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Basic Tanning Certification
Indoor Salon Certification
Regulatory Information
Business Resources
Sunless Airbrush/HVLP Technician Course Chapters
Introduction to Sunless
Setting up your Equipment
Skin Preparation and Application
Working with the Client
Federal Statement on DHA

Electrical Safety

Avoiding Slips & Falls

Chapter 1
Introduction to Sunless

Over the past five years, we’ve watched sunless tanning position itself for explosive growth. While sunless provides a new service to existing clients looking to enhance their traditional tanning sessions, it has the potential to expand the tanning and day spa populous with new customers who either cannot or choose not to get a traditional UV tan.

The concept of sunless tanning has come a long way since its introduction to the general public in the 1960s. Today, sunless products can be found everywhere from indoor tanning salons and day spas to department stores and drug stores. Professional tanning salons have the ability to offer superior self-tanning formulas as well as the latest in application processes that include stand-up spray booths and portable airbrush-tanning systems.

Sunless Airbrush/HVLP Technician

To provide a competitive edge to salons offering airbrushing or HVLP sunless services, NTTI offers the industry’s first program specifically designed for the airbrush/HVLP technician. Based on research and testing conducted by some of the leading manufacturers of sunless spray systems, this course takes the technician from setup to application while discussing technique, safety, pricing and more. Professional tanning salons now have the ability to offer superior sunless airbrush/HVLP services delivered by well-trained and certified sunless airbrush/HVLP technicians.

Business Success With Sunless

The mention of “sunless tanning” used to raise the hackles of many indoor tanning salon owners. The whole concept--tanning without the use of ultraviolet radiation--went against everything salons stood for. Maybe it still does in some cases. After all, why would a customer come to a salon when he or she could stay at home and apply a lotion for an instant tan? The question isn’t as perplexing as it once was. In fact, the truth is sunless can be a salon owner’s friend.

More and more salon owners are warming to the idea of sunless as a complement to their main business of UV tanning. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. tanning salons offer at least one form of sunless services. Twenty-two percent offer sunless airbrush or turbine tanning, according to research conducted recently by LOOKING FIT. This represents a 10 percent to 6 percent jump, respectively, over the previous year.

Sunless services can be offered as a quick fix when traditional UV clients are pressed for time, a tanning booster between UV sessions, a touch-up for delicate or hard-to-tan areas, and to even out pressure points and uneven spots.

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.

As sunless-tanning technology improves and education about it spreads through the industry, salon owners are beginning to understand the relationship between salons and sunless. By offering these products, including self-tanners and bronzers, salons can satisfy yet another group of potential customers. They can build upon the trust of their existing tanners and become an authority for all of their skincare needs. When marketed correctly, sunless products can be an excellent ancillary profit center.

Those skeptical of adding sunless to their facilities should remember this: Tanners and non-tanners want to look good and feel good. Only 10 percent of the U.S. population, or 29 million individuals, currently tan indoors, so consider the possibilities. What better way to double or even triple your client base than by introducing them to non-UV tanning?

How Sunless Works: The Solution

Due to an increase in spray-on tanning, DHA solutions have experienced tremendous growth in the past few years. Typically, there are three types of bronzers that are used in sunless spray solution. A cosmetic bronzer is visible immediately after being sprayed, but will wash off after showering. A DHA bronzer initially has no visible effect, but will begin to react with the skin in two to four hours and develop color. Erythrulose is a slower-reacting bronzer and is similar to DHA.

With or without the addition of cosmetic bronzers, the solutions use roughly the same ratio of DHA--3 percent to 5 percent--and are available in different viscosities for different purposes.

The tan that is produced is absolutely water-resistant and diminishes only as the dead cells of the stratum corneum flake off. It should be noted, though, that the tan is purely cosmetic and does not provide the protection that a traditional tan would.

Cosmetic Bronzers

Not all sunless solutions contain a cosmetic bronzer. Ones that do will give an immediate color to the tanner. This color is not permanent and will wash off.

DHA (Dihydroxyacetone)

The Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology defines dihydroxyacetone like so: “CH2HOCOCH2OH, a colorless, hygroscopic, crystalline powder; soluble in water and alcohol; melts at 80 C; used as an intermediate and in fungicides and cosmetics.”

The tanning industry recognizes dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, as the 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.

Skin coloration takes anywhere from two to four hours and lasts three to five days--depending on skin type and the DHA concentration in the lotion. The “tan” fades as the dead layers of skin slough off, just as in normal tanning.

DHA appeared commercially in the 1960s. Coppertone was one of the first to sell an over-the-counter product, Quick Tan, and unfortunately QT’s streaks, splotches and orange skin tints quickly encapsulated everything viewed as negative about sunless tanning.

DHA was first approved for cosmetic use in 1973. At that time the Food and Drug Administration added DHA to its list of approved cosmetic ingredients. Afterward, cosmetic companies as well as indoor tanning lotion manufacturers began to perfect sunless products and their ability to give a beautiful golden-tan appearance.


Erythrulose is very similar chemically to DHA and works synergistically with it to give a more natural looking tan. Although it is four to five times the cost of DHA, experts say it enhances a sunless tan’s finish and reduces the dryout associated with DHA products.

While DHA changes the color of skin within four to 24 hours, erythrulose needs about two to three days for skin to show a color change. In addition to providing a more luxurious color, it may help to lengthen a sunless tan by a day or two.

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