Home / Beauty / What You Need To Know Before Your First Spray Tan


Shirley Merritt-Young, owner of Fake It Professional Spray Tanning

With skin cancer on the rise, many women are becoming more aware of the sun’s harmful rays. As a result, they are turning to bronzing lotions and spray tans to achieve their summer glow. If you are new to this procedure, no worries —  we tell you everything you need to know prior to getting your first spray tan.

We chatted with Shirley Merritt-Young who recently launched a spray tanning business out of her home. Today she empowers other women by giving them a natural-looking glow without the worry of sun damage or skin cancer.


A Business Concept That “Pays It Forward”

When we asked Shirley why she launched Fake It Professional Spray Tanning, she said: “I want to help women look and feel their best, while also spreading an important message about skin cancer prevention.” And for every spray tan she does, she donates $2 to the Breast Cancer Society — another worthy cause that helps thousands of women each year.

Although Shirley works full-time in Dental Sales, she always wanted to have her own part-time business or “side hustle.” After her first spray tan last summer, she was hooked. And she knew it was something she wanted to do for others.

Although Shirley has known about the dangers of the sun for some time, she didn’t realize that she could still achieve a natural looking tan without the health risks. In fact, a few of Shirley’s clients have already had cancerous lesions removed, with one woman being just 23 years-old. According to The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, there are 80,000 skin cancer diagnoses each year, with 5,000 of them being Melanoma; the deadliest form. 

What you need to know before your first spray tan

If you haven’t had an airbrush spray tan but you’re curious about what to expect, then you will definitely want to keep reading.

We chatted with Shirley about: who her typical clients are; why spray tanning has become so popular; the fear of skin cancer; when to spray tan; how to make it last and what you can expect when you bare all — literally!

Can you describe your typical client?

I have tanned so many bodies but most are women.  My oldest client is 85 years old and the youngest is 18. They come in all shapes and sizes from all walks of life –– bartenders, teachers, nurses, dentists, students and firefighters. Some are fit and others are overweight. I have seen all sorts of tattoos, piercings and scars that tell a story.  Some clients are incredibly pale while others show signs of sun damage. But the one thing I can tell you is that everyone leaves feeling happier and better about themselves after their spray tan.

Why do you think spray tanning is becoming so popular?

People are more becoming aware of the dangers of the sun and tanning beds. Almost everyone knows someone whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis. Most of us want the perfect tan but are not willing to gamble with the risks of tanning beds. And others are just too busy to get any sun. 

May was Melanoma Awareness Month.  Do you think skin cancer is a concern for people?  Can you explain?

Yes – people are definitely concerned.  Just watch the reaction of someone who sees a beauty mark or mole change colour or shape on their body.  Fear sets in and they think about all the sun damage they have subjected their bodies to over the years. Like myself, many women were sun worshippers and used baby oil or tanning beds before they ever heard of skin cancer. Personally, I now have the sun damage to prove it.

Where are you located and what areas do you serve?

My studio is in my home which is located in St. Catharines, ON. Spray tans are by appointment only. Although I am equipped to go mobile, I reserve this for parties of five or more (Bridal parties, girls night in, etc). I have clients from the Niagara region and others who travel from Hamilton and Mississauga. 

It’s so great that $2 from every spray tan goes to the Breast Cancer Society.  Why did you decide to partner with this worthy cause?

I chose breast cancer because the majority of my clients are female and I’ve had many friends who have fought the fight. When I tell my clients that I donate $2 from every tan to breast cancer, the reaction is always so heartwarming. I’m raising awareness about Melanoma and safe tanning while also paying it forward by donating to cancer.

To get the best airbrush, spray tan possible, how can a client prepare for their appointment?  What is the aftercare?

The success and longevity of a spray tan depends on how well you prep your skin beforehand. I advise clients to exfoliate/scrub their skin really well and shave their legs and any other areas of their body the day before their spray tan. The day of the tan they should avoid perfume/moisturizers and remove deodorant/make-up prior to arrival. Following their spray tan, they should put on loose clothing. I now offer a new tanning solution that dries much faster, allowing you to shower after just three hours. I get that life gets busy and waiting 12 hours for your tan to dry is not always convenient. 

The aftercare involves pat drying the skin after showers and avoiding the use of loofas or scrub brushes. Most importantly, they must moisturize a few times per day. If their skin is dry and flaking then the spray tan will likely disappear faster. 

How long does a spray tan last?

If prep and aftercare instructions are followed closely, a spray tan can last 7 to 10 days.

Is this something people do all year or mostly in the summer time?

Spray tanning is something that people do all year round. I have several clients who come every two weeks. Some may come once a month, while others wait for special occasions.

Does the spray tan product cause any adverse reactions?

I have never had anyone suffer a reaction from the spray tan solution. It is organic, paraben-free and it is not tested on animals.  It contains an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is a clear, sugar-derived extract that reacts with the amino acids in the skin to change the colour of your cells. And it smells like berries and almonds!  I always ask my clients if they have any allergies or sensitivities to anything before I spray them. And if necessary, I will test a small patch area. 

Why do people get spray tans?

In the winter months, many people get spray tans prior to a sun vacation. It’s also common before: weddings, bridal showers, prom, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. Bathing suit shopping also creates a lot of business. 

For someone who has never had a spray tan, what can they expect?  Most people are concerned that it won’t look natural or that it will be obvious. Is this true?  Do you have any special tricks to ensure it looks natural?

First time spray tanners are always a bit nervous. I try to reassure them that it will look very natural, it won’t turn their skin orange and it will not come off on their clothes or stain anything.  I explain the process in detail as well as the aftercare. I send everyone on their way with written instructions.  I call/text my first-time clients the following day to see what they think of their spray tan and to find out if they have any questions or concerns.

About 90 per cent of the women who spray tan do so topless, so I make sure they are comfortable and that it’s not an awkward moment for them.  Each client is given a clean robe and we chat a lot during the process to keep everyone relaxed. While I am spraying my clients, I use a technique that shades certain areas and creates definition, making them look slimmer and more toned. I love the reaction when we are done. Their spirits are lifted and their confidence is boosted. For me, that never gets old!

According the Canadian Cancer Society, bronzers, self-tanners and spray tans have not been shown to pose a health risk and are considered safe to use, as long as they are applied correctly and carefully. They should only be applied externally to the skin and not used near your lips, mouth, nose or eyes. You should also be careful not to breathe in or swallow any of the products. Also, Sunless tanning products do not protect your skin from sun-damage. Therefore, be sure to apply sunscreen when you are outdoors.

So you may be wondering how to find a reputable spray tanning company? If you live in the Niagara Region, we highly recommend Fake It Professional Spray Tanning. However, we realize our readers are from all over the globe. Therefore, we suggest you go by referral, check out local spa/salons or look up mobile spray tanning businesses in your area. You can find business reviews online. Don’t forget to check out your Instagram and Facebook feeds as your friends may share their experiences.

To contact Fake It Professional Spray Tanning, call (905) 980-1147 or email  fakeitspraytanbyshirley@gmail.com. You can also check out the Facebook Page and/or Instagram Page for further details.

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