A TAN FOR EVERY BODY | Pocketmags.com
Professional Beauty
Professional Beauty

6 mins


With more products available on the market to ensure all your clients can achieve a golden glow, Lollie Hancock reveals everything you need to know about tanning different skin tones

There used to be a false perception that spray tans and other tanning treatments were more suited to those with lighter skin tones. However, new developments in formulas mean a range of products are available to both professionals and clients, ensuring that all skin tones and types can achieve their desired glow.

But while we now have access to a variety of inclusive product lines, there are still some key differences to bear in mind when it comes to tanning different skin tones, and how you should adapt your treatments accordingly.

Colour consultation

Tanning, like all other professional treatments, should begin with a consultation. While tanning is a noninvasive treatment, it’s still important to take the time for a consultation in case the client has allergies or any other issues that could affect the outcome.

“As a therapist, you need to know about any contraindications, such as pregnancy, medical conditions and skin sensitivities,” says Nicola Matthews, founder of Sienna X. “From this, you are able to advise the client and determine the right shade.”

During the consultation, you can also ask the client why they’re having the treatment and what they want to achieve, according to Nadia Rafi-Kenny, commercial director at Feel Good Promotions, which distributes tanning brand That’so. “It is important to ask the client if they are having a spray tan for a special occasion. Then you can have an honest conversation with them about which depth of shade is best and will complement the colour of their outfit.”

Taking the time for these consultations can also help foster your relationship with your clients, notes Matthews. “Doing a consultation is a great opportunity for the therapist to get to know the client better, and build rapport for returning treatments.”

Don’t forget, it’s also important for insurance purposes. “This is your proof you have asked the questions and your client has shared the correct information to help you make the right decision for them,” says Matthews. “Remember to ask your client each time to reread the questions to ensure you can note the date, and that the answers are the same. Ask you client to sign each time next to the date and tick ‘no change’ or ‘change’.”

Skin tones

When it comes to tanning, one size does not fit all. With clients having various skin tones and undertones, you need to take a different approach for each individual.

“There are several factors involved in achieving a flawless sunless tan, and one of these is to get the shade right,” says Lynsey Bennett, co-founder of Lusso Tan. “Choosing a shade that’s much darker than the natural skin tone can result in an unnatural looking tan. Our top tip for paler skins – and for some clients in the winter months – is to go down a shade. Often paler tones cannot carry the deeper shades, and the tan can end up looking uneven and will fade much quicker.”

Many clients want a professional tan, but are nervous about the results looking orange. “For clients who are going for the natural look, starting with a gradual tan could be your best bet,” suggests Abbie McCann, educator and trainer for Crazy Angel. “It’s the perfect product to ease them into the tanning life.

“If your client is happy to be sprayed, we would always recommend using your lightest tanning solution. Go for one coat to begin with, and if they feel they would be happier to go darker, you can always go in with a second light coat. The key is to ensure the tan looks natural, with a gorgeous sun-kissed glow.”

“Taking into consideration how the client’s skin reacts in the sun, as well as their natural hair and eye colour, will help you make the right solution choice,” advises Matthews. “Never start with a high percentage as this can result in the risk of an unnatural tone. For paler skin tones, 6-8% is always a lovely finish as it complements the skin.”

Medium skin tones provide an easy base for tanning treatments, as the natural tone of medium skin creates a good base shade for fake tan.

“Tantouring works particularly well on medium skin tones if this is your tanning goal,” says McCann. “If your client is looking for a darker tan, go in with a light coat of dark tanning solution, and you can build up the tan if required.”

‘There are several key factors involved in achieving a flawless sunless tan, and one of these is to get the shade right’

Darker skin

Fake tanning has been a somewhat controversial subject when it comes to black and brown skin. “A common misconception is that spray tanning is just used to turn pale skin a bronze shade,” says McCann, “Tanning is for everyone!

Using tan on darker skin is an amazing way to even out skin tone and enhance the skin’s glow.”

“If the client has a pigmentation issue, I use a base that evens skin tone and helps reduce pigmentation and redness to achieve an all-even tan,” says Rafi-Kenny. “I tend to stay away from olive and purple-toned formulations for darker skin tones.”

Meanwhile, an EU directive, which came into effect in March 2022, limits the amount of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) allowed in tanning products in Ireland.

“DHA is the tanning agent that reacts with amino acids on the top layer of the skin to darken the appearance of the cells for a prolonged period,” explains Bennett. “Traditionally, the higher the DHA, the darker the tan. A medium tan could contain 8%, whereas it could be as high as 16% for an ultra-dark tan.”

Lusso Tan and other companies responded to the directive by lowering the amount of DHA they were using in some products. “We added natural tanning accelerators, so clients still get the same colour and lasting power,” says Bennett. “DHA has been known to have a drying effect on the skin, so as skincare experts we welcomed these changes.”

Client communication

You can help clients achieve the most from their professional tan by explaining to them how to prepare for the treatment.

“Make sure to tell clients to exfoliate in the days leading up to their appointment, and apply a primer onto drier areas, such as knees, ankles, hands and elbows,” says Matthews. “Then when you spray their hands, do so with a light mist so it will develop perfectly with no dark knuckles or spots.”

Equally, you can give them advice on how to prolong their tan. “Providing the client looks after their skin by priming before their treatment and avoiding excessively hot water when they shower or bathe after it, a good sunless tan will last five to seven days,” explains Bennett. “To prolong the tan and keep the skin from drying out, make sure you recommend they use a daily moisturiser.”

It can be difficult to know how to address clients’ pigmentation concerns. “It is important to make your clients aware that a spray tan treatment will not necessarily cover skin pigmentation such as vitiligo,” notes Matthews.

“As a therapist, you need to manage your client’s expectations. Do a trial tanning, or build the tan up on the unpigmented areas only first. Spraying over the whole skin will not create an even look as, similar to spraying clients with white tan lines, the different skin colours will be different shades.”

This article appears in the MARCH/APRIL 2024 Issue of Professional Beauty & HJ Ireland

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This article appears in the MARCH/APRIL 2024 Issue of Professional Beauty & HJ Ireland