’05 Sunless Market Report
More Sunless In The Forecast
by Matt Morgan
The sunless segment of the indoor tanning industry began its boom in the late 1990s. Many considered it a fad that would actually detract from the business of UV tanning until it faded like a neglected tan. They were wrong. Now, more than five years later, sunless is as strong as ever, giving salons the ability to diversify their operations and reach new generations of tanning clients.
Salon owners first were cautious that sunless would bring competition rather than additional profits; however, the indoor tanning industry has taken to the segment in a big way.
Sunless’ numbers are staggering, especially in light of—or perhaps because of—the struggles of the industry in the post-Sept. 11 economy: 40 percent of U.S. tanning salons offer at least one sunless booth, and 22 percent offer sunless airbrush or turbine tanning, according to results from LOOKING FIT’s 2005 Top 250 Salons survey. This represents a 10-percent and 6-percent jump, respectively, over the previous year.
Clearly, whatever reluctance salon owners may have had about entering the sunless market was dashed when they realized its profit potential. Salons that have added sunless services report an increase in traditional UV-tanning sessions by as much as 30 percent after they introduced sunless services.
Especially in recent years, salon owners have seen an explosion of manufacturers offering sunless stand-up equipment, sunless airbrush and high-volume/low-pressure (HVLP) turbine equipment, sunless solutions for booths and handheld equipment, and sunless lotions and aerosol sprays.
Like any service in any industry, sunless is enjoying the fruits of improved technology and healthy competition. The benefits are clear to salon operators as well as consumers.
In the past, salons needed a hefty chunk of change—at least $30,000—to purchase a sunless stand-up spray booth. It was quite an investment, especially for a previously unproven ancillary service. Now, times have changed.
Manufacturers have had years to refine their products, and they know salon owners are shopping around for the best units at competitive prices.
Today’s sunless stand-up equipment can still be bought for $30,000 or more, but those machines contain state-of-the-art components to deliver more bang for the buck. Plus, sunless is a bona-fide winner for countless salons, making the investment worthwhile.
However, the biggest window of opportunity has come at the lower end of the price range. High-quality booths selling for as low as $12,000 allows more salons to be able to enter the sunless market.
Finally, handheld sunless units are priced as low as just a few hundred dollars. Other costs associated with sunless, such as solution, are dropping as well. Any salon that wants to can afford to offer sunless.
Besides the lowering entry cost for sunless, the ease of setup always is a major appeal to salon owners. Many of today’s stand-up units are self-contained or require very little extra plumbing or electrical.
The allure of sunless also is increasing from the customer’s perspective. There is a greater variety of retail sunless products with new-age ingredients that yield natural-looking, long-lasting tans. Also, session prices for booth and handheld applications are dropping, and the steadily improving technology of the solution is leading to more realistic results.
Stand-up spray booths continue to be the most widely used sunless equipment in salons. Consumers like them because they can get tan in a matter of minutes. Salon operators like them because short session times means they can tan more clients per unit per day.
Sessions in today’s sunless stand-ups range from minutes to just a few seconds—and they can generate the same price as or much more than a traditional UV session. In other good news, these automated, mess-free moneymakers often take up the same space as a UV-tanning unit, so salons can maximize their space.
Technology in sunless spray booths is vastly improved. Some are fully automated including voice commands and touch-free technology. Some have the option of carrying more than one type of solution at once, enabling salons to serve a wide variety of clients more easily.
And as a finishing touch, today’s sunless booths have evolved on the outside too. Their sleek designs provide an attractive fixture in any salon.
Handheld sunless systems don’t have the same privacy factor as stand-up units, but customers don’t seem to mind. Many enjoy the personal attention from technicians.
These systems can be had at a fraction of the cost of stand-up units, making them affordable for a large number of salons. Salons also can get up and running quickly and easily, leading to a rapid return on investment. Plus, the salon can charge a premium for the service because it requires the constant attention of a technician who applies the sunless solution to the client.
Sunless airbrush machines are driven by an air compressor and deliver a concentrated focus of spray solution. Airbrushing can take up to 20 minutes or more because the technician covers the client’s whole body, including delicate and hard-to-tan areas, with great detail.
The new handheld method on the block is run via turbine motors. By contrast, turbine applications are much quicker—some manufacturers claim sessions as short as four minutes—and the high volume of low-pressure “soft” air flow allows solution to cover a greater area of the body more quickly. However, since these HVLP systems cover so much so fast, sometimes they aren’t suited for detailing. Some turbine spray guns can be adjusted to spray to small diameters or can be switched entirely to a gun made for body detailing.
Also, manufacturers are beginning to create hybrid handheld units to blend the best of airbrush and HVLP/turbine. At least one company already has released its first version.
Rather than the bulky machines of the early days, today’s handheld equipment is shrinking in size, making units more portable while maintaining their effectiveness. This allows salons more flexibility in terms of where to locate the airbrush or turbine, and also to use the freed space for other profit centers.
Manufacturers are addressing noise concerns as well. Compression and turbine systems, by nature, produce loud sounds similar to a vacuum, which salon owners find contradictory to the relaxing environment of the tanning salon.
Improved technology in the machines as well as the advent of noise-reduction cabinets have done well to quiet the airbrush or turbine sunless-tanning experience. In fact, many of these new models made their debut at the last two industry trade shows, and some companies boasted that booth visitors couldn’t tell the machines were operating at their feet.
As airbrush and turbine equipment become smaller and quieter, they also are more efficient. Overspray has been a growing concern in the salon environment because it is simply wasted solution. It leads to greater clean-up demands from salon staff and higher costs to the salon owners who are forced to order solution more frequently.
Manufacturers have invested lots of research and development into addressing the issue of overspray. Less overspray means the solution—and the investment in solution—goes further.
