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article 2: spray tan like a pro




by Lindsay Dickhout

“The right equipment and tanning solution are the two most important factors when starting a spray tanning business. You need equipment that is going to be easy and efficient, simple to clean, will not overheat so you can tan guests one after another and produces a very fine mist. Iwata’s spray guns provide this and much more. For your tanning solution, you need solution that dries quickly, looks natural on everyone, smells good, lasts as long as possible, isn’t sticky, doesn’t clog pores and fades evenly. These are the criteria that we used to create our famous Tan Icon tanning solution. With Iwata’s equipment and Million Dollar Tan’s products, you are setting up your sunless tanning business with the best tools available. You (and your guests) will love the results!”



Over the last 10 years, I have developed and perfected the art of executing the perfect spray tan.  With every body, there is some degree of trial and error and adjustment to each person’s preferences and skin type.  The methods I will teach you in this article are used in thousands of salons, spas, tanning salons and homes across the country.  It works, and I know it will work for you.  

Once you get it down, a perfect spray tan will only take you about 10 minutes to do.  For some people this happens after just 5 or 6 practice tans and for other people it may take dozens.  Either way, you’ll get there.  Start slowly and be confident, any mistake is fixable.  

Before you tan your guest, it is important to make sure they know that they need to leave the tanning solution on their body for at least 6 hours before they shower.  It is best for guests to wear dark, loose clothing after their tanning session.  During their tanning session, guests can wear whatever they like.  Depending on your preferences, some tanners allow guests to go topless or completely nude–it’s up to you.  I recommend allowing them to at least go topless, as most women do not want top tan lines.  It is best to wear dark underwear or a black bikini during a tanning session.  While the tanning solution washes out of clothing, unique fabrics could possibly be stained.  To be on the safe side, dark clothing is best during and after the tanning session.  It is best if guests can come freshly showered, shaved and exfoliated, though not essential.  

In preparation for a tanning session, you will need Tan Icon tanning solution, Buffed Up barrier cream, a beauty cap and baby wipes.  Tan Icon works on all skin types and colors, you simply adjust how much tanning solution you apply.  The average tan will take 4oz. of tanning solution.  Depending on the size of the person and how tan they would like to be, you could use anywhere from 2oz.-6oz.  With just one gallon of Tan Icon, you can tan 32 bodies.  Tan Icon has an instant bronzing color so you can see exactly how tan you are tanning your guest.  They can look in the mirror and let you know if they would like to be darker on any areas or if the color is just right.  Nothing’s better than that instant gratification!

When your guest arrives, show them into their tanning room and show them how to apply Buffed Up barrier cream.  Leave the room for a few minutes to allow them to undress, apply barrier cream and put on a beauty cap.  Barrier cream should be applied all over the hands and feet (goop it on the nails to avoid discoloration) and a little on the elbows and knees.  Buffed up barrier cream is important because it only allows half of the tanning solution to absorb where it is applied.  These drier areas would absorb far too much tanning solution without the barrier cream.  

Guests put on the beauty cap (hair cap sounds too much like a middle school lunch lady) just so there isn’t solution sitting on their hair.  Our tanning solution is totally safe and will not discolor or damage hair.  When applying the beauty cap, make sure your guest shows just a little bit of their hairline, to avoid a line across the forehead.  

Once your guest has stripped down, applied barrier cream and their beauty cap, you’re ready to go!  In theory, you can spray tan in any order you want.  But the way I am going to teach you is the most efficient and produces the best results.  So let’s get started!  

STEP 1- Back First


First, have your guest stand with their back towards you with their arms out and feet shoulder distance apart.  Standing about a foot away from your guest, pull back on your spray gun trigger completely and keep your hand constantly moving.  I like a side-to-side motion best.  If you keep the gun in any one position for too long, you will have a build-up of tanning solution.  Always keep the gun moving.    

When tanning the back, tan from the base of the neck to the top of the butt. Do not go on to any other areas until the back is complete.  You can see the tan as it is going on.  Depending on how tan your guest would like to be, continue to tan until you reach the desired color.  

The back is the biggest surface you will tan and it is the easiest area to tell how the tanning solution will absorb on each person’s body.  Most people will be easy. The tanning solution will absorb nice and evenly.  But some people will have difficult skin and it’s good to know out of the gate.  The solution may not absorb like it should and you may have to do a lighter coat and go back over it with another light coat.  You will know how the tanning session will go after tanning the guest’s back.  



STEP 2- Sides, including Arms
After the back, we move on to both sides.  Facing one hip towards you, have your guest lift their arm up to the side and spray from the armpit down to the ankle.  It is important to never spray the armpit directly.  It gets plenty of overspray.  Same goes for the feet.  I never spray the feet directly until my final touch-up step.  The feet get plenty of overspray during the tanning session.  

