Shhh...confessions of a spray tanner

Tanning confessions

Industry pros open up to Amanda Pauley 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.

Tanned stomach

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.

Check out our video on the top five tanning mistakes therapists make and how to avoid them, or read our piece on the top tanning trends for 2017 and how you can implment them on your salon or spa menu.