Its winter time, in many areas of the country this means colder temperatures – and COLD spray tans.
Which leads to – “I need to buy a heated air spray tan unit.” Which sounds great- but do they really create a warm spray tanning experience for your client?
I decided to put this to the test, this is a very long article, so if you prefer you may scroll straight to the bottom, and read the conclusion, skipping all the test specifics.
Heating Your solution pre use:
Heating up your spray tanning solution is not normally a recommended option. Depending on the brand, formulation, how you heat it, how warm you heat it and so forth. You can damage the solution, preventing it from working correctly and possibly, accidentally burning a client.
DHA is a heat sensitive ingredient, and if over warmed, can tan less effectively (i.e. tan color will be lighter than expected.) This is not to say every time you warm a solution it is 100% going to cause it to produce “no color”.
Single time exposure to high heat, (storage in a car trunk for example), repeated temperature fluctuations (cycling from cool to warm to cool again) or prolonged room temperature storage seem to be the most common heat related issues seen.
Every solution differs in formulation, so one product may differ from another in tolerance ranges
The exact temperature the product is heated to, how long it is at this temperature, other ingredients in the blend, DHA type used, DHA percentage used, can all effect results.
Standard solutions on the market are not formulated with the plan to allow them to be “warmed” before use without possible damage – so results can vary.
Evaporation is a factor:
When solution – room temperature, warm, or refrigerator cold, is blown onto the skin with high speed air blowing through and over it – evaporation of the solution from the wet skin surface, will cause an added cooling effect. You will feel chilled, and get goosebumps in many cases.
Let’s try heating the air blowing out:
Which leads to the next option most technicians consider – heating the air blowing the solution onto the body, to create a warm cozy spray tan session.
(channeling thoughts of warm fires, cozy blankets to snuggle into, a cup of coco, and kittens purring – queuing soft music in the background )
Doing a quick Google search, reveals a very limited number of heated spray tan units available on the market. Prices range from Just under $200 to about $4000 range.
Now we have a place to start – time to research the available options.
What is your budget?
Systems on the market at the time of this article, consist of two rough price ranges.
The high end, at roughly $5000.00 or so for a spray system kit which includes a warm air flow wall unit/booth. This is not a warming spraytan unit, but rather a “normal” HVLP spray tan unit, with a specialized wall heater add on, which heats the air in the spray area. The spray unit does not warm the solution or the air spraying from the gun. The wall unit heater, heats the area air and collects over spray. Though it appears to be a nice unit, this would not be practical for a mobile tech, as the wall unit is a stationary device, and the key component to this package.
Option two, also in the $5000 price range, is a specialized heated solution unit, this appears to only spray one brand of specialized solution. So you are limited to this solution brand. Since gun adjustments are limited, and professional solution blends on the market come in a range of viscosity and thickness, not all blends will work with the exact same gun adjustments. So, with this spray gun, you may not able to use alternative solution lines of your choice, if you want to explore other spray tan lines.
I did not personally test the two units listed above, due to budgetary issues. But I have spoken to some industry engineers who have used them; so I understand how they work and the technology involved, and some limitations. But I am only commenting on general knowledge, based on marketing material, and information from those who have used the above-mentioned items. Not my personal experience.
What if your budget is not that large, what options are available?
I have personally used several other units currently on the market, and am familiar with most units that have been on the market for the past 25 years or so.
Below are the most popular “heated” spray units on the market within the normal budget ranges of most techs in the industry. These units are roughly $200-$300 range for the spray unit. They are easily portable, making them an option for both stationary and mobile technicians.
So the added promise of a warm spray tanning session, especially in the winter, makes them a very appealing option.
I will put them to the test below, but these are basically the same technology for ether, as the mechanism they use to create a warm spray tan experience is the same with ether.
They both are using a heating element in the base unit, to heat the air blowing out of the hose, rather than heating the solution.
Heated air – why would it NOT work? This is a great idea!
The main argument with this approach boils down to effectiveness of this method. You must always factor in the hose length, (which is not insulated) which allows air to cool as it leaves the heat source in the base. The heat comes from the heating element in the sprayer base unit, blowing high speed air down the entire hose length, to the solution spraying from the gun. (many feet away)
The easiest way to illustrate this in a real use application is by using a hand-held hair blow dryer on high, and blowing the warm air onto your skin. It will feel very warm, even hot against your skin. Which is exactly what you are hoping the spray tanner with heated air will do – right? So, this sounds like a win for your team!
But here’s a possible failure point in the plan:
Move the blow dryer about 10 feet away from your skin, turn it on high heat, and blow it toward your skin – you will find it is now much cooler, though you may feel some warmth, it is not truly “warm”.
The hot air must now travel 10 feet to reach your skin, and is cooled during the process. Even when placed inside an enclosed hose, it still must travel to reach you, which will cool it.