After doing one side, have the guest put their arm straight, halfway down, so you can tan the top of the arm.  From there, have them move so you can tan the back of the arm and the inner arm.  Make sure to tell them not to bend anything after it’s been tanned or it will crease.  It’s not a big deal if this happens, you just use a blending brush to blend it out.  But it saves time if you can avoid it.

After doing this on both sides, we move on to the front of the legs.

STEP 3- Front of Legs, Inner Legs


Have the guest face towards you.  As you tan their legs, you MUST be spraying exactly at the level of whatever you are tanning.  If you try to stand up and shoot their legs downwards, you will not get an even tan.  You must squat down and get level with their legs.  I use a combination of an up-and-down and side-to-side motion when tanning the legs.  You can use what feels most comfortable for you.  As you get used to doing the tan, try to be aware of your amount of overspray.  You will save time and money if you can limit the amount of tanning solution that is wasted.  
After tanning the front of both legs, have your guest turn their foot out so one inner leg is facing you.  Tan the entire inner leg making sure there are no untanned areas between the back of the leg, front of the leg and inner leg.  It should all blend seamlessly.  Repeat on the other inner leg. 
STEP 4- Face, Neck, Chest and Stomach


You are in the home stretch!  After the legs I go straight to the face.  If you do the chest before the face, you will likely have too much solution on the chest, from the overspray from the face.  Ask your guest to close their eyes and mouth.  They can hold their breath if it is more comfortable, though not necessary.  When spraying the face, it is important that the first few seconds are not directed right at the face.  There is a little burst of air when you first pull back the trigger and could be startling to your guest.  So you want to spray away from the face then gently from the forehead down through one side of the face.  Give them a second to take a breath, then spray the other side of the face.  Give them one more break before tanning the middle of the face.  I like to hold the gun slightly higher than their face and spray downwards.  It is the most comfortable and gives a great even coverage.  

Now you’ll want to finish-up by spraying the neck, chest and stomach.  Make sure you give them a nice tan-line at the base of the stomach.  This is the first place your guest will look to see the difference in their color.  


STEP 5- Touch-Ups
You’re all done! All that’s left is final touch-ups. Have the guest turn so their back is facing you. Depending on their color and how tan they would like to be, I like to tan the top of the shoulders just a little bit more, so it looks natural, like how the sun would naturally tan them. Check for any drips or imperfections. Use the blending brush to smooth out any problem areas. Have the guest continue to move to around so you can look to see if you need to tan them darker anywhere or blend any areas. I always have the guests stand with their arms out and bent upwards so I can make sure the inner arms look good. This is the hardest area on the body! During this touch-up phase I either use the blending brush to buff out this area or spray a bit more here. Make sure you give it a good look before completing your session.

Use a baby wipe to wipe of the tanning solution from the feet and the hands, the small amount of the knees and elbows does not need to be blended. On the hands and feet, remove the barrier cream completely. As I am cleaning the feet, I give them 2 baby wipes and have them wipe off their hands. Wipe from the back of the heels, all the way through the feet. Do not worry about taking off too much barrier cream. For most people after the barrier cream is removed, the feet look perfect. If they need a little more color, you can take your blending brush and blend down from the ankle. If this isn’t enough, use a small towel to cover the toe nails and lightly spray a light layer of tanning solution onto the feet. The feet are very important. They are the first way to spot an imperfect spray tan. Make sure you don’t tan them too dark. I like the feet slightly lighter than the rest of the body. It looks natural and exfoliates nicely.

Guests should wait at least 6 hours before their first shower, 8-10 hours is ideal.  The tan is a little sensitive for the first few hours.  Washing dishes or sweating could cause streaks in the tan and should be avoided.  After their first shower, it is important for your guests to keep their skin very well hydrated.  They should moisturize at least once a day, twice is ideal.  The tan lasts as long as your skin takes to naturally exfoliate so if you keep your skin hydrated, your tan will last as long as possible.  Also, your tan fades as your skin exfoliates so if your skin gets too dry and exfoliates unevenly, your tan will go with it.  If the skin is kept well moisturized, the tan will fade nicely.  Most guests tan once per week for fabulously glowing skin, year ‘round!

You’re ready to start tanning!  If you would like some extra help, check out our DVD!  You can purchase it at www.airbrushaction.com.  

In the next article, I will teach you how to take your spray tanning business to the next level.  Through educating your guests and providing them with the best service and products, your business will grow exponentially.  

Email me with any questions!