Talk to any indoor tanning salon owner and they will tell you that color is the most important factor when deciding on a spray tan solution. They want their formula to produce a rich golden tan that keeps their clients begging for more. However, the quest to find this solution can lead an airbrushing salon down several wrong paths if they do not know what to look for.
Most technicians know that depth of color will depend on the percent of Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in the formula, but not much more beyond that. The primary ingredient in all sunless solutions is DHA . DHA is a clear liquid that stains the skin by reacting with the amino acids on the epidermis, causing a bronzed color to appear. In other words, DHA adheres to dead skin cells. As the cells begin to shed, so does the DHA attached to them. All sunless solutions contain a certain percentage of DHA. Professional-grade solutions can range anywhere from 5 percent to 12 percent. A higher percentage of DHA will produce a deeper result. DHA takes between four to eight hours to fully develop on the skin.
How Solutions Are Different
There are essentially three different types of formulas that are the start-point for sunless solutions:
• Glycerin Based (oil-base) – This type of solution has thicker consistency that attracts moisture to the skin, but it takes longer to dry.
• Water Based (non-oil base) – This type of solution has a thinner consistency. Many times the added ingredients (such as aloe; vitamins A, C and E, etc.) will thicken the solution.
• Quick Dry (non-oil base) – This type of solution also has a thinner consistency and includes higher alcohol content.
A manufacturer may add other ingredients to the formula to enhance the viscosity, fade time, dry time and fragrance. These ingredients may also help determine how well the DHA develops on the skin.
What Are Bronzers?
Bronzers are a temporary color added to the solution to assist the technician with the application process. They also give a pop of color for the client to see while the DHA develops. This is a short-term coloring, similar to certain types of makeup that wash off immediately. It is not representative of the final color.
You may hear clients say, “I don’t want a solution that has any red," or “I want my solution to have ash (e.g. green) in it." The common misconception with these requests is only the cosmetic bronzer can have an ash or red base, as DHA has no base. The hue of bronzers will not have a bearing on the final color.
There are several ways to mix colors when creating the brown found in most bronzers. The ratios used will determine if they have an ash or red base. The most common formula is a combination of equal parts of red and green. Solutions that have an ash base bronzer use more green than red. Conversely, a red base bronzer has more red than green.
So what happens when you use a red base bronzer on a red undertone client? You get a red brown coloring. What happens when you put an ash-based bronzer on an olive or yellow skin tone? You get a dull muddy color. The key thing to remember is that bronzers have absolutely no bearing on the development of the DHA, but they will affect how the client looks while it develops.
Wading Through Ingredients, Bronzers and DHA
So, how does all this talk about ingredients, bronzers and DHA help you decide which solution to purchase? The answer to that depends on your preference. There is no one-size-fits-all with airbrush solution. While some people love a solution with a thicker consistency, others like it thinner. Some like bronzers, others do not. There are some key things to consider when you are looking for airbrush solutions:
1. Where do you live? If you live in a hot or humid climate, you may want to consider a quick-dry formula that is non-oil based. If you live in a cooler, dryer state, you may want to consider using a water- or Glycerin-based solution for the winter months.
2. What type of consistency do you like to work with? If you have a hard time controlling your application technique with a thinner solution, don’t use it. Go for a thicker-base solution.
3. Are there enough levels of DHA to work with several skin tones? Make sure you have enough DHA percentages on hand to work with all skin types.
4. Does it dry in a timely fashion? Ideally, you want your clients to dry in five minutes.
5. Is it too tacky? All solutions will be slightly tacky. If the solution is tacky for longer than an hour, you may want to consider a thinner viscosity.
6. Is the fragrance tolerable? Keep in mind that not all people want to smell like a coconut. Pick a solution that is either fragrance-free or has a light, fresh scent. Remember, your clients will wear it for eight to 12 hours, but you and your technicians will smell it all day long.
Don't let the fear of orange keep you from trying a new formula. This will not happen if you avoid over-spraying or using a DHA level that is too dark for your client’s skin tone. By trying different solutions, you may discover a great new formula, or realize the best solution is the one you are currently using.