How to choose the best tan shades and formulas for different skin tones

Published 30th Mar 2023 by PB Admin

Gone are the false perceptions that spray tans and other tanning treatments are solely for those with lighter skin tones. New developments in formulas mean a range of new products are available to both professionals and consumers, ensuring that people of all skin tones and types can achieve a sun-kissed glow from tanning products.

Despite us now having access to inclusive product ranges, there are still some key differences to bear in mind when it comes to tanning different skin tones and how you should adapt your treatments.

From how to avoid the orange effect on fair skin, to knowing the right questions to ask during a pre-tan consultation, here are some of the best tips for ensuring all your clients walk out from your salon glowing both inside and out.

Tanning colour consultations

Tanning, like all professional treatments, should begin with a consultation to help you understand your client’s expectations, and manage them if they’re unrealistic. While tanning is a non-invasive treatment, it’s still important to take the time for a consultation in case of allergies, skin sensitivities or other issues that could affect the outcome of the tanning treatment.

“As a therapist, you need to know of any contraindications such as pregnancy or medical conditions,” says Nicola Matthews, founder of tanning brand Sienna X. “From this, you are able to advise the client by determining the right shade.”

When it comes to the questions you put to your client during consultations, Nadia Rafi-Kenny, commercial director at Feel Good Promotions, which distributes tanning brand That’so, suggests using the time with your client to find out more about why they’re having a treatment and what they want to achieve.

“The most important question to ask is if they are having a spray tan for a special occasion,” she shares, adding, “This way you can have an honest conversation with your client on which depth of colour is best and will complement the colour of their outfit.”

Taking the time for these consultations can also help build your relationship with your clients, as Matthews explains, “Having a client consultation is also a great opportunity for the therapist to get to know the client more, showing your expertise and building rapport for returning treatments.”

Don’t forget, it’s also important for insurance purposes. “This is your proof that you have asked the questions and your client has shared the correct information to help you make the right decision for them,” says Matthews. “Remember to ask your client each time to reread the questions to ensure you can note that the date and the answers are the same. Ask your client to sign each time next to the date and ‘no change’ or ‘change’.”

When it comes to tanning, one size does not fit all. With different skin tones and undertones, you need to take a different approach dependent on each client. 

Have you read our guide to tanning clients with eczema

The right tan for very fair and fair skin tones

“‘I want a tan but I don’t want to look orange’ – how many times have you heard that as a spray tanner or beauty therapist?” asks Abbie McCann, educator and trainer for Crazy Angel, adding, “For your tanphobic clients who are going for the natural look, starting with a gradual tan could be your best bet. It’s the perfect product to ease them into the tanning life and is easy to use.

“If your client is happy to be sprayed, we would always recommend using your lightest tanning solution. Go for one coat to begin with and if they feel they would be happier to go darker, you can always go in with a second, light coat. The key is to ensure the tan still looks natural but with a gorgeous, sun-kissed glow.”

“If you take into consideration how the client’s skin reacts naturally in the sun, as well as their natural hair and eye colour, it will help you make the right solution choice for your client,” advises Matthews.
“Never start with a high percentage because this can result in an unnatural tone. For paler skin tones, 6-8% is always a lovely finish and complements the skin.”

How to choose a tan for a medium skin tone

Medium tones provide an easy base for tanning treatments because the natural tone of medium skin creates a good base shade for fake tan.

“Tantouring would work particularly well on medium skin tones if this is your tanning goal,” says McCann. “If your client is looking for a darker tan, go in with a light coat of dark tanning solution and you can build up the tan if required.

The right tanning shades for dark skin tones

Fake tanning has been something of a controversial subject when it comes to black and brown skin. “A common misconception is that spray tanning is just used to turn pale skin bronzed. Tanning is for everyone!” says McCann. “Using tan on darker skin is an amazing way to even out skin tone and enhance the skin’s glow.”

The ability to even out tone seems to be one of the main reasons those with darker skin tones go for tanning treatments, as Norvell Tanning’s VIP tanner Carrie Marsh shares: “With darker skin tones you will still see a difference, even if it is just slight. Spray tanning can even out skin tone and temporarily help with pigmentation issues.”

“People with darker skin tones can also benefit from a spray tan for the ‘feel good factor’ that having a colour boostcan give you,” she adds. “If the client has a pigmentation issue, I use a base that evens skin tone and helps reduce pigmentation and redness for an even tan,” says Rafi-Kenny. “I tend to stay away from olive and purple-toned formulations for darker skin tones.”

Of course, there is a huge range of skin tones between these three, but this advice from our experts is a great starting point when considering which tan to use.

Managing client expectations around spray tanning

Many clients who have never had a tanning treatment before will walk into their appointment with an image in their head of how their tan will turn out – an image that is not always achievable.

“When it comes to creating a natural tan, drier areas such as knees, ankles, hands and elbows can be a real giveaway that your tan is fake,” says Matthews. “Make sure clients exfoliate in the days leading up to their tan, and apply a primer to these areas. Then, when you spray their hands, spray with a light mist so it will develop with no dark knuckles or dark spots, and educate your clients on how they can maintain their tan at home.”

It can be difficult to know what to do when it comes to tanning clients with pigmentation concerns. “It is important to make your clients aware that a spray tan treatment will not necessarily cover skin pigmentation such as vitiligo,” says Matthews.

“You need to manage your client’s expectations. Trial tanning or build the tan up on just the unpigmented areas first. Spraying over the whole skin will not create an even look because, similar to spraying clients with tan lines, the different skin colours will be different shades.”

Remember, at the end of the day, the tan is for your client and their own confidence.

“Fake tanning has never been truly promoted as something that would benefit people of darker skin tones by brands or therapists, and, as a brown woman who loves a tan, I think the misconception has come from the fact that we are seen as tanned already,” says Rafi-Kennedy.

“I can assure you, especially in winter, we’re pale under all those layers, and fake tanning helps to boost our confidence and make us feel amazing.”

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 30th Mar 2023

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