The Art and Science of a Spray Tan

By Kim Taylor

I gave up UV tanning beds a long time ago. Even before I got older and started worrying about skin cancer. I always burned, and my skin was ALWAYS itchy and dry. The problem is that I am a true believer that people look healthier and are actually happier with a little color to their skin. And so my search for a healthy alternative began.

I have tried every type of self tanner you can imagine. I have tried cheap brands from Wal-Mart and not so cheap brands from makeup counters at department stores. I’ve even ordered “miracle” tanners from midnight infomercials. I’ve carefully followed the most ridiculous instructions you can imagine. I have stood in spray booths that turned me the color of Magda from Something about Mary and I have been airbrushed the most beautiful color of orange you can imagine- IF I WAS A PUMPKIN!

Even with my experience with sunless tanning, there was plenty to learn when I began shopping for a sunless system for my salon. Without getting too detailed and boring, I’d like to explain how a spray tan works, and why it is a great alternative to UV tanning.

The Art

The beauty of a spray tan is that the solution reacts with each individual’s skin, making each application unique. Solutions can be adjusted for desired darkness, but keep in mind that a healthy natural glow always looks best during every phase of the spray tan’s life.

Once the client is properly prepped, the artistry begins. The solution contains a cosmetic bronzer that can be seen immediately, but will wash off in the shower. This bronzer is used as a color guide for the technician to ensure even coverage. Because we come in all different beautiful shapes and sizes, there is quite a bit of thought and effort that goes into giving every client their best possible tan. Each certified technician has a foundation of training combined with their own experience, both spraying and being sprayed.

The Science

The active ingredient in self tanners is a food grade product called DHA. It is a simple carbohydrate that is derived from plants sources such as sugar beets and cane. There are no known toxins or allergens in DHA.

DHA reacts solely with the stratum corneum-the outermost layer of woven connective tissue. The stratum corneum houses the body’s acid mantle, or natural protective barrier. The acid mantle stores natural body oils and DHA reacts with the free aminos found within those oils. This reaction turns the acids a slightly rusty brown color that continues to darken over the next 16-18 hours.

The key to a good result is in the preparation and in the post care of the skin. Because the tan is developing on the outermost layer of skin, exfoliating the skin prior to application is crucial. The body naturally exfoliates that outermost layer every 4-6 days, so exfoliating before a tanning session will ensure that the newest skin possible is being sprayed for a long lasting, even result.

Spray tans are water resistant, but exposure to abrasive soaps and detergents are discouraged. It is also a good idea to avoid chlorine for at least 48 hours. Keeping the skin hydrated is a major factor in the longevity of a spray tan.

The Preferred Product

At Essence, we use Norvell sunless products for two reasons- training and results. Norvell Sunless Spray Systems provides the color of a natural suntan without harming delicate skin cells. For any occasion- or just because, Norvell Spray Tanning is the quick, safe way to go golden.