Originally created 06/28/01

Airbrush process gives quick, easy tans to the sun-shy



Jane Boyles of Martinez has always been fair-skinned. Instead of relying on the sun for a little extra summer color, she tried many methods of fake-baking.

"I have done tanning beds, sunless tanning lotions, sprays. You name it, and I've done it," she said.

She was never completely satisfied. Her tan was usually orange or streaky, she said.

Now Ms. Boyles has her tan professionally airbrushed on her skin.

"This was instant gratification," she said. "You could tell immediately. And it looks natural."

Ms. Boyles acquired her new tan lines from an Air Brush Sunless Tanning System, which was developed by Starr Hamson of Hilton Head Island, S.C. The system is called Fantasy Tan, and it is tanning hides from Hilton Head to Europe.

In Augusta, the sun-shy can be airbrushed at Michelle James Hair Productions and Modeling Agency for about $20 a session.

The airbrush system lightly mists the skin with a liquid tanner. The tanner contains DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, like all sunless tanners, and a bronzer.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, DHA is a color additive that reacts with amino acids on the skin's surface to produce the tan. It's approved by the FDA for temporarily coloring the skin.

An airbrush tan requires two applications, about 24 hours apart. It takes about 15 minutes to spray the whole body and another 10 to 15 minutes to dry.

Because the solution must remain dry for 12 hours, clients may not shower or swim, and it's best to avoid rain. Once the tan is complete, nightly moisturizing will prolong the color. With proper upkeep the tan should last three to seven days; weekly touch-ups, which also cost $20, will maintain it for much longer.

Tonya Spires, 21, of Augusta, said she has never had a tan before.

"I blister, then I peel, and then I go back to white," she said.

But in a recent transformation she was sporting a golden glow in about 15 minutes.

The color was subtle. As the tanning solution was sprayed on it was hard to tell what was already airbrushed. But the result was obvious. She walked out with a light tan.

"And it will keep tanning for the next 12 hours," she said.

Before she invented Fantasy Tan, Ms. Hamson spent about 12 years airbrushing face paint and temporary tattoos on tourists at Hilton Head. After developing a washable paint, Ms. Hamson had contracts with Disney and Universal Studios, setting up booths at the parks to cater to visitors. She toured with the rock band Kiss for a month during its 2000 farewell tour, painting fans' faces like those of the band.

"I like to create things. It's just something I enjoy doing. As I was spraying people, I would think about other uses," she said.

She spent two years trying sunless tanners and making notes about the problems after each application.

"I really thought it would be an easy process, but that wasn't the case," she said. "By using every product on the market, I was able to work out the problems."

She took her notes to a chemist, and together they created the solution.

When friends started noticing her fair skin had the coveted golden glow, they wanted her secret.

"They saw me with a tan first of all, and they knew something was going on," she said. "Then I was spraying a lot of people, field testing on them, which was great."

The airbrush unit is a small, pen-sized device that is attached to an air pump. A bottle of liquid tanning solution is secured to the bottom of the pen.

"We can even fill in people's tan lines, because the color is going to turn out pretty much the same as a real suntan," said Shannon Trotter, one of the air-brushers at Michelle James salon.

The client list includes skin cancer survivors who cannot indulge in sun bathing.

"This is just a healthy way of getting that color in their skin," Ms. Trotter said.

Tanning tips

What to do before your airbrush tan session:

The night before, exfoliate, shave and moisturize with lotion, not oil. Pay special attention to your legs, knees, ankles, feet, elbows and knuckles.

Because the tanning solution reacts with the top layers of the skin, the tan fades as the skin exfoliates. Getting rid of dead skin before tanning will extend the life of the tan. If you don't exfoliate properly, the tan will start to flake off within 24 hours.

The day of your tan session:

Be sure to shower, it will be 12 hours before you can shower again.

Do not schedule a session if it is raining. Your skin will need to be dry for 12 hours.

Wear loose-fitting clothes, such as a sundress. Cotton works best.

Do not moisturize the morning of the session. Moisturizer will keep the solution from soaking into your skin.

Allow 30 minutes for your tanning session. The actual session will take about 15 minutes, then another 10 to 15 to dry.

After your tanning session:

You must wait 12 hours before you shower. This will allow the solution ample time to react with the amino acids in the skin.

If it is your first session, get the second within 24 hours to achieve the base tan. After that, once a week will maintain the color.

Don't wear tight clothing. Anything that chafes the skin will cause the skin and the tan to rub off.

Moisturize each night.

Avoid long, hot baths or showers. They speed up the exfoliation process.

Warning: The airbrush system uses an adapted airbrush. Standard airbrushes operate at higher pressure and can cause severe injury if used to apply cosmetics to the body.

Where to go

South Carolina locations:

Fantasy Tan of Hilton Head
Alden Suite, Executive Park, 9 Pope Ave.
Hilton Head Island

Fantasy Tan Salon, Too!
21B New Orleans Road
Hilton Head Island

Georgia locations:

Fantasy Tan of Savannah
6 Davidson Ave.
Savannah

Finger and Associates
Plastic Surgery Center
Suite 505, 5356 Reynolds St.
Savannah

Spantinaety
11806 Mercy Blvd.
Savannah

Michelle James Hair Productions and Modeling Agency
467 Highland Ave., Surrey Center
Augusta