7.1 Spray tanning application process end to end

At the very beginning of this course, we introduced you to the lash service process. Back then, it may not have made complete sense, but by now, you should understand the steps you need to take in each part of the process:

Client consultation

Aside from the initial booking, the client consultation process is the first real opportunity you will have to get to know your client and discuss their tanning goals. It is also an opportunity to share your knowledge of the sunless tanning industry, application processes and the best aftercare products. When you have new clients visiting you for the first time, some of them may be a little nervous. By clearly explaining the process in a way that is easy to understand is important to put your clients at ease, but to also give them an understanding of why you do things a certain way. To make sure your clients don’t get confused, words like stratum corneum or Dihydroxyacetone should be simplified to ‘top layer of your skin’ or ‘the magical reacting agent’.

Even if clients have had spray tans before, never assume that they have received a thorough education. Unfortunately, there are some dodgy spray tanning technicians in the industry that skip past the education side of things and jump straight into the service. There are even technicians who just process payment and don’t even discuss aftercare! The client consultation and aftercare discussion is also the best way to maximise revenue from spray tanning. The development of a spray tan is dependent on the client’s skin condition and ability to absorb the tanning product. If a client has skin concerns, then you can help recommend tried and tested products that work.

Every client must fill out and sign the client consultation form. This is not only a great way to document the treatment requirements and to protect your business, but it will also help you to start building your database and marketing abilities for rebooking.

Client consultation forms enable you to recognise any contra-indications that may prevent or restrict certain treatments or potential contra-actions. During your consultation, at a minimum, you will need to discuss:

  • Your client’s tanning goals
  • Service and outcomes, and show client the products you will be using
  • Treatment sequence
  • Contraindications and contra-actions
  • A patch test (if needed)
  • Cost and timeframe
  • Factors that may restrict treatment
  • Aftercare and maintenance appointments

During the consultation, you will discuss any worries and concerns that the client has, and this is an excellent opportunity to work out which shade of product(s) will suit your client to make sure they leave feeling happy and confident with their treatment. Questions that are an absolute must during the consultation include:

  1. So, is there a special occasion that you are tanning for?
  2. Which tanning products and services have you used before?
  3. What have you liked or disliked about previous tanning brands and services you have used?
  4. Have you ever had an allergic reaction to a spray tan, skin or body product in the past?
  5. Do you have any known allergies or skin sensitivities?

The more information you receive from your client during the consultation, the better the appointment will be. By you asking questions and sharing your knowledge, it will make you stand out from your competition in offering professional tanning treatments, and it demonstrates that you have an interest in their results. This open exchange of information will build rapport and trust with your client, which will likely result in repeat business and referrals. After every appointment, take detailed notes relating to the products you used and how the appointment when. This way, you don’t have to re-hash any skin concerns, and future appointments can focus on perfecting the perfect tone and formulation for your client’s skin. If you have other people working for you, this can also be a great way to ensure your client has a perfect experience every time they visit, regardless of who the technician is.  Of course, during the consultation, you don’t need to give your clients’ a science lesson, but explaining the basic process (skin preparation, DHA, application, aftercare) is essential.

So you don’t forget to discuss anything, use your client consultation form to guide you through the discussion. Once you have completed 10 or so consultations, you will know your ‘script’ off by heart! For your convenience, here is a copy of the client consultation form we have developed that you can use:

You can use this form for your own business, and feel free to make amendments to include any of your specific requirements. Remember, your consultation form is also a legal document and forms part of the contract between you and your client. Ensure that you complete every section and get your client to sign and date it.

Managing client expectations and dealing with difficult clients

Another really important component of the consultation process is managing your client’s expectations. Sunless tanning relies heavily on a person’s natural skin, and, as technicians, we cannot create something out of nothing. As such, our job is to educate our clients so they don’t have unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes, clients can come to us with unrealistic expectations because what they see being advertised can be heavily edited pictures of bronzed babes and never the true reality of what we can safely achieve on most clients that come to see us. Sadly it’s actually spray tanning technicians that are to blame because when we fill our Instagram feeds and social media pages with only our very best tans and filtered images, we are actually fooling the everyday client into thinking they can have the same.

