Spray Tan Kits – The Essential Business Tools
UPDATED: 2nd August 2016
What do I Need to Start my Spray Tanning Business?
A spray tan kit is one of the first things you need to purchase when starting up a new business or adding to your existing services. However, it’s important that you spend your money wisely. Only buy essential items necessary to do the job. Concentrate on getting a return on your investment (ROI) first. We’ll assume you’ve already covered the training aspect and so we’ll jump right in with what you need for spray tanning, whether it be mobile based or in a salon, the most important part to get the job done is a spray tan kit, made up of:
Spray tan machine and gun
Pop up Tent or Specially built room
Extraction Unit (may not be necessary)
Tanning Solution & Products
Spray Tan Machine
These days you are spoiled for choice, however there are a lot of machines on the market which just wont cut it in a professionally executed business. The first thing you must think about is how many tans do you realistically think you can achieve in a week? You can refer to your business plan – you have done one right? The reason you want to be able to identify this is because this will determine what kind of machine you will buy and also what your ROI will be per tan.
Personally if you are serious about having this as a business then you need to avoid the lower end of the spray tan kit spectrum and this includes machines which are for “home” use. These are fine for spraying yourself but they aren’t very professional looking and they wont cope with a few back to back tans. You need to be looking at something which is light weight and easy to carry around with you or move from beauty room to beauty room. One that has a removable and washable filter is also preferable – make sure you clean your filter regularly. They all tend to sound like vacuum cleaners – certainly the turbine ones do which most of them are these days. Some are noisier than others, so this is something else to think about if you are planning to use one in a beauty room which has another room next door where someone else might be doing a relaxing massage or facial.
The spray gun is your most important weapon in your spray tanning armoury. Keep it clean. I cannot stress this enough, do not fail to thoroughly clean your gun at least once a week and spray through with warm water after each day’s use. Spray tan solution contains DHA which is derived from sugar beet and is a sticky substance, this will collect around the needle of your gun and block up the solution flow if you fail to clean thoroughly. This will result in the solution coming out in splotches or creating a “spotting” effect. It has nothing to do with the motor of the machine it’s down to poor house keeping. Personally, I would always have a spare back up gun just in case. Other things to consider when choosing a machine particularly with a view to the gun are:
- How heavy is the gun? Heavy duty professional guns are all very well but if you do a lot of back to back tans then you will have a very painful shoulder at the end of the day and possibly a painful trigger finger. A light weight gun is easier to handle and less of a strain.
- What size solution cup does it have? This is important if you are planning on doing spray tan parties. You don’t want to be constantly filling up your solution cup. Ideally you should be aiming to use around 50ml (around 2 fluid ounces if you are in the USA) per average sized person, so look for a gun which has a solution cup size of around 200ml for ease.
- Solution flow adjustment – this is really important as it allows you to control the amount of solution coming out of the gun. Too much solution can lead to overspray on the client and in your room, which means a lower ROI per tan. Some guns have really poor control so try and test it out or ask questions from the supplier about it. On other guns there is more than one way to control the flow, usually involving the air flow ring which is situated at the front of the gun, you need to make sure this is set up properly if you want to get the right flow and not saturate your client.
Here are some of the machines I recommend and why:
Tanning Essentials Pro V Spray Tan Machine – this is a superb lightweight machine which for me ticks all the boxes. It supersedes the Tanning Essentials Pro Glam which I’ve used for years in its various guises. They’ve improved the gun and the machine comes with spare pots and lids for storage of solution. You can set the speed of the machine which is handy if you spray with tanning solutions of different viscosities. Heat function, which I rarely use but some people like it. Has a carry handle built into it and therefore makes it simple to carry. Ticks all the boxes if you are a mobile sprayer or a salon which only does a few tans a day. I permanently have this machine in my car as I use it when demoing for salons or taking on site spraying celebs or at London Fashion Week. This is amazingly affordable and gets you up and running very quickly and you’ll have paid for it with only a couple of tans. Tanning Essentials do several machines, they also have one called Rapid Tan Machine and Pro Machine. I trialled both of these, with the Rapid Tanning system, it was too lightweight, felt tacky to be honest and the gun wasn’t as good as the Glam. The Pro Machine didn’t work from the get go, so that one went by the wayside. The hose wouldn’t attach to the machine at all, I don’t have much patience with equipment which fails from new so I was immediately put off.
I know I have a lot of readers in the USA so purchasing from the UK isn’t of much use. I’m also not sure this machine is available in the USA anymore as a couple of people recently got in touch to say my previous link to a seller on Amazon was consistently our of stock. So for you guys I would recommend I know I have a lot of readers in the USA so purchasing from the UK isn’t of much use. Here’s a lightweight machine from a US manufacturer who has a great reputation, you can buy it on Amazon as I believe they only sell direct to distributors Apollo T100 Minimist. I used this machine a few years back very happily but due to some dispute between the UK distributor at the time and Apollo the original machine no longer became available.
