How Long To a Spray Tan?

How Long Does a Spray Tan Take?

Some sellers of spray tanning equipment make the marketing claim that a spray tan can be done in two minutes with an HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray tan system, the dominant choice in spray tan equipment today. That’s a bit rushed. A quality result is more important than to apply the spray tan as quickly as possible. The actual application can be done in 5 minutes. Some technicians will do two spray passes versus one, which will take a little longer. An allowance for drying time, 5 to 10 minutes, needs to be added as well. Drying time can be shortened by using direct air from the air hose or with a hair dryer. Your technician may also apply a tanning prep-spray. This can be done quickly with a spritzer bottle.

How Long Does an Airbrush Tan Take?

Airbrushes were once the dominant form of spray tanning application. In fact, airbrush tanning was the common name referring to a spray tan. Longer application time was often the complaint. Application time was an issue if you selected the wrong equipment. Application time could be over 20 minutes with some airbrushes. In our tests, the Iwata Revolution BCR 2000 airbrush took about 5 minutes 30 seconds to apply 2 ounces at 15 psi. The Sparmax GP-850 TurboSpeed Tanning Airbrush took about 4 minutes to spray 2 ounces at 15 psi. The high-end Iwata G6 airbrush looks like a spray gun and sprays as fast as a spray gun. But a G6 system is costly. We always recommend using high-flow airbrushes with at least a .5mm needle opening for airbrush tanning.

HVLP History and Current Application

HVLP technology was first developed for auto painting and has extended its relevant application to woodworking and artistry. In the auto world, the traditional spray gun operated close to 50 psi, a pressure that creates a large amount of overspray along with obvious health and environmental concerns. HVLP technology created a system that used a high volume of air to atomize paint at a very low pressure, less than 10 psi, resulting in significantly less overspray, lower material usage and a safer workplace.

In spray tanning, an airbrush tan uses a significantly lower 15 psi and an HVLP spray tan uses no more than 10 psi. The sunless spray tanning solution, being water based, is relatively safe, being approved for external application to the skin.*

*This does not indicate HVLP sunless tanning spray is not hazard-free, and it is essential to have proper ventilation, follow proper protocol and spray at the correct psi during the tanning session.

One of the appealing traits of HVLP technology for spray tanning is the wider spray pattern of the spray gun. A full size HVLP gun may have as much as an 8 inch spray pattern. A touch up HVLP gun may have a spray pattern near 4 inches. The typical airbrush has no more than a 2 inch pattern. Wider patterns make for quicker application. The wider patterns of a spray gun are usually facilitated by the availability of a “fan pattern” feature unavailable on most airbrushes.

Turbine System Disadvantages

Turbine systems still utilize vacuum cleaner type motors running in reverse. They can be loud in a salon situation. Plus, many spray tanning systems are poorly adapted paint sprayers, designed to work with thick-viscosity fluids and are poorly suited to spraying a water-based spray tanning solution. Because of the thin consistency of spray tanning solution, unmodified systems produce inadequate results. No more than a "two-stage HVLP system", automatically paired with a reduced spray gun needle/nozzle is appropriate for spray tanning.

HVLP Conversion Guns

HVLP technology is not solely defined by turbines. In fact, most HVLP systems use air compressors to drive what is known as HVLP conversion guns. In auto applications, powerful compressors are often available due to the need to power air tools. HVLP conversion guns give the benefits of HVLP technology and applies it to a lower psi range. But, the air compressors required for HVLP conversion technology are often too bulky or expensive for spray tanning. So, most HVLP spray tanning systems are driven by turbines.