A Blotchy Tan can have a wide range of causes, but it very rarely the solution.

Assuming the product is spraying evenly from your spraygun (your gun adjustments will control this) and assuming the solution product is not excessively old or damaged – the cause normally lies outside the solution bottle.

Blotchy tan appearance of solution as soon as it hits the skin surface:

These are things you as the technician see as soon as you spray the client (not hours later after tan has absorbed or started to develop)

Incorrect Spray gun adjustments.

Always first make sure spray gun is correctly adjusted for your blend, and readjust as needed, every single time you spray. Solution is never the exact same viscosity. It can change slightly from batch to batch even with the same blend. Can change from day to day as it ages, as it gets warm, or if it is cold. Environmental change will effect the solution as humidity levels change, room temperate changes, barometric changes and so forth.

Different formulas, and different brands all vary widely in thickness, even in the same brand. Tampa Bay Tan has 11 blends, and each differ in thickness/viscosity. Each would require some tweaking of gun adjustments to spray correctly, depending on your gun. There is no one “perfect” correct gun setting that allows you to just set it, and spray, without ever needing to readjust slightly again. And everytime you clean your gun, and do any disassembly, all setting will be incorrect when gun is again assembled.

When you first spray a client – Do you first test spray in a small hand towel, pad or cloth ( I have one right in my back pocket for testing spray, blotting of an occasional drip etc) to confirm product is spraying out smoothly and evenly, then while still holding trigger down so solution still sprays,  sweep over onto clients skin.  (this prevents a blot of concentrated color from that first spray)

If things are mis-set, adjust, – then spray into cloth again to test, then proceed with spray application.  You normally will be able to tell quickly if the solution is mis-spraying from your gun. With practice, you will see this very quickly, as an experienced Technician when you learn to look for this.

If the product is not spraying from your gun smoothly and evenly- then you need to check adjustments on the gun, make sure it is not clogged or dirty, and service if needed. This is when a back up gun will be handy, and you should purchase one when you have a steady clientele. Now is not the time to try and troubleshoot a gun issue, when you have a half sprayed client standing in front of you.

Application Issues:

Applying to much product to skin surface, Use only one oz per coat, and apply two thin coats; as first dries, immediately apply second coat. (for 2 ounces total coverage with two coats)

Spraying over the same “wet” area. Spraying wet solution on a wet solution layer, can cause runs or beads and blots. In the same manner applying a coat of wet paint over a previous wet layer of paint, prevents fresh paint coat from sticking to the surface below, and can cause drips. Instead apply one fine thin solution coat, (1 oz) letting dry briefly, then a second fine coat. Generally as soon as you spray one coat of solution over entire body, head to toe, front and back, skin has dried enough to allow second one oz layer to be applied immediately.  Please note, if you are in a very humid location, the product may absorb more slowly on the skin. A quicker dry product would be recommended if you experience this and are in a humid area.

Do not go back and forth over the same area repeatedly, excess saturation is not necessary. This will only cause poor adhesion, and drips and runs.

Not moving the spray gun quick enough while spraying. If using an HVLP system, an entire two coat session should take about 5 min or less. As a beginner, it is not unusual to spray much slower, it will take time and practice to hone your technique.

Spraying to close to the skin surface, spray gun should be 4 -5  inches from the skin, measure to confirm distance. The distance across your hand palm from side to side is roughly about 4-5 inches.

Surface Issues:

Skin may have sweat, lotion, oil, hair conditioner, soap, shave product, or other residue on it. (use C.Y.A. prep product if needed)  products on the skin can prevent solution absorption. The area of the body, can help clarify the issue.  Legs are often issues from soap or shave products. Under arms would be sweat or deodorants. Chest or back, ether sweat or hair conditioner from poor shower rinsing. In all cases better exfoliation and rinsing after use of all other body products should help address the issue.

Skin is poorly exfoliated and rinsed. Change exfoliation method if needed. Not all exfoliates will rinse well from the skin. A clean rinse scrub should be used, or an exfoliation mitt or cloth, with a clean rinse off shower gel product.

If the fresh tan is only blotchy in some areas, are they dry skin areas? (legs for example) If so, they should be well exfoliated, and LIGHTLY pre moisturized.  (Moist Air Dry Oil would be a good pre tan moisturizer that will not hamper spray tan penetration)

Note: that bar soaps can excessively dry skin, so advise client to switch to a non moisturizing shower gel product. (see article HERE on cleaning pre tan)

High heat or humidity in the spray area causing client to sweat during application. Adjust temperature, or use dehumidifier in spray room in humid locations. Use a quick dry blend such as Tan Envy or Tanfastic, or Veneto.

Blotchiness or cracking after a few days (or longer) is related to Tan Wear and fade

Review how client is exfoliating, and products used on skin. Change exfoliation method if needed.

Confirm client is moisturizing skin as needed, and avoiding drying skincare products. Bar soaps are especially problematic. Note legs are very dry and often regularly shaven, this will dry the skin further, and peel of tan layers, making tan look blotchy. See this article on Legs and Shaving for more tips.

To dark a product or to high a DHA level for clients skin, can cause blotchiness and poor fade. Change to a lighter DHA depth, a lighter product, and or advise client to shower product off sooner. (4-6 hours instead or 8-12 for example) This will provide a tan level better matched to their skin needs, and will often fade much slower and more evenly.

Seasonal changes such as lowered humidity, use of central heat and air, and body changes such as medication, lifestyle changes, hormonal changes, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can all alter the skins ability to hold and maintain moisture creating dryer skin.

Adjust to a more moisturizing spray solution product for this client such as Tan Extraordinaire, Aussie Bronze, Natural Tan or Revive.

If the blotchiness occurs after 4-5 days or so, that when the clients tan is fading. As skin cells fall off they take the tan with them. So this is this clients normal fade cycle, there are things they can do to extend this, but this is not do to bad product or bad application.

If the blotchy effect occurs after a week, the clients needs to exfoliate and reapply product again to refresh or rebuild color. They have waited to long to get resprayed.

– V


Other Blog Articles below that you may want to reference to further address this issue:

Spray Tan removal

Best Cleansing options for Spray tanning

Why wait 24 hours before shaving?

21 Day Spray Tan

Extending the life of your Spray Tan

Winter Spray Tans – Tech Tricks for Prefect Results

Erythrulose – Is this a good thing?

Whats the best Spray Tan product for me?