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Start a Biz - Part 1

Starting Your Own Spray Tanning Business
Submitted by: Vicki Mayhew

One of the hottest fashion accessories is a glowing 'sunless' tan. No more lying in the sun for hours ruining your skin and putting yourself at risk of skin cancer.  Spray tanning has been used for years by makeup artists, fitness models, movie stars, pop idols, and runway models, world wide.

With recent drops in both equipment prices and solution costs, this has opened up a whole new profit avenue for Day Spas, Makeup Artists, and home based businesses around the world. Though this industry seems like a new one, it has actually been around for a number of years. The main coloring agent in most of today’s sunless tanners is the skin safe, ingredient, Dihydroxyacetone. This is usually derived from plant based sources such as sugar beets. It is commonly abbreviated DHA.

Current product formulations and enhancements for spray tans have created a new generation of Self tanners, which minimize the risks of orange hues formerly associated with drug store spray tanning from years past. DHA has been in use since for over 40 years and obtained FDA approval as a skin safe coloring agent, for consumer use, roughly 30 years ago. Since that time it has been safely used in thousands of cosmetic products worldwide, as an alternative to a UV based tan.

A DHA based spray tan looks very similar in color to a standard brown UV based suntan. But you are able to achieve the equivalent color, of many hours of intense UV exposure, in a single product application. The products are called ‘sunless’ because they do not utilize UV or Sun exposure to create the tanned color. Many lighter skin types find they can get much darker with a DHA based sunless tanner, then they can with UV exposure.

With proper product application and appropriate skincare, you will find your sunless tan can easily last 5 to 10 days, and fades similarly to a UV based Suntan. To “tan” again, you simply reapply the tanning product, and within a few hours, you can have a Summer Season tan, – year round.

DHA can be applied in a variety of ways.

  • Home applied lotions, gels, creams, sprays, wipes and mousse
  • Automated spray mist in a sunless tanning solution spray booth
  • Applied by hand, using air spray equipment with a professional Spray Tanning Technician
  • Small home user equipment options, allowing the consumer to spray themselves in the privacy of their home

Each option has advantages that may make one or the other better for each person.

Many people are interested in setting up their own home based businesses and becoming Independent Spray Tanning Technicians, because of the low start up costs for this type of small business model. It can also be easily to work from your home, or an established salon or Spa facility.

It can cost as little as $650 for a small spray tanning system to set up your own business; this would give you an entry level supply package. For a higher end equipment package, suitable for large volume establishments, options can range as high as $2,000 to $5,000 range

When you consider each client will pay you an average of $45 to $50 per spray tan session, plus additional ‘after care’ items, it is very easy to begin to see dollar signs in the air. Repeat clients generally are re-sprayed every 7 to 10 days.

But before jumping in, one must be prepared to do a lot of personal research, so you don’t sink your savings into a venture that you may not be well suited for.

No mater how profitable the market, or how good your location, this industry takes a lot of hard work to get established and build a repeat clientele. Many of your customers may come in only for 'one time' special occasion tans.

Like any service orientated industry, to survive in this business, you will need to build a large satisfied customer base of repeat clients. This takes time, and positive client referrals. A lot of creative marketing will be involved at your end. You will also need a basic understanding of the sunless tanning products, how they work, and how the client’s skin health will affect the tans outcome. Don’t underestimate the benefits of local advertising and a large dose of patience.

You will spend a lot of time educating your new customers on what a sunless tan is, and is not. Many clients don’t even know WHAT a sunless tan is.

Your clients will rely on your application skills, and advice, to make them look stunning, and as anyone in the beauty care industry knows, this can sometimes be an intimidating task.

This industry is not an overnight million dollar money maker. You will not be able to hang your sign and be trampled by clients the next day. It is a true service industry and you must enjoy working with all types of people day to day to succeed.

You will find many clients prefer to be sprayed in the evenings after work or on weekends. So flexibility in appointment scheduling is a benefit.

But with some realistic expectations, and an understanding of what is involved, you can become a success in this field.

Start by educating yourself as much as possible, and networking with other Industry peers. You will soon find that you have the assurance to confidently spray your customers, producing beautiful results every time.

Good training options in this field are currently very limited, but there are some excellent resources available.

The internet has some free resources available which will be invaluable to helping the fledgling technician get started. Some of these even give you an avenue to ask questions of other industry professionals, who are already successful.

For the right person, this can be a very satisfying industry to work in. When a client, who has never been able to tan before, leaves your facility joyful over her beautiful sunless tan, you know you have preformed a job well done.

Now those are the days you love going to work!

Vicki Mayhew is a professional consultant for the Sunless Tanning industry. She has accumulated over 20 years of experience in the sunless tanning field, and currently volunteers on the consumer non-profit advocacy messageboard

Vicki has authored many on-line articles, including feature articles on She is also credited with over 17000 messageboard posts, assisting messageboard users, both professional and consumer in their sunless tanning adventures.

She is also co-author of the Industry training manual "Airbrush Tanning Secrets of the Pro’s, currently available for sale, and distributed worldwide. (