As you begin your career as a spray tanning technician, you will soon realise that most people don’t want to see the reality; they want to see the fantasy. That fantasy is what drives them to visit us in the quest for amazing, bronzed glows – so if we promote the fantasy, then education is a must!

Clients that come from elsewhere (other technicians) may also come to you wanting a tan application that might be too high in DHA percentage in your professional opinion, so if you were to go against your professional judgement, they would likely complain when their tan turns orange! Sadly, most training out there is not that great, and spray tan trainers are not always spray tanning specialists. Because of this, a lot of spray tanning technicians are doing sub-par spray tans and are fuelling unrealistic expectations.

Furthermore, it can be very difficult to educate clients who are coming from other spray tanning technicians because clients become accustomed to a specific look, and if you have to advise them to opt for another product or options, you may have an unhappy client!

It is better to have unhappy clients because you refuse a service rather than an unhappy client with an Oompa Loompa tan! Clients that are too pushy or refuse to listen can be impossible to educate, and you need to think about whether or not you even want them as a client. Most clients are lovely, but on the rare occasion, you will get someone who is difficult. Luckily for you, spray gun applications usually last no longer than 15 minutes, so put a smile on your face, and the client will be out of there in no time!

Provide the service

Once your client consultation is complete and the consultation form is signed, then you can then begin setting up your treatment field with the specific products you need for your service. When you are scheduling your appointments, always make sure that you leave enough time in between so that you can ensure your work area is cleaned, sanitised and stocked before the next client arrives. Messy and disorganised workspaces will not leave a good impression!

Remember to always discuss the process with your client and explain which disposables they need. You might have a client who has never worn a G-string before – never assume! You will find your own rhythm and way of doing things, but really you need to think about the preparation and application:

Set-up  Prepare and wear personal protective equipment.
Prepare the client and provide a suitable protective covering.
Ensure client modesty and privacy throughout service.
Cleanse and exfoliate client skin, as required.
Apply moisturisers and barrier creams to prevent over development of tanning products.
Use spray gun and apply the product  Test pressure and operation of your spray gun.
Apply spray tan products evenly and in sequence to achieve the desired effect.
Use techniques that minimise the spread of product spray outside the tanning booth area.
Monitor client reactions and adverse effects.
Check finished tan application for evenness and remedy if required.

For a detailed step by step guide, follow these steps:

  1. Conduct effective consultation with your client
  2. If desired, prepare your clients skin by applying a small amount of barrier cream to the following areas which tend to be the driest:
    1. Feet, heels and ankles
    2. Knees
    3. Elbows
    4. Hands and up the inside of the forearms
    5. Nails
  3. Apply a coat of CocoTan pH Balancing Primer
  4. Ask your client if they would like to wear a mask or need a nose filter during the appointment and ensure they have access to a disposable hairnet, underwear and feet protection
  5. Ask your client to step into your tanning area (tent, booth or cubicle)
  6. Turn on your tanning machine
  7. Begin the spray tan application and follow the tanning application technique you have been taught
  8. When you get to tanning the face, prepare the client to hold their breath by saying something like ‘on the count of 3, take a deep breath, relax, hold your breath and keep your eyes shut’
  9. Once finished, check over your client and ensure there are not areas that have not been covered – blend any areas that need it and apply another coat if needed
  10. Release the hose from the gun and use the warm air from the hose to dry off your client (if needed)
  11. Once your client is dry, then they are ready to get dressed
  12. Recommend aftercare and process payment
  13. Record outcomes of the appointment in the client’s file, on the client consultation form or another record-keeping system you have

Throughout the appointment, it is important that your client stays still. If they begin to move around or fidget, take a little break and explain the importance of them staying still and listening carefully to your directions. If, for any reason, you experience some tanning fails, don’t stress too much! The more clients you tan, the better you will get at identifying and fixing your mistakes. With experience, you will also get better at understanding what works best for certain skin types and what sorts of problems are actually caused by the client, not your tanning application. A dodgy tan is not like a dodgy haircut. At least with the nature of tans, even if it is really horrible, the skin will be back to normal within 10 days. A bad haircut can last years! As you learned earlier in the course, there are heaps of ways you can fix or mask patchy tans, so don’t stress when you are starting out. If you take your time and apply everything you have learned in this course, you will be a superstar technician in no time. The table below outlines common problems you may encounter and possible causes:

