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article 1: the art of spray tanning



by Lindsay Dickhout


“Million Dollar Tan uses Iwata equipment exclusively because of it’s durability, amazingly fine spray pattern, speed at which you can tan and lifespan of the product. The Iwata RG-3 is my favorite because it has the perfect round spray pattern and finest mist available. This allows for a very natural looking tan, whether you are tanning lightly for a very natural look, or darker for a more bronzed color. It’s easy to adjust based on what your guest prefers. When starting your spray tanning business, it is essential to start with high quality equipment and products so that you can execute tans quickly and without any mistakes.”

Sunless tanning has been around for a long time. Recent advancements in products and technology, however, have made this the perfect time to start a mobile or salon/spa spray tanning business.
When I started doing trade shows for Million Dollar Tan ten years ago, it was just me and three other companies selling products. Then the concept of spray booth tanning emerged and the industry exploded. People realized that orange-y looking lotions from the drug store were no longer the only option.

The public got used to the idea of a sunless tanning booth and liked the results. They also realized that there had to be a better way. Booth tans are like drive-through car washes for people. They get the job done but are not in any way specific to your body or tanning needs. They are a one-size fits all tan.

Wanting better results, more people became open to the idea of personal spray tanning. Before these spray booths, the concept of being sprayed personally by a technician seemed a bit strange or uncomfortable. But as people tried the booths, they realized that a personalized spray tan is a much better way to go.

At those same trade shows a few years later, there were over a hundred spray tanning companies. Most were producing low quality, watered-down products but had seen the big opportunity in this emerging industry. As the economy started to take it’s turn south, so did most of the spray tanning companies. Spray tanners soon realized that using the cheapest tanning solution was not the way to go. They would have to use at least twice as much tanning solution to get a similar result as higher-end products and companies eventually lost customers due to the lack of quality products.
So here we are: 2010 and sitting on the biggest boom in sunless tanning history. People are more aware than ever of the dangers of tanning beds and excessive UV exposure. They realize that it is not worth the cancer risk and damage to their skin. So people search for the best way to get the most natural looking sunless tan.


I’d like to introduce you to Million Dollar Tan. Using only the highest-end ingredients, we make the best products on the market. Our methods are based on getting the best results, as easily and effectively as possible. The professional Million Dollar Tan service is offered in day spas, hotel spas, hair salons and tanning salons across the country. Our signature tanning solution, Tan Icon, works on all skin types and lasts as long as a sunless tan can possibly last. Allow me to explain….


Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the active ingredient in just about every sunless tanning product. What makes each product different is the amount of DHA used and the other “stuff” that is added to the solution. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, causing a color change.


Your skin continuously exfoliates every day. In fact, every 35 to 45 days, you have an entirely new epidermis. That is why all sunless tanners will eventually fade. Million Dollar Tan is so well made that if the skin did not exfoliate, your tan would last forever. But since the skin will always exfoliate, you will have to continue spray tanning about once a week.
It is important to remember that sunless tanners do not provide protection from UVA and UVB rays. Your gorgeous Million Dollar Tan may make you have a false sense of safety. Make sure you apply sunscreen if you are going out into the sun.


Whether it comes from the sun or from artificial sources such as sun lamps and tanning beds, ultraviolent radiation is linked to skin cancers and to other sorts of skin damage, particularly premature skin aging, reports the September 2009 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

According to this report, ultraviolet radiation is one part of the spectrum of light that reaches the earth from the sun. The longer ultraviolet rays (UVA), which penetrate deep into the skin, are responsible for tanning. Shorter rays (UVB) damage superficial skin cell layers, causing sunburn. Tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs that emit mostly UVA, with smaller doses of UVB. The amount of UVA radiation emitted in a tanning bed is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight, and the UVB intensity in tanning beds approaches that of bright sunlight.
There’s mounting evidence of a link between tanning bed use and all skin cancers. In 2002, a study found that use of an indoor tanning device was associated with a 50% increase in the risk of basal cell carcinoma and a more than 100% increase in the risk of squamous cell carcinoma. In 2007, an international cancer research organization found that people who started indoor tanning before age 35 had a 75% greater risk of developing melanoma, a serious and sometimes life-threatening cancer.
Every dermatologist will tell you the same thing… the only really safe way to tan is by using a sunless tanner. This is what every celebrity uses for every photo shoot and event. Believe me, I tan them!
All of this is important to know for marketing your spray tanning business. You need to be able to inform people about sunless tanning, the harmful affects of tanning beds and excessive UV exposure.