Solutions For Solution
Because manufacturers realize sunless is going to stick around—and because the solution is what ultimately gives a customer his or her sunless tan—they are spending more time in solution development. The ingredients are better than ever, and there are more solution varieties to give salon owners more options for customers.
By now, salon staff should know that the tanning ingredient in sunless spray solution—and retail sunless products— is DHA. The colorless sugar reacts with skin proteins, including amino acids, in the outermost layer of skin. The reaction develops brown skin coloring that looks very similar to a natural tan.
DHA is available in varying levels in different solutions to cater to all skin types and desired darkness.
Erythrulose also is used in some solution. Four to five times the cost of DHA, erythrulose works synergistically with DHA to give a more natural-looking tan.
Some solutions contain cosmetic bronzers that give an instant tan color until the DHA begins to develop two to four hours later; other types of solutions, often called “clear,” come without those cosmetic bronzers to ensure there is no staining or streaking. Solution vendors often provide both types to appeal to a wider range of sunless tanning needs.
New sunless spray solution is loaded with the best nutrients, moisturizers and other skin-pampering ingredients such as aloe, vitamins, hyaluronic acid, tyrosine and CoQ10. Solution makers are paying more attention to fragrances too.
Sunless retail products have come a long way since they appeared commercially in the 1960s, and even since they became popular in tanning salons a few years ago.
As with sunless spray solution, the quality of sunless retail products has improved dramatically. Also, the segment has expanded beyond lotions to include foams, pump sprays and aerosols—plus specialty products for legs and face, etc.
New ingredient and formulation technology has allowed manufacturers to reduce or eliminate staining and streaking, enliven the sunless tan’s color and extend the life of the tan.
The maturation of the sunless industry has paved the way for a variety of pre-tan and post-tan products, in addition to traditional exfoliators and moisturizers. And while they were introduced several years ago, single-use packages of sunless-related products have been on the rise.
Towelettes loaded with sunless ingredients provide a convenient, relatively mess-free way to apply sunless solution. Many single-use products are large enough for one full-body application.
Also, cleansing towelettes can be used to wipe impurities from skin to ensure spray solution has an even canvas on which to impart a golden, sunless glow.
In the case that a sunless product is applied where it’s not wanted, several vendors provide correctors that remove stains.
Regulations And Certification
Since it is so new, sunless remains largely unregulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently has no regulations concerning DHA or sunless products, but that is not to say there may be changes on the horizon.
The best the tanning industry can do is keep a watchful eye on local and national legislation—and, in the meantime, take a proactive approach and become as educated as possible about the sunless-tanning process.
In July 2003, the FDA released information on DHA. Its use in cosmetics— including sunless tanning products— is restricted to external application. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, “externally applied” cosmetics are those “applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body surface covered by mucous membrane.”
Salon staff should take extra care in informing clients to avoid breathing the sunless product during the application process. Consumers also should be told to try to avoid direct application of the product into the eye area, and use a lip balm or other barrier product on the lips and in the nostrils to avoid contact with mucous membrane. There should be proper ventilation for staff and clients in the sunless application area of the salon.
The National Tanning Training Institute offers two courses—with online options— for staff who want to expand their knowledge of the sunless process while enhancing sales and service.
The Introduction To Sunless Tanning Course covers the basics about sunless tanning and is designed to help salon employees address customer needs and promote their sunless service. Based on research and tests conducted by some of the leading manufacturers of sunless spray systems, the Sunless Airbrush Technician Course takes the airbrush or HVLP technician from setup to application while discussing technique, safety, pricing and more.
The Future Is Now
It has become increasingly clear— by following actors and reading through glamour magazines—that mainstream society appreciates the attraction of a UV-free tan.
The indoor tanning industry has been ahead of the curve when it comes to high-quality sunless solutions, and new developments in technology will ensure the industry stays there.
Salons that can market the latest sunless stand-up equipment, handheld airbrush or HVLP/turbine equipment, and sunless retail items can capture the virtually limitless potential of new clientele.
Salons that want to capitalize on the sunless segment of the market should be able to clearly and concisely explain the process of sunless tanning and answer any questions a customer might have.
Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is a colorless sugar that makes the magic happen in the self-tanning process. DHA reacts with skin proteins, including amino acids, in the outermost layer of skin. The reaction develops brown skin coloring that looks very similar to a natural tan.
DHA has been used commercially since the 1960s, and technological advances over the years have vastly improved the results given by sunless lotions. As the refining process evolves, companies continue to produce higher-quality, more-predictable sunless products that provide natural-looking tans.
Noticeable skin coloration starts to develop anywhere from two to four hours and lasts three to five days—depending on skin type and the DHA concentration in the lotion or spray solution. The entire exfoliation cycle— from bottom of epidermis to the stratum corneum—takes roughly 28 days.
The exfoliation cycle of the stratum corneum—where the DHA reacts with proteins—is about seven days, depending upon the individual. The tan fades as the dead layers of skin slough off, just as in normal tanning.
Many manufacturers use a combination of DHA and its cousin, erythrulose. Erythrulose is very similar chemically to DHA and works synergistically with it to give a more natural-looking tan. It also diffuses more uniformly into the stratum corneum to produce an even tan and alleviate the extreme drying effects associated with DHA.
Erythrulose needs about two to three days for skin to show a color change. Experts agree that in addition to providing a more luxurious color, erythrulose may help lengthen a sunless tan’s life for a day or two.
To achieve optimal results, skin should be properly exfoliated prior to applying a sunless product. Areas of thicker skin, such as elbows and knees, react more with DHA and produce a stronger color.
The addition of moisturizers to sunless lotions and sprays help condition the skin to prolong the life of a sunless tan. However, consumers should be advised to use a professional salon-grade moisturizer every day to keep their sunless tan looking its best.