6 Common Spray Tanning Problems, and how to fix them!

We’ve all been there. Had our hearts drop out of our butt when we either got the dreaded follow up text or even worse, been in the room when something unexpected happened and you didn’t know what the f*ck to do. Pure panic settles in and you’ve got to figure out how to correct "Miss Sallys" tan without her knowing you fcked it up (or more than likely, how she f*ckd it up… 

Doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned artist or an uncertified beginner - it’s going to happen from day one to the last day you ever spray. How you handle the situation and troubleshoot the issue is what is going to make a world of difference to your client and for your business. 

To be able to troubleshoot the issue, you must know why the issue occurred and how to educate the client or yourself so it doesn't happen again.


Issue #1:  White lines along the knuckles or side of the thumb/hand after spray tanning client’s hand

  • What Happened?:  With this, you most likely did not have your client in that KEY "bear claw" hand position when you sprayed their hands with all the creases exposed. You also may need to refine your hand spraying technique when actually spraying the hands
  • How to fix it: Have your client position their hands in a large bear claw (imagine holding a softball) with their knuckle creases exposed and the webbing of their fingers nice and spread out. When spraying the hands, you want to be about 8-12 in away and spray the hand with a “curved X” motion. Think about wrapping the solution around to the sides of the hands to make sure you hit everything. 

Issue #2: Lines on knees and elbows after a spray tan.

  • What Happened?:  Similar to the previous issue mentioned above, when you were spraying, you did not have your clients creases/wrinkles exposed OR the solution wasn’t dry all the way before they bent back into their normal position.
  • How to fix it: Most times, you can catch this issue before your client leaves/tan develops all the way. A saying to remember is “solution will move solution” so if the solution had already dried down, spray a tad bit more onto a blending brush and blend into the area with creases to blend out those white lines. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERSATURATE THIS AREA. If you are unsure/nervous about making the areas "too dark", wipe the entire area with a baby wipe and then take your brush with solution on it and blend out the area. 

Issue #3:  My Client is f**kin ORANGE.. What did I do?

  • What Happened?: The most terrifying word known to anyone in the sunless industry has to be "orange". The main cause of an orange looking spray tan is the fact that you went too dark on your client, or in other words, you used too high of a DHA percentage for their skin type. Another factor should be considered when using any type of rapid solution. Rapid solutions can risk over processing or overdevelopment if your client leaves their tan on longer than you recommend. Make sure you are instructing your client of their rinse time and warning them, that if they stay in it longer than recommended then they can risk over processing and being brassy.
  • How to Fix it: If the tan is “too dark” have your client take a hot shower with soap to tone down the color. However, if the client truly is orange, there isn’t much you can do for the duration of the tan except have them take lots of hot showers/baths, use a sunless tan remover and essentially get it off as quick as you can. In this case, it’s essential to write down what you used on that client so you can ensure you are using a different solution/DHA % the next go around. 

Issue #4: Solution dripping/pooling up while spraying your client

  • What Happened?:  Spraying too close to your client, your gun setting is too high/open, using too heavy of a solution, too much solution, or a solution with too much oil blended into it can cause your solution to drip and become streaky and runny-looking during the clients service. 
  • How to Fix it:  Start by checking to make sure you are spraying about 6 inches away from your client. Ensure your gun is set properly - if you are not sure how to do this, please reach out to us and let us know.
Keep in mind, when setting your applicator gun, this isn't going to be a one/size all situation. Solutions can be different consistencies and will need to be adjusted accordingly. Thinner solutions (aka water based) need to have tighter gun closures.
If you experience POOLING during your appointment - it’s okay, do what we just mentioned and then take your trusty, dusty blending brush/roller and give the solution about 30 seconds to soak in and then BLEND.. BLEND.. BLEND… It’s important to give the solution a second to dry down otherwise you're going to have a mess of wet solution. 
Issue #5: Alligator / Snake Skin ... aka cracked up tan!
  • What Happened?: This may actually be the worst thing that can happen to a client... especially after you worked your ass off giving her the most flawless tan of your entire life. Typically that cracked alligator/snakeskin look a client may have either immediately after their initial rinse or a few days later is a result of dehydration, un-exfoliation and/or lack of moisture. This could also be a result of using a solution that is alcohol based! Plain and simple. 
  • How to Fix it: Simple… Make sure your client knows to exfoliate before their spray tan and moisturize frequently (before AND after). Hydration of the skin starts from before that client even starts to prep for their appointment. Obviously your don't want them putting on any lotion after their prep shower (before their appointment) BUT you do want them to stay moisturized and drinking lots of water days leading up to it. And if possible avoid a solution in it. You can also upsell a moisture spray for post tan! Our current favorite is the AYU Smooth Glow Hydrating Moisture Seal

Issue #6: Client’s armpit turned green after spray tanning..

  • What Happened?: Client had residues on the skin from their deodorant. Some deodorants (especially those with Aluminum) can react with the cosmetic bronzers causing the armpits to turn green.
  • How to Fix It: Nothing much you can do in this situation besides educate the client, avoid spraying the pits directly, and/or you could use a prep spray to help ensure clients residues are off. Don’t worry, the tan will not end up green. Typically the green will start to subside before the client leaves. Once they rinse the cosmetic bronzers off, their green pits will go with it! 


Although we have listed a few of the more common issues when it comes to spray tanning, this definitely isn't all of them. Give yourself some grace if issues arise and do your best to ask your clients questions, especially if things in their normal day to day affected their tan. 

Your clients will appreciate you taking the time to show that you care about how their tan turns out. 

Another piece of advice, don't just resort to refunding the client. Obviously last case, especially if they don't want to come back/get another tan, refund them if that's your policy. However ver, what we like to do in our salon is to "comp" their next service with us. This will allow us to hopefully redeem the situation and save the client. We make sure to properly educate them and send them their detailed prep and after care instruction's directly to them. 

 Be sure to share in the comments below any other advice you may have with the issues listed above so we can all continue to grow and glow together! 

xo, Whitney

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