Most heating elements in standard hair dryers range from 400 watts to 1800+ watts. Even doing this test with a higher end blow dryer in the 1800 watt range, shows a significant drop in temperature based on distance. But it is still warm. So It sounds like with correct heating element wattage, this still “could” possibly work.
Current heated air spray tan units on the market have lower watt heaters within the unit – not 1800 watt. So the initial air heating amount will be less then that produced with a High Heat Hair Dryer.
Lets move on to the participants.
The players for each team:
Units used for this evaluation, all are USA available units, 120v:
Maximist Lite Plus: 300 watt, hose length 6.5 ft (used for baseline control)
Maximist Evolution TNT: 570 watt, hose length 11.5 ft (used for baseline control)
Venus Elite: 500 watt, hose length 10 ft – advertises heated air function
Fascination FX (700 series) : 700 watt, hose length 8.5 ft apx – advertises heated air function
Note of the four units, we have a range of wattage and hose lengths represented. Neither of these factors will dictate whether the spray gun sprays solution evenly in a fine mist.
The air flow produced by the turbine (noted as CFM rating which is the standard method of measuring the volume of air moving through a space, also known as “Cubic Feet per Minute.”) and the correct hose length pairing for the motor and gun style to maintain correct consistent air flow, will dictate the spray quality at the gun end.
This is just information I get asked about often, so thought I would address this at this time as well.
All units listed above sprayed a professional level fine mist spray tan, appropriate for any professional application. The amount of coverage varied due to gun styles and types, but this was not related to wattage or hose length.
All are units I have used in the past, and am familiar with the proper settings, operation and use.
Support Staff and Umpire:
Thermometer Laser Digital, used 1 foot or less from test area (standard well rated home use item)
Blow Dryer Sedu 1875 watt (for control test), consumer hair dryer
A bit more about each player:
Maximist Lite Plus: 300 watt, hose length 6.5 ft
The entry level HVLP unit available in the Maximist line, and a unit I currently have on hand. A light duty unit, good for 5-10 spray sessions daily, no added heat function.
Maximist Evolution TNT: 570 watt, hose length 11.5 ft
A mid range HVLP unit available in the Maximist line, and a unit I currently have on hand. A medium duty unit, good for 25+ spray sessions daily, no added heat function. Has a 2 stage motor, so can be run with a min and max volume, as well as in between (mfg recommends medium range)
Venus Elite: 500 watt, hose length 10 ft – advertises automatic heated air function (no button to turn it on or off)
A medium duty unit, utilizes an “automatic build in” heat function. This is an “always on” active feature. Adjustments on unit turn power to high or low, which would also increase level of heat. Can be run with a min and max volume, as well as in between
Fascination FX (700 series) : 700 watt, hose length 8.5 ft apx– advertises heated air function.
A mid range unit. This has the highest wattage or all the units, so one would expect it to produce the most heat.
I ordered this unit as it is often advertised with a heat function, Upon receiving it, I noticed NO heat function. Apparently the “old” version, the Fascination 700 (not FX) had the on/off heat function. The older style appears to be discontinued as of two years ago, and cant be found except as used or open box returns. This is the “upgraded” newest version, with no customer activated heat function.
I have had the older style, with the heated spray tan on/off option, in the past. However I have since disposed of it.
I will note, that the unit I had, performed no warmer with the heat turned on vs with it turned off. The solution was not noticeably warmer, though the air blowing from the hose (with no solution sprayer attached) was somewhat warmer, but not what I would call “warm”. It worked as a heated blow dry option, but not as effective as a handheld blow dryer.
However I waned to be able to perform accurate testing for this article, so repurchased the unit again, not aware, that the heated option unit is no longer available. But I will use it to test as well, to see how the upgraded version works out.
Thermometer gun, Laser Digital, used 1 foot from test area
(Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer)
Nifty digital thermometer that allows you to gauge temperature changes on any non organic surfaces. (non-living) Not recommended for use on organic surface (live things) as accuracy may suffer – in other words, laser red dot shooting your cat or dog, to see how warm he/she is, may not be 100% accurate. (though of course, I have done this… more than once…its seemed pretty accurate overall)
Accuracy has been tested on a variety of surfaces including the standard control : a pot of boiling water. Gun is accurate and spot on with repeated uses, at roughly 1 foot distance or less, per manufacturer recommendation.
This thermometer has a small LED red dot pin point guide, that displays on the test surface, so you can view exactly where you are reading the temperature at.
Blow Dryer Sedu 1875 watt, 6 speeds (for control test)
My personal hand held blow dryer, Works pretty well on my long hair, so should work equally as well for rough testing of heat distribution over a distance. I have had it a few years. It works great, with an even consistent heat blow out from a range of settings.
For test results we will be gauging temperature in a variety of locations. Units are run for roughly 3-5 minutes before each test to allow motors to warm up, as once a motor warms, any HVLP unit will blow warmer air from the hose rather then during the initial start up. Spray units and hoses were very warm to the touch compared to initial start up.
