Go With the Glow

Despite being considered the safe way to achieve a healthy and sun-kissed glow, sunless tanning, spray tanning in particular, has recently come under fire for its use of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a coloring agent derived from sugar beet or sugar cane. The controversy was introduced on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” program in a segment addressing the safety of spray tans. The segment brought up health concerns, such as potential lung complications and altered DNA, related to the inhalation of DHA, based on a panel of six medical experts who reviewed various reports on the ingredient. In light of the recent debate, you and your clients may be asking if spray tanning, and sunless tanning in general, is really the safer alternative. And if so, should you be offering it in your spa?


Keeping it Safe

In terms of safety, it is important to note that DHA is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for external use. It has long been considered safe for topical application. “Safety is a primary concern for us, which is why we encourage our spa partners to follow all of the FDA Advisory recommendations,” says Ricky Croft, vice president of marketing at Sunless Inc. They include sealing lips with lip balm and wearing protective eyewear, nose filters, and undergarments whenever DHA is being used in a spray application. In a comprehensive report published in 2010, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) noted that, based on the available information, the use of DHA as a self-tanning ingredient in spray cabins up to a 14-percent concentration will not pose a risk to the health of consumers.

With the proper safety precautions in place, sunless tanning remains a healthy means of achieving a golden glow. This is especially appealing to clients looking to get a bit of color before embarking on a tropical vacation or tying the knot. “Sunless tanning is one of the most profitable services for beauty professionals to provide to their clients,” says Mitch Bloom, CEO of Aviva Labs. “Given worries about skin cancer and tanning beds, the sunless tanning industry is increasing in demand.” In fact, Los Angeles-based industry research firm IBISWorld recently reported Self-Tanning Product Manufacturing as one of the top 10 fastest growing industries. In a report on the subject, it noted that the self-tanning product manufacturing industry should expect to grow by 18.1 percent in 2012, with an average annual growth of 10.7 percent over the next five years. Needless to say, it behooves most spas to offer some form of sunless tanning treatments on their menus.


Benefits to Both

“The single biggest benefit to spas offering airbrush tanning is the profit,” says Michele Major, co-CEO of Sol Potion. “Airbrush tanning offers a more than 1,000-percent markup and takes only five minutes to perform. This allows the technician to perform several airbrush treatments in the same time it can take to perform other general spa services.” According to her, sunless tanning services are particularly appealing because they can be performed almost anywhere. Rick Norvell, president of Norvell Skincare Solutions, recommends that spas considering adding spray tanning to their menus have a designated room that is equipped with some type of professional air quality filtration and reduction system. “Women and men of all ages are being spray tanned, because it gives them confidence and makes them feel better about their appearance,” says Norvell. “A spray tan takes just minutes and is the fastest way to improve the appearance dramatically. Adding a spray tan service to a regular spa menu increases profitability, and it’s a great add-on sale that only takes 15 minutes to complete.”


Choosing a Product Company

To capitalize on the benefits sunless tanning can offer, it is important to do the research. According to Major, the quality of the formulas your spa offers can make or break a successful service. That’s why it is essential you consider what types of solutions and color levels the vendor offers. “Each client will have one of several natural skin tones,” says Major. “Two to three colors will not be enough.” Education is also key. “Many spas make the mistake of believing their success depends only on finding the right sunless solution,” says Bloom. “Beware of the ‘liquid peddlers’ out there who sell you a solution and promise you profits but don’t provide any training on how to build a successful sunless business.” According to Norvell, reputation, quality, and customer service are all essential factors.

Sunless tanning has come a long way in recent years with advances in the formulations used. Spa-goers no longer need to fear looking more orange than tan. There have also been developments in other areas. “We have introduced to the market this year the world’s first 30-minute wash-off tan and the world’s first DHA-infused body wash,” says Bloom. “The wash-off tan is a premium service for clients who don’t want to wait the traditional eight hours before showering after a spray-tan application. The new body wash is a great tan-extender and promotes even fading of the spray tan.” There are also new innovations in automated booths. “For instance, the Norvell Sunless Auto Revolution is an intelligent unit that uses body sensors to read your customers’ height and weight and only sprays the client instead of the zone, like other units,” says Norvell.


Boosting Profits

If sunless tanning is already on your menu, you’re probably interested in boosting profits. Again, the importance of education should not be undervalued. “I can’t stress enough that proper spray tan training is essential,” says Bloom. “Our studies have found that customers who have taken our Sunless 101 Training complete three to five times more spray tans per week than our customers who have not completed the training.” He also notes an increase in retail sales thanks to proper training. Another way to improve profitability is to offer discounts for first-time sunless tanning clients. Major recommends offering incentives. “Packages, tan parties, and referral discounts are inexpensive ways to bring in new clients and reward existing clients for spreading the word about your spa’s sunless service,” says Major.

According to Norvell, it’s important not to discount individual treatments. “Determine what you will charge for an individual spray tan, and sell packages for multiples at a discounted rate or monthly unlimited specials,” he says. “Or, add spa services for free, but keep your individual sunless spray tan price the same. Many spas will sell upgrades to the service, such as charging more for darker colors, rapid developing tans, pH balancing prep, and post-moisturizing sprays.” Some sunless systems, like those from Sunless Inc., allow for customizable additives, like accelerators, fragrance, and cosmetic bronzers. “Retail products are another great way to boost revenue,” says Croft. Extending the life of your clients’ tans with
homecare products is just another way to guarantee their satisfaction and to ensure that they keep coming back for more.


Recommended Reading:


Get the facts by reviewing the following reports on DHA:


2006 FDA Product Information Publication



European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety




Get the facts by reviewing the following reports on DHA:


2006 FDA Product Information Publication



European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety


Give your clients a golden glow with sunless tanning products from these companies.


Academie Scientific Beauty


Aviva Labs




Be Bronze


CBI Laboratories


Éminence Organic Skin Care


Fake Bake


GlyMed Plus


G.M. Collin


Guinot Paris


Image Skincare


Infinity Sun


Laboratoire Dr Renaud


Norvell Skin Solutions






Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals


Sol Potion


Sothys Paris


Spa Elegance




Sunless Inc.