[Updated] The tanning trends to watch this year

While 2021 may be a year filled with uncertainty due to coronavirus, one thing that’s for sure is that your clients will have missed their professional tanning treatments and will be keen to get back into the salon. Our tanning experts talk to us about the big tanning trends for 2021 and how to monetise these in your business.

Our tanning expert panel includes: James Harknett, celebrity tanner based at the W Hotel in London; James Read, spray tanner to the stars and founder James Read Tan; Gary Lipman, chairman of The Sunbed Association; and Amanda Harrington, celebrity tanner and founder of Amanda Harrington and InParlour.  

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What do you think will be the top tanning trends this year and why? 

Read: “Self tan is going to change direction in 2021. While skincare ingredients will be a part of the story, it will be more about a self-tan that fits into clients’ lifestyles, as well as fast tanning results. It will be about on-the-go tanning, and products that are effective and fast, while also not compromising your beauty regime, but working with it.” 

Harknett: “2021 will be about the return of the classic tan, but with a contemporary twist. While we have all become super skincare aware, when it comes to tanning, we really want products that simply create a golden glow, and take into account our thankfully less narrow view of what the ‘perfect tan’ is now. 

“When we can get out and about and busier again, tanning will be about fitting high-performance products and spray tans into clients’ schedules once more.” 

Harrington: “In terms of formulations, there will be a big surge in natural-based products in the tanning sector, as well as more brands engineering sustainable and efficacious formulas.” 

Which trends do you think have fallen out of favour and why? 

Harknett: “I think anything unrealistic and overblown feels out-of-step for 2021. I have been interested in MUA Sasha Louise Pallari’s campaign with the hashtag #filterdrop, where she’s asking people to drop heavy filtering, airbrushing and editing, which all create a digitally enhanced layer. ”This goes for tanning, too. What you see on social media is often not achievable, and leads to a real sense of unfair comparison. 

“What it means is that a super-dark, all-over, completely perfect tan is going off the beauty radar, in favour of something more subtle and individual. It can still be seamlessly applied, with wonderful results, but creating a tan that suits each client, and is meant to be lived in and enjoyed – not just photographed for social media.” 

Harrington: “The one-colour-fits-all trend, the deep, dark formulas, heavy laden, alcohol-based, 2D flat-looking colour all over the face and the body, these will all fall out of favour. Like make-up, tanning is forever changing and is experiencing a surge in the beauty sector. So, this type of look is being replaced with the art of looking ‘well’ or ‘fresh faced’ with a golden glow.” 

Read: “In 2020, the overly dark tan has taken a step back as we have all been at home. The ‘no-glow-glow’ tan, which is about adding radiance and confidence to your skin, will continue. But in 2021, the disco tan will be back. It reflects the ’70s – as if you have stepped back in time to nightclub Studio 54 when skin was on show – it was reflective and spoke to people.” 

You tan the general public and top celebrities. Are you seeing any shifts in what clients want? 

Harrington: “Generally, it depends on the region and season. In the UK, London tans are subtle and soft with clever contouring, whereas in Manchester and Liverpool it’s more about the depth of colour.” 

Harknett: “I know that all of my clients are looking forward to getting tanned again for weddings, summer parties and all the events we have missed so much. However, saving a tan for an ‘occasion’ is something my clients are being flexible about – it’s also about looking and feeling good just for yourself. 

“I hope this year we’ll be upping our sun protection, and tans for warmer months will certainly be more enhanced, but not by the sun. As a nation, we have been through so much together and the normal regional divides have really changed – we’ve had a universal experience last year that’s brought us closer together, and so I predict that will be reflected in how we tan.” 

Read: “In the winter, people strip back their beauty regime, including their tan, but I think this summer tanning will be back in full fashion, with more instant solutions allowing people to tan and go. This winter is different as more people are doing video calls so they want confidence on camera.” 

Therapist performing spray tan treatment

What innovations are set to launch this year that will shake up the tanning market? 

Harknett: “I think brands will continue to innovate in terms of working out which skincare ingredients work well with self-tan, such as hyaluronic acid, and which are best to leave out. We’ve got to the point of the skin being overwhelmed and there’s a real desire to embrace a pared-back approach. 

“Regarding training, I’m already seeing a higher demand for fellow spray tanners to take their skills to the next level and offer a more bespoke service. That’s learning new techniques and understanding that different brands’ professional solutions agree differently with different skin tones. A spray tanner can select a brand that they know will complement each unique skin tone.” 

Harrington: “Coronavirus is driving greater scrutiny by consumers of the science behind products. The visible appearance of stress because of the pandemic – already described by some dermatologists as ‘Covid-face’ – means more products will sit in a serum-based formula, and work on combatting and treating skin stressors, or have recovery or protective actives. There will be more hybrid products that serve multiple purposes.” 

Lipman: “Despite the impact of Covid-19, investment in advancing the technology and performance features of sunbeds continues. Consumers are looking for much more than ‘just a tan’ when they use a sunbed; they want an experience. 

“There is no doubt that per-session revenue and footfall can be optimised with enhanced experiences. New line sunbeds help maximise the opportunities to enhance this experience, including bespoke tanning programming, exceptional comfort features, different skincare options and combining options on light spectrums used. 

“For the operator, energy efficiency in power consumption without compromising on the tan is provided, together with advanced reporting features on usage, faults, customer preferences and so on.” 

How can salon owners use these trends to boost their tanning business this year? 

Lipman: “The impact of Covid-19 caused significant disruption to the entire personal care services sector during 2020 and it is vital that 2021 is able to bring about stability. In between Covid-19 lockdowns, we know from our membership research that demand for indoor tanning remains high and the public’s understanding of the benefits of an optimum vitamin D status has been a contributing factor in this regard. 

“The Sunbed Association will be working with and providing resources to its members to ensure consumer confidence and demand for indoor tanning is optimised so that salon businesses can get back on track as quickly as possible.” 

Harknett: “Salon owners have been through the toughest challenges I have seen during my two decades in the industry, and once they are all able to open consistently, they will be so glad to welcome clients back. I think it’s key to re-engage with established clients and also to encourage new ones by making professional tanning a real treat for the customer; one which they see as an act of self-kindness, as well as looking good. 

“This is the year to embrace trends, taking into account new formulations, but mostly it’s about reaffirming to clients that there is no better tan than a salon version. 

“The relationship between the professional and the client is about communicating to create something curated and effective in terms of the tan, and also a trusted, valued relationship that none of us will ever take for granted again.” 

Harrington: “There is definitely a concern from salon owners and beauty professionals at the length of time their clients have been unable to visit their clinics or salons. Yet, as humans, we are creatures of community and, ultimately, love the feeling of being looked after as a special treat. 

“I would look at the formulations you’re offering for tanning services within your business. Make sure the tanning tints are toxic-free and alcohol-free, and maybe offer something more in terms of hydrating ingredients within your tan formula.” 

Watch our tanning videos: spray tanning troubleshooting and 5 tanning mistakes to avoid in salon