The man tan
With more men on the hunt for that sun-kissed glow, the “man tan” is on the rise. Spray tanning has not only become more fashionable but a staple part of many young men’s grooming regimes, with more than one in four aged 16–24 using self-tan products, according to analyst Mintel’s Suncare UK 2014 report.
“Male grooming has come a long way in recent years. It’s no longer seen as feminine to take care of our skin, hair and bodies,” says spray tanning expert James Harknett, who tans celebrities and private clients. “50% of my client base is now men.”
The bronzed and buff look sported by celebrities such as David Beckham has also driven the craze. “Contouring using self-tan is becoming an increasingly popular way of subtly but effectively highlighting muscle definition and making the figure look more toned,” says freelance global tanning and skin finishing expert Jules Heptonstall, who also works events for spray tan brand St Tropez. “It is the most commonly requested tan by my male clients.”
With the UK self-tan market worth an estimated £60million a year, according to Mintel, there’s ample opportunity for salons to market their treatments to meet this growing demand. “A huge proportion of men work out and nothing makes all that hard work at the gym stand out more than having it tanned,” says Harknett. “But the trick is not to over tan the face. This can be a giveaway and make the client feel a little self-conscious.”
It seems that the illusion of definition is the key to successfully breaking this market. “Contouring is all about adding another dimension to the skin,” says Heptonstall. “Define abs by shading in the natural indents along the stomach, using a tanning mitt to add contours to the outsides of the abdominal muscles.”
We spoke to three very different businesses that are all successful in the male tanning market, to find out how you can cash in on this growing trend.
The Refinery, London
Dubbed London’s one-stop grooming emporium for men, The Refinery offers a range of treatments to give a natural looking tan to both face and body.
“We’ve had a slow but gradual increase in the number of male clients wanting a tan but we always experience an upswing during London’s social season and the summer holidays,” says managing director Deborah Gayle.
“Men have a vanity about what they are going to look like on the beach or at the Henley Royal Regatta, and having a healthier glow makes them feel better.”
The emporium is 15 years old and has a loyal client base – mainly men in their 20s and 30s. Although it doesn’t actively advertise any of its treatments, it does attract a steady stream of new customers via client referrals, business-to-business
networking events and by marketing to neighbouring businesses, such as Vera Wang and Claridges. “We’re not a private club but we do have that aura about us, and we know it can be hard marketing tanning to men because they don’t want to be seen
to be doing it,” says Gayle. “If you’re going to introduce it into your salon, the first thing you need to do is make your existing database aware, and then offer it in collaboration with another treatment. For example, many places don’t do pre-tan exfoliation body scrubs for men like we do.”
The business’s success in male tanning lies in the fact that it is aware of the common pitfalls when dealing with those new to the man tan. “Men expect immediacy. They think the tan is going to be instant. You need to take control and explain point by point what is going to happen, otherwise there’s a chance they could panic as it’s all an unknown,” says Gayle.
And for The Refinery’s clients it’s all about the experience. Men have their own private changing area, dedicated tanning room and therapists who provide in-depth consultations prior to treatment.
“If a client comes in and has long hair on his chest, this can be problematic as it’s creating a barrier between the skin and the tan,” says The Refinery’s beauty manager Cimran Thethy. “Any salon getting into male tanning should recommend to clients that they have clippering done beforehand, to make the hair shorter, as this will even out the tan application.”
However, being extremely hair-free can be just as troublesome. “You need to find out when they conducted their last hair removal because if it was recently then the skin will be too sensitive for the tan,” explains Thethy. “I tell clients to wait 24 to 48 hours before coming in so the skin has time to calm down.”
Vanilla Moon, Gloucester
Vanilla Moon is a mobile salon that provides clients with a tan either on location or in the privacy of their own home. The business has experienced an increase in male clients over the past three years.
“It has been a real mixture of men – from body builders to bricklayers – but the one thing they all have in common is that they take a great deal of pride in their appearance,” says owner Zoe Warner. “Many of my clients have progressed onto tanning from waxing, so salons should always talk to their clients about other complementary treatments they do.”
The salon’s 15-minute man tan enhances the skin to create a more defined physique and has proved to be very popular.
“I add a deeper colour to certain sections of the body to create shaded areas and this helps to make existing muscles look more prominent.
The technique even creates the appearance of muscle tone across parts of the body that are a little out of shape but in order to get the best effect I always moisturise the ankles, elbows, knees, knuckles and fingertips beforehand – the giveaway areas,” says Warner.
“Spray tanning is like painting a car – you’re not going to do a good job if you just do one coat. You have to work your way around the body and personalise the treatment to the client.”
Warner uses conventional and unconventional methods tomarket her services, from Twitter campaigns on skin damage to making sure her website is SEO-optimised with key words such as “false tan”. “You have to go to places where men go, such as gyms, and market there. I’ve held promotion days at local gyms where I set-up a temporary spray tent and offered gym-goers a test patch of tan on their arm, hand or leg,” explains Warner.
“I’ve also held taster sessions at the salon and invited men from local businesses, such as the police force and fire brigade, to help spread the word about what I do.”
Another client base that has helped raise the salon’s tanning reputation is wedding parties. “I get a lot of clients coming in before they get married but instead of just promoting packages for the bride, I also promote treatments for the groom and his stag party,” says Warner. “Men care about how they look on the big day too and where before they may have just had a manicure or waxing, I’ve added tanning onto the list and it has been a success.”
Anesis Salon, Spa and Clinic, London
Catering to a unisex client base, Anesis Salon, Spa and Clinic has recently launched its Gentlemen’s Retreat to offer men an environment with privacy and added extras for their man tan, including post-spray relaxation with a cold beer. Anesis therapist Tara Fournillier says, “We mainly get young and fit men opting for a spray tan treatment. We have a lot of male model clients here. They tend to come for a tan if they have a magazine shoot and are usually pretty hairless as our young male clients do their research and know about beauty treatments, so most will book in for a wax well before a tan.”
Spread over three floors, the Anesis Salon, Spa and Clinic does well through internal cross-promotion. “We have quite a lot of male clients who use the hair salon downstairs,” Fournillier says. “The stylists are really good at talking about the beauty treatments we have.” If Anesis ever has a quiet patch, manager Sonia Amoo, gets the team to hand out leaflets on the high street.
With an active nightlife in Clapham, models are not the only male visitors to the salon. Fournillier has many clients who come in for a fake tan before a big night out. “Using Sienna X, we tend to use Tonight’s the Night on them. That formula develops in three hours and can then be showered off. Express tans are the most popular with men, so we use 8% DHA. But there are some men who don't mind sleeping in it, especially if they want a darker tan, so we tend to use a 12% DHA on them.”
For practical considerations, Anesis provides paper boxer briefs for men to wear during the spray tan; however, some clients prefer an all over tan so the therapists advise them to roll the briefs up to reduce the visible tan line. “Sometimes we get older males coming in for a spray tan and usually the reason is that they are about to go on holiday,” says Fournillier.
Most of these clients choose not to go hairless, so the Anesis therapists suggest to them that they exfoliate several times a week before the treatment. “Oil clings to the hair so the tan won’t sit as well,” explains Fournillier. “We advise them not to moisturise or put anything on their skin beforehand as they need to be really dry. We tend not to spray too close to the body either as the tan will cling to the hair, but we always buff them afterwards so that the tan develops evenly.”
Lead image credit: House of Fraser