For really busy tanning/beauty salons who will do a lot of sprays each and every day you really need a heavy duty machine. For this, without hesitation, I recommend the Apollo Whisper-Mist® HVLP Sunless Spray Tanning System (for USA readers) for UK readers you can purchase from Ellisons. I’ve had this machine in the salon for around 10 years and it has NEVER let us down. Absolutely a joy to work with. This is not a mobile machine and is noisier than other machines even though it comes built into a noise reducer cabinet as standard. However the finish you get with this machine more than makes up for those slight negative points. The gun is heavier as it is a pro gun and mainly metal parts, plus the hose is a heavy duty one. I sometimes use this machine at trade shows and I have sprayed over 30 spray tans one after the other and I seriously thought my arm was going to drop off. However, that is an extreme situation and not one you are likely to find yourself in!
Pop Up Tent or Room
If you’re going to be mobile then you will certainly need a pop up tent of some sort. There are several different ones on the market:
- Simple spring loaded pop up type
- Air blown – similar to bouncy castle
For me it’s got to be keep it simple and have a spring loaded one. It’s less to carry for a start and when you’re mobile and hauling your equipment around you’ll be grateful. There is one air blown one which you can clean in the washing machine. Personally I don’t find it any trouble just to wipe the floor of my tent after each use and generally once a week I hose it down in the garden. The problem I found with the blow up one you could wash in the machine was that the top half had a “netting” material and I’m not happy that this completely contains any overspray whilst spraying clients. Whilst you can keep overspray to a minimum with good technique and good solution control from your gun, you cannot eliminate it completely – no matter what tanning companies say. I wouldn’t want to run that risk in a clients’ home or in my beauty room. These are readily available from a lot of companies including my own.
Make sure you have one which allows as much light in as possible as this will help when spraying. It would also be a good idea to have a clip on light for when the lighting situation isn’t at its best but it’s not essential. These are relatively cheap to purchase and wont take up much room in your equipment bag.
If you’re not going mobile and will be either home based or salon based another option open to you is to have a designated room for your spray tanning service. This actually doesn’t have to be very big, in fact, it can be as small as the size of a downstairs cloakroom. You can simply partition off a part of your beauty room, make sure the walls have a suitable washable covering and an easy wipe floor and fit some extraction. Other ideas if you are room based are:
- Use a shower cubicle preferably without tiles as the tanning solution will stain any grout
- Hang a shower curtain in the corner of a room and simply wash when necessary – beware the overspray!
Do I Need Extraction?
Contrary to what some tanning suppliers will tell you, in the UK you do not have to provide extraction. Auto spray booths have their own in built extraction systems. You do need to be aware from a comfort point of view that if you are spraying in a confined space with no extraction or open window it can be uncomfortable – more likely to be you, as the client is only in the confined space for a matter of minutes. However, if they are asthmatic this can cause them problems so be sure to cover this in your client consultation. If you are booked with back to back sprays this is certainly a potential issue for you. You should consider wearing a mask or nose filters to prevent over exposure. Some tanning solutions, which may contain alcohol and fragrances can be more airborne and create a “fog” in your tanning area and sometimes, with some solutions, this can cause irritation in your throat. This is something I would avoid so make sure you look for a tanning solution which doesn’t cause these irritations and “mask” up when spraying a lot of back to back tans.
If you spray from one room only and are not mobile I would look to provide extraction as over a period of time you will find overspray in your room and make sure you change or clean the filters regularly.
Accessories are they necessary?
One tip I would give you and that is to try avoiding purchasing a spray tan kit which includes a lot of add-ons such as sticky feet and paper underwear (which clients hate) – all this adds to the price but you’ll find you can easily do without it. Sticky feet wont work with sweaty summer feet and often the adhesive doesn’t come off cleanly and then you find yourself picking bits off your clients feet. Use couch roll under the feet in a spray tan tent as they can swivel round on these into the positions you need to tan them. Then once you’re done use them to clean the floor of the tent. Le voila! Ask your clients to wear old underwear or bikini bottoms when being sprayed, they’ll feel much more comfortable. Paper underwear are vile – they give horrible “side gap” which a lot of clients are uncomfortable with.
Of course you are going to need some tanning solutions and you should be objective about your choice. Don’t just buy what everyone else is using, this is a tough business so you need to able to differentiate yourself. For more info on the best way to choose your tanning solution check out this post.