. Jurlique Sun Specialist Sunless Tanner:  Infused with safflower seed oil and sweet orange fruit extract, this lightweight non-streaky formula hydrates and protects against environmental  aggressors.

6. Norvell Self-Tanning Mousse: Formulated with  a proprietary instant cosmetic bronzer blend, this easy-to-apply velvety mousse provides an instant glow while natural enzymes repair dehydrated skin.

7. Phytomer Sun Radiance Self-Tanning Cream: Suitable for the face and body, this cream glides on easily and allows for dressing immediately after application without leaving an oily residue.

8. Pura Sunless Tan Extender Moisturizer:  Made with aloe vera, olive oil, shea butter, and sunflower seed oil, this cream improves skintone  and texture while extending the duration of the tan.

9. Sothys Paris Face & Body Self-Tanning Gel:  This non-greasy gel gradually enhances skintone  with a glowing tan without leaving streaks.

10. Tan in the Raw Ultra Drying Body Shimmer: This powder eliminates stickiness and odor and adds subtle shimmer immediately following an airbrush tan.

11. Vita Liberata Self Tanning Night Moisture Mask: This nourishing night mask gradually builds a natural-looking tan overnight without staining pillowcases.

12. Yon-Ka Paris Lait Auto-Bronzant: Packed with shea butter and vitamin E, this self-tanning lotion for the face and body repairs, nourishes, and protects skin while delivering a golden color.