Shhh...confessions of a spray tanner
Tanning therapists and experts open up about their most challenging spray tan treatments and explain how to avoid the same thing happening to you
Story one: Sunburnt bride
“One of my clients got seriously sunburnt on her hen do in Brighton and phoned me in tears. She was getting married a few days later and had massive strap marks on her shoulders where her vest top had been – not a good look.
I visited her two days before the wedding and blended a tanning lotion over the marks, returning the next day to give her a full spray tan using a mid-brown shade to dull the redness and even out the colour. If I had gone for a warmer, golden shade to mask the sunburn and marks, she would’ve just ended up looking orange.
On the big day she walked down the aisle with a flawless, natural-looking tan – no sign of her Brighton misdemeanours.”
Shelley Henderson is a tanning expert for Kissed by Mii and has worked in the industry for more than 12 years. She has tanned contestants on The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing as well as fashion designer Victoria Beckham.
Story two: Nervous first-timer
“I remember one client who came in for her first spray tan and was quite nervous about removing her bra. I reassured her as best as I could but she was still very anxious and as soon as I sprayed her chest she automatically covered her breasts, leaving big hand prints.
I was able to wipe the tan off her palms and buffed around the hand prints with a dry cloth so the outlines weren’t visible, before respraying her chest. I did two very light coats and concentrated mainly on the hand-print areas, trying not to tan the already sprayed skin. Luckily, skin will only absorb a certain amount of product, so the outer areas didn’t take much more of the new coats.
Afterwards, the hand prints were still slightly noticeable but I explained that once she washed the tan off at home they would be gone, leaving a natural-looking tan. In the end, she was happy with the finished look and soon became a regular client of mine.”
Rachel Lewis is tanning expert and education manager for professional brand Vita Liberata. She has four years’ industry experience and also works as a mobile tanner.
Story three: Sole mates
“Now, a spray tanner should never kiss and tell as client confidentiality always comes first, but I’m sure a lovely guy who is now a regular won’t mind me disclosing a fact about the first time he came in for a spray tan at the Away Spa [at W Hotel, London].
I set him up with all the treatment preparation advice, such as removing any deodorant, placing his hair net on and so forth. I also left two sticky pads in front of the booth and told him to step on those when he had undressed but when I came back in, he had stepped onto the protectors with his socks on – we both had a giggle about it.
You have to be as clear as possible about every aspect of the treatment with clients, as many may have never had a spray tan before and won’t know what to expect.”
James Harknett has a tanning residency at the Away Spa at W Hotel in London and is global creative consultant for tanning brand Fake Bake. His celebrity clients include TV presenters Emma Willis and Christine Bleakley.
Story four: Spot of bother
“Once, a very long time ago, I had a client whose armpits turned green upon application of spray tan. I’d asked her pre-treatment if she had any deodorant or perfume on and she told me no, but it was only when the area turned such a strange colour that she remembered that she had. She was shocked but the situation was easily fixable.
I was tanning her at my house so I asked her to go upstairs and wash the product off in the shower. Now, I always get clients to use a no-water-required mitt to remove previously applied product. This gently polishes and balances the skin’s pH while working to maximise sunless colour results.
I find clients’ colour is always a lot deeper and has no patchiness after using the mitt.”
Gemma Spinks is a spray tanner and brand ambassador for professional tanning brand Norvell, having worked with the company for two years.
Story five: Sweaty betty
“A valuable lesson I’ve learned is how important it is to make sure the room you’re working in is a good temperature to tan in. One time I was tanning a client on a really sunny day and she began to sweat – a lot, which obviously wasn’t good for the tan because it began to run. She was feeling quite embarrassed so I opened the windows to cool her down, patted her skin with tissue to remove the excess sweat and running tan, and buffed the area with a mitt before re-spraying to give a flawless finish.
It’s also valuable to remember that clients don’t always think about what could prevent them from getting a tan. One customer turned up the morning after she had been waxed and erythema was still present. It’s a contraindication to spray over a recently waxed area – you need to wait 24–48 hours after waxing before applying a tan to allow it to go down and the pores to close. Once I explained this to her, she was more than happy to wait and return the following day.”
Jayne Cooper is a tanning expert for St Tropez and has worked as a spray tanner for the past 17 years. She has also spray tanned models for London Fashion Week.