I have people across the country that are making a ton of money running their own spray tanning businesses. Some rent rooms from salons or spas. Others devote a room in their house or garage to the business and do it from there. Still others have setup mobile spray tanning business, traveling to their client’s home to perform their spray tanning service. Other people do a combination of the above options. Wherever you decide to do your spray tanning business, the basics remain the same.
Here is what you’ll need:


A spray gun, compressor and hose. Call Coast Airbrush to talk to an equipment expert. They will explain the details about the equipment and what you need to get going. My favorite set-up is the Iwata RG3 and the Iwata Power Jet Lite Compressor. I get an extra long hose and connect it all together. This equipment is durable and lasts forever. You can do tan after tan, hour after hour, day after day. You will find super cheap versions online that look similar. Believe me, in this industry, you absolutely get what you pay for. Some equipment clogs easily and requires lots of care and maintenance. Other equipment is only made to handle one or two tans at a time. So if you decide to host a tanning party at your house and have ten people lined up to get tanned, you will have to wait for the compressor to cool off and be ready to go again. It’s a headache you don’t want to go through. I get several calls per week with people telling me they bought cheap equipment, regret it and are ready to buy the good stuff.
Tanning solution- same thing goes here. You get what you pay for! You can find solution online for half the cost of mine. If you go this route, you’ll be calling me next week with questions about how to fix the mess and how to order the best solution. There are several things that are essential to a great tanning solution, and other companies just don’t measure up.
First, you want to be able to see what you are doing. Your solution absolutely HAS to have a bronzing color guide in it. Many companies boast about a clear solution- this is insane to me! There is no way for you to see where your tan is going on or for the guest to see the instant results. We use a great bronzing color so your guest can literally look in the mirror and tell you if they would like to be more tan on any areas. Also, the instant color is great for satisfying customers! Nothing is so instantly rewarding! You can exercise for weeks before seeing any results, but this is immediate. It is very important for both the technician and guest to be able to see exactly how the sunless tan will look.

The sunless tanning solution also has to smell good. We use a light coconut scent to cover up the slight smell of DHA. DHA smells a bit like a copper penny, but a light fragrance makes the tanning process enjoyable and refreshing.

The most important part of a good sunless tanning lotion is the color and quality of ingredients. We use what we believe to be the highest percentage of DHA possible to achieve a very natural-looking sunless tan. We use only the highest-end ingredients so that your tan lasts as long as possible and doesn’t rub off. It will last as long as your skin takes to naturally exfoliate.

Our solution works on everyone. There is no need for different colors or “levels” of color. You simply adjust how much solution you apply based on the person’s skin tone and how tan they would like to be. If you have several levels of different colors, more often than not your guests will change their mind and want to go darker or lighter and you have a much more complicated situation than needed! One solution that works on all skin types is perfect for maintaining stock, remaining consistent and always performing the best possible spray tan.

The last few things that I think are essential in a perfect spray tanning solution are that is dries quickly and isn’t sticky. You can perform a spray tan in about 10 minutes and guests can get dressed within a few minutes after their session. They can go about their day as normal and are not uncomfortable.

Million Dollar Tan’s tanning solution was designed with all of these factors in mind. We have built our business on having the very best spray tanning solution and products on the market. This is essential for building your customer base, selling retail products and keeping your guests tanning every week.


