Beauty Beat: A Tan-Tastic Alternative

Beauty Beat: A Tan-Tastic Alternative

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My mom always said, “The first sign of skin cancer is a nice tan.” Not so true any more.

Case in point: At our last photo shoot, I met a beautiful, Barbie doll perfect young woman. She had bright blonde hair, incredible ice blue eyes and glowing bronzed skin. I would have bet a lot of money that this honey had spent her fair share of time in a tanning bed.

As many first-time conversations do, we resorted to talking about the weather. When she told me she hates the sun, I had to ask where she got the tan. She told me she does spray tan, and swears by it. I immediately inspected her hands, feet and behind the knees. No streaks, no drips, no oompa loompas. So, I knew I had to check out a spray tan for myself.

Marilyn Spatola, owner of Liquid Sun Rayz, provides spray tans at Avalon Salon and Day Spa in the Hyde Park Plaza. When she’s not at Avalon, she specializes in providing tans for contestants in body building competitions, so I was hoping she could bronze on six pack abs.

I talked to her before my tanning session and she gave me a few pointers to make my spray tan effective: Exfoliate, moisturize but not the day of, use all oil-free products, and wear a black bathing suit (if you opt to wear one at all). Since we were documenting my spray tan process for Cincy Chic, we decided to spare you and go for the bathing suit option.

0208GIBBERMAN.gif After following all the above instructions, I showed up for my appointment. They took me back to the beautiful bathrooms at Avalon, into the shower area where there’s an airbrushing machine, a paint roller and fan. I knew immediately that this was going to turn out a lot better than if I were at home fumbling around with a bottle of sunless tanner.

She sprayed my body – from head to toe – and used the paint roller to even out anything that smudged or dripped. Then, I stood in front of a fan to dry off. The entire process only took about 7 minutes.

Because this airbrushed spray-on tan is administered by a salon technician, you get the perfect tone for your skin type without the streaks or drips. “It’s more precise because our machine is hand held and used by the technician, unlike others where you just stand and let the booth spray the front of the body and the back of the body,” says Rosina Luca, marketing director at Avalon. “More specific areas of the body can be targeted, such as the neck, underarms and behind the knees.” The airbrushed spray-on tan also offers more precision because of its wide range of color starting at 5-12 percent, which means that it can be used on all skin types and tones.

After the application, I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t believe the difference. I looked like I had just spent a week basking on a beach (I wish!). Spatola says you’ll see an immediate difference, it will intensify overnight, and after the first shower, it evens out to be a nice glowing tan. “The product I apply has pigment and that washes away in your first shower, so don’t think your tan is washing away. It’s supposed to do that,” she says.

The 24 hours after you’re sprayed is critical. You need to be completely dry before you put your clothes on, and I suggest dark, grubby clothes because some pigment does rub off. And, for best results, be prepared to not shower for 24 hours after the application.

Also, be prepared to have the spray tan last about five days unless you take measures to extend the tan. Look for tan-extending shower gel and lotion, which moisturize to quench the skin and also contain dihydroxyactetone (DHA), an ingredient in the spray tan.

While a spray-on ranges from $15-40, versus a $2-10 tanning bed session, Luca says many people are willing to shell out the additional amount because of the reduced risk of skin cancer, precise application and glowing results.

A Ray of Hope
“A study at Dartmouth reported that people who ever visited a tanning salon were 2 1/2 times more likely to later get squamous cell skin cancer and 1 1/2 times more likely to develop basal cell skin than those who didn’t,” says Paula Provenzano, licensed esthetician and founder of Essentially Spa Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in solutions for dayspas, medspas and spa product partners. “So, my instinct is to throw a net over anyone who wants to go near a tanning bed.”

On the flip side, Provenzano says DHA, the active ingredient in spray tan solutions, has been used since the 1920s and is very safe. “It is basically a type of carbohydrate that acts as a catalyst for oxidation of dead epithelial cells; much in the same way that an apple turns brown after you cut it,” she says. “DHA is usually derived from plant sources such as beets or sugar cane and the fermentation of glycerin.”

So, before you step out in the sun or *gasp* into a tanning bed, instead of getting a sunless spray tan, consider these facts:

Skin Cancer Facts

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 1 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually.
  • More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.
  • A person’s risk for skin cancer doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns.
  • One blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
  • Survival rate for patients with early detection is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to between 15 and 65 percent or higher, depending on how far the disease has spread.

— Skin Cancer Foundation

Tanning Bed Facts

  • Exposure to tanning beds before age 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.
  • On an average day in the U.S., more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons; 70 percent are women aged 16-49.
  • Occasional use of tanning beds almost triples the chances of developing melanoma.
  • New high-pressure sunlamps emit doses of UVR that can be as much as 15 times that of the sun.
  • Up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun. These changes can be seen as early as in one’s 20’s.

— Skin Cancer Foundation

Cincy Chic has a special relationship with Avalon Salon and Day Spa in the Hyde Park Plaza. When we want to try out a product or service offered there, they let us try it out there, interview their experts and write about our experience for you readers to enjoy. E-mail us at to tell us which product or service you’d like us to try out next!


Click here or on the play button below to view a webcast of Spatola administering the spray tan and explaining the process.



Photographer: Maureen Jacob
Location: Avalon Salon and Day Spa