The test surface is a dry towel hung on a wall, at room temperature. My room is about 75 degrees. I allow the test surface to cool between tests to help keep results consistent. (or move to a different test area)
Guns, hoses etc are about 4-5 inches from surface, which is the normal recommended range from most spray guns to produce best product performance.
All temperatures are represented in Fahrenheit
Test surface temperatures:
Room temperature: 72–75 degrees (depending on location)
Surface temperature: 70-72 degrees dry (as towel became wet temperature changed slightly, so each test spray was done on a dry area)
Solution used was at room temperature, and had been so from many hours. Same product brand used for each test, with a fresh pour from the main bottle into the solution cup.
Time for the players to line up………..
Air temperature from the unit base orifice (hose removed)
- Maximist Lite: 91 degrees
- Maximist Evolution: 99 degrees (Max volume), Maximist Evolution (Min volume): 88 degrees
- Fascination FX: 98 degrees
- Venus Elite: (Max volume), 111 degrees ,Venus Elite (Min volume) 106 degrees
The Venus Elite starts with a strong showing, lots of heat here. The clear winner for this test.
Blow dryer comparison:
- Sedu Blow Dryer at 5 inches from surface: 135 degrees – very uncomfortable on the skin at this range
- Sedu Blow Dryer at 5 feet from surface: 85 degrees, skin feels some warmth
Air temperature at hose end (attached to base)
- Maximist Lite: 84 degrees
- Maximist evolution (Max volume): 95 degrees , Maximist evolution (Min volume): 86 degrees
- Fascination FX: 92 degrees
- Venus Elite (Max volume): 98 degrees , Venus Elite (Min volume): 95 degrees
Still have some nice warmth, even with hose attachment, this may be promising.
Air temperature at wall surface blowing from spray gun
- Maximist Lite: 81 degrees
- Maximist evolution: 85 degrees (Med volume, per mfg recommended setting)
- Fascination FX: 81 degrees
- Venus Elite (Max volume): 80 degrees , Venus Elite (Min volume) also 80 degrees
Quite a drop in tempts, but still may work out. No ice cubes appearing yet……..
Solution temperate sprayed on to wall surface
- Maximist Lite: 65 degrees
- Maximist evolution: 66 degrees (Med volume, per mfg recommended setting)
- Fascination FX: 65 degrees
- Venus Elite (Max volume): since temperature setting was the same on ether setting, 66 degrees
Wait, what happened there……. Who invited Mr Freeze to the game?
Yes, you read that right, the solution was the same approximate temperature when it hit the surface with every unit, even when using the “heated” unit.
Color me surprised – see my image proof below. I repeated this test a few times to confirm results, and readings were always consistent. Once the air solution mix is added in, things cool down fast.
Every unit tested, sprayed the solution at roughly the same temperature onto the skin surface. And is was not what most would consider warm.
The skin surface is going to be roughly 90 degrees, depending on body area- so using any unit, and spraying the skin, will still feel chilly. At least with units below the $5000 price point.
If you plan to stay under the $5000 mark, at this time, there is no unit that will produce a true “Heated Spray Tan” experience.
Other options to help create a warmer experience for your spray clients in the winter:
- Early in the day, remove solution from cool storage, and pour the amount needed in the next few hours into a container and allow to warm to room temperature
- If using a prep spray product or spray moisturizer, prewarm a selected amount using a microwave, allowing client to apply product with a prewarmed cloth. Or if spraying pretan products onto client, provide a prewarmed cloth, to allow client to wipe product off the skin surface. You may prewarm a cloth by soaking with prep or moisturizer spray, and warming (cloth MUST be wet, monitor to prevent melting, smoke or fire) In the microwave for a few seconds. Test temperature on inner wrist before handing to your client. Use common sense caution to avoid burns.
- Provide warmed towels, cloths and robes for clients in ta heated changing/drying area if they will need to wait before the spray session.
- Turn spray unit on for 5 or more minutes before your client steps in to the spray area, allowing the motor to warm, and blow warmer air. This will not damage a professional level unit.
- Place a small electrical space heater into the tented spray area, turned up very warm to pre warm the spray area, before client enters. Move the heater to the side out of the immediate spray area, to prevent damage to the heater. Please remove any trip, burn, or fire hazards from the area. (Keep your air hose away from the heater or it can damage it)
- Post spray session, dry clients skin with a hand held blow dryer on high heat to warm them. A diffuser can help spread heat over a larger surface area. A larger blow dryer will produce more heat. Follow with a powder dusting to lessen any sticky feel if needed.
- Stand client near a forced air space heater while drying and dressing. (advise client of heater location to avoid tripping or burns)
- Provide warm drinks if possible (Coffee, Tea, Coco)
Do you have some other options to help your clients have a warmer tanning experience, please add your comments to help out some of the other Industry Pros – I would love the hear your great tips and thoughts! — Vicki