Besides the equipment and solution that we talked about, you will need a mirror, black towels and a small portable fan and heater. If you are in a small enclosed space, you may want to use a small air purifier. This will help collect the overspray in the air. Just make sure you get the kind with washable filters, otherwise you’ll spend a fortune replacing filters. You will also need a few technical items like beauty caps, barrier cream and blending brushes. These allow for the perfect spray tan, every time. We sell inexpensive kits with everything you need to get going.
You may want to hang a black curtain or shower curtain on the main 2 walls to avoid cleaning up your spray tanning area after each session. You can also paint the walls black and apply a polyurathene coating so you can wipe it down with a cleaning wipe after every few sessions. I like to have a set-up that still looks clean after a few spray tans so I can book back-to-back and not be bothered with wiping down the walls after every session.

I put a few black towels on the floor and switch them after every session. This allows for a sanitary and easy working space. I put a large mirror in a place where guests can easily look at their spray tan and let you know if they would like to be darker in any areas. I use the fan or heater to help them dry, depending on the weather. That’s all you need!

If you are doing a mobile set-up, I’d do the same concept, just portable. There are great pop-up black tents you can buy that work great. You can set-up in anyone’s back yard or bathroom and are great for controlling any mess. The guest stands inside the tent and you stand just outside and tan them head to toe. The heater/fan are not essential, it just depends how much stuff you want to carry around. Usually if you are tanning partially outdoors, the person will dry very quickly. You can also tan guests in their home bathrooms. I have many mobile tanners that do this all day and it works great for them. The only problem is the clean-up. You want to leave your guests shower as clean as it was when you arrived so you have to take a few minutes to rinse and wipe it down. Because there is the inevitable over-spray, you have to be careful about getting solution on outside carpet or possibly getting in white grout that could be hard to remove. If you rinse it off right away you shouldn’t have a problem.


The price of a personalized sunless tan can vary depending on the location, facility, demand, etc. I have accounts that charge anywhere from $30-$300 per session. My favorite way to do it is to charge $40 per session and set-up packages where guests can purchase quite a few upfront and save considerably. When I owned day spas, I found this to be the very best way to build my business and make the most money. Many of my hotel spas charge around $100 and have spray tans booked all day. Most people are out-of-towers and are doing this as a special treat. I like keeping my prices to where people can afford to do this service one a week. I think around $40 is that special number.

For mobile tanners, the general rule is to double your prices. Guests know that you coming to them is a luxury and they expect to pay more. I would set my base tan price at $80 and again do great discounts if they buy a package of tans.



I have one mobile spray tanner who caters to professional athletes. She charges $300 per session and most clients have their set weekly appointments. Surprisingly, 90% of her clientele are men. They love the look of the tan and like to have it done every week. They don’t want to go into a salon or spa to have it done and would like to keep their spray tanning a secret so the price tag is well worth it for them. The key is to find a niche market and become the expert in your area.

Renting a room in a hair salon, another spray tanner profited just over $6,000 last month, doing only this service, just one year after starting her business. She found a busy salon and offered free spray tans to all hair stylists to help promote her service. Guests would come in and see their fabulously glowing hair stylist and ask how she got so tan! Instant clients! Plus all of these people were already going to the salon often, so it was an easy and convenient add-on for them. They get their hair and tan done at the same place, saving time and energy. I helped her set-up a great spray tanning menu so that she could maximize her business. Most of her guests buy tanning packages and retail products and come in once a week for their spray tan.

Here is her tanning pricing:
1 tan- $40
3 tans- $108 ($36/tan) save $12
6 tans- $192 ($32/tan) save $48
12 tans- $336 ($28/tan) save $144
Her pricing has been critical to her success. People can save money and commit to tanning often. It’s a win-win situation! She is now expanding her business to rent a room in another hair salon and hire a technician to do exactly what she has been doing at her salon. She expects to build this business faster and be profiting $10,000/month, between both locations, within 6 months. It’s a great business model and once perfected, can be duplicated many times.

I am excited to partner with Airbrush Action as your spray tanning expert. Please email me anytime with questions about anything in this article.
Next issue, I will take you step-by-step and teach you how to perform the perfect spray tan. That gives you plenty of time to get your equipment, make a plan and I’ll teach you from there. The sunless tanning industry is expected to hit $500 million in sales next year. This is the perfect time of year and the perfect time in the evolution of the tanning industry to start making money spray tanning!

Reprinted with permission of www.airbrushaction.com