IssuePotential causes
No spray is coming out of your spray gunYour nozzle might be clogged, you have set your dial too high, the air hose is blocked, or your container is not attached correctly.
There is too much spray coming out of your gun, or it is splatteringYou need to tighten the dial, your spray gun needs to be cleaned or if its splatters, you might be too far away from the client.
The clients tan is patchy or streakyYour client has not completed their skin preparation, the client has very dry skin, or you did not maintain a consistent distance throughout the application.
The client’s hands, fingers or nails are stainedYou did not apply enough barrier cream.
The client has darker areas once the tan has developedYou did not apply enough barrier cream, the client’s skin absorbed more solution in some areas, or you needed to apply another coat.
There are crease lines in the neck or elbow after the tan applicationYou have sprayed too close to the client, the client’s skin is dry in these parts, or you have oversaturated the skin.
The client’s armpits have turned greenThe client may be wearing deodorant, or this could be a reaction to the bronzer/dye.
Parts of your client’s body did not tanYour client has not completed their skin preparation, the skin may be scar tissue, or you did not apply sufficient coats.

The more tanning applications you do, the better you will be at working out where you went wrong and how you need to fix any issues. Don’t be afraid to use your blending brush to do touch-ups, and remember, less is always more!

Service completion tasks

Once you have carefully evaluated your tan application and have completed any blending or touch-ups, you can then reveal your masterpiece to your client! Always have a full-length mirror on hand so that your client can carefully inspect the tan and provide you feedback. If your client is not happy with something, try your best to get it rectified quickly and with no fuss. However, if you have conducted a thorough consultation and then your client decides that the look they asked for is not actually what they wanted, you may need to book another appointment depending on your schedule.

Before a client leaves, you will want to stress the importance of aftercare. At this point, you may give them an aftercare kit, and you may recommend complementary products and future treatments. Aftercare kits or little parting gifts can be an excellent way to thank your clients for their business and to keep them coming back. 

At the end of the service, it is always advisable to book the client in for their next appointment if they intend on maintaining their bronzed glow, and a good time to arrange this is when they process their payment. The end of a service is an excellent opportunity for you to build rapport with your client, and you want to leave a lasting impression. During the service, you may have been quietly concentrating, so let your inner chatty Kathy out at the end of the appointment! This will leave your client with a good impression, and it will also give them an opportunity to ask any additional questions they may have. Prior to your next client arriving, you will then need to:

  • Clean service area and surfaces, non-disposable eyelash equipment and tools
  • Restock equipment and products in preparation for the next treatment
  • Safely dispose of general and contaminated waste to minimise negative environmental impacts

Sanitation is critical for keeping you and your clients safe, so don’t skip your cleaning tasks! Clients will always remember a dirty salon, and aside from tanning fails, it can be a major factor for clients not coming back. Additionally, if you start getting poor online reviews that mention unhygienic practices, it will be difficult to attract new clients, and it may also lead to a health inspector visit!

Remember, to help prevent injuring yourself physically, make sure you do some light stretching throughout the day and keep checking your posture and body position. To maintain all other areas of health, make time for your self-care strategies and look after yourself. As a recap, your service completion tasks will include:

  1. Evaluate service with client and record outcomes of the tanning service on the client service plan
  2. Provide aftercare advice and recommend products and future services.
  3. Rebook client according to the agreed service plan
  4. Clean treatment work area
  5. Clean and disinfect equipment and tanning booth according to manufacturer instructions.
  6. Replenish tanning booth area in preparation for next service
  7. Dispose of general waste to minimise negative environmental impacts

Did you know: In the ’70s, an entire generation literally cooked their bodies in the sun using baby oil, tin foil, even vegetable shortening to achieve the darkest bronze tan possible in the summer months.

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