How to Spray Tan Bodybuilders and Fitness Competitors

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Spray Tanning Tips for Bodybuilding and Fitness Competitions

We’ve all seen the pictures of guys and gals strutting their stuff on stage looking like they just climbed out of the La Brea Tar Pits, or that one with the really pale face whose body looks like a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar. “I would never want to look like that for a competition,” you say to yourself. Well guess what: Neither do they! Yes, there are some competitors who prefer to be darker than others, but 99% want to look their best without looking TOO dark.

Performance tans factor hugely into the final scores, so competitors want to be sure that their tan is highlighting all their hard work rather than hiding it within a blanket of super-dark tan.

And the best way to ensure you are providing the best tan possible for your fitness competitor is to get to know the industry:


Even if you’ve been spray tanning for years, becoming a competition tanner is a whole new world. The application, the expectation, the requirements: all differ from everyday tanning. To make sure you and your competitors are happy when they take the stage, make sure you follow these steps:

1. Learn what your competition clients put their body and skin through:

Dryness related to excessive sweating, water rationing close to their competition day, added stress caused by the more intense training sessions leading up to the competition, and a strict basic diet are going to be your biggest obstacles: all of these worsen the condition of your clients’ already neglected skin.

Be sure to ask your client what regimen they are currently under so that you can have a better idea of what they are going through. If they are suffering from severe dry skin, give them a great moisturizer and tell them to apply it twice-or even three times more often-than a “normal” client would. Also, be sure that they exfoliate before their spray tan!

2. Know what’s expected of your tan

Competitors are a different breed of spray tanner: they will be putting your tan through the paces under stage lighting and in unique outfits. As a result, it is of utmost importance that you know everything that’s required to spray a competitor.

A competition tan is designed to accentuate and highlight your client’s muscle definition. You want a color that will define and draw attention to your competitor’s hard work while they are on stage. When spraying your competition client keep in mind that they will be posing for the judges. This means that you need to pay special attention to their underarms and gluteal region to ensure that they have proper color—failure to do so will cost your competitor points!

3. Practice the technique of competition spray tanning

Many first-time competition tanners waste time and money by over spraying their client, thinking that they need to douse them in bronzers and dark solutions to get them to their desired color. This often results in clients whose stage tan looks dirty, muddy, way too dark, runny, or even discolored; luckily, this can be easily avoided.

Remember: your spray tan should highlight and contour their muscles, not hide them!

Use slower strokes than you would when conducting a standard spray tan; you want a more defined, sculpted look rather than a lighter, subtle touch. Be sure to use two coats of a medium-to-dark solution, but be careful to avoid going too heavy around the underarms and the face so that the tan doesn’t looked caked on or clumpy-looking. As always, make sure the tan looks even!

Tan your competitor for the first time about 2-3 days before the competition itself, then have them come in for another round of spray tanning so that they can go a level darker or can get some touch ups if needed, or to address any concerns or issues before the day of the competition.

It’s important to remember that traditional spray tans require 8-12 hours to fully develop, and that your client may have to sleep in it overnight. Be sure to remind your client that they should avoid excessive sweating while their tan is developing!

On the day of the competition: Many competitors ask their spray tanner to accompany them to competition day so that the bronzer can be applied right before they go on stage. This is a great way to avoid streaking, running, or blotching from being sprayed the night before. Thankfully, your client will not need to exfoliate before the competition bronzer is applied.

If you can’t make it to the competition, or if the competitor has to travel, spray them at the latest possible time and then have them CLOSELY follow the instructions in the “Make sure they aren’t sabotaging their tans” section found below.

Note: Make sure you find a bronzer that will not streak or run when a competition glaze is applied to it! (This may require testing before the competition).

Knowing your audience can help your competition client gain some extra points: Judges prefer bodybuilders to be shinier on stage but bikini girls don’t need to be shiny

4. Make sure THEY aren’t sabotaging their tans:

Look over these common mistakes and the significant impact each can have on your competitor!

Improper prep: In and out of the competition tanning industry, this is one of the leading causes of a lackluster tan. Make sure your client is exfoliating with an oil-free exfoliant, and not just rinsing off. It’s also important to make sure that they don’t then put anything on: no soaps, deodorants, body scrubs, oils: no nothing—keep your skin as fresh as possible for your spray tan! –Click here to learn more about proper care of your spray tan

Additional Note: Make sure your client shaves their entire body BEFORE getting a spray tan. Any area that the judges can see needs to be shaved.

Bring in your outfits: If possible, have your clients bring in their outfits so that they can see how the tan will look on stage—this will also ensure that you don’t miss any spots when tanning.

Don’t wear that hat: A tight hat might smudge the competition bronzer across your forehead so if you do want to wear a hat, make sure it’s very loose.

Avoid tight draw strings: Drawstring pants can cause rubbing and/or a lightening of the tan if they are pulled too tight.

Conduct a glaze test: If it’s possible, have your competitor bring in the glaze that they will be using on the day of the competition so that you can do a test run on them to see how the final color looks—it’s always better to be prepared than to be disappointed on stage. Beware of fruit: If you have a hankering for some fruit, be sure to drape a towel around your neck so that you don’t get squirted with the juice—fruit juice, especially that from grapefruit, can alter the color of your bronzer and could turn it green!

Spray Tanning for Competition FAQs:

How much should I charge for competition tanning?

Competition tanning requires a lot of work from both the competitor and the tanner, therefore it is understood that this is a premium service which does come with a higher price point. Some competition tanners offer a “one-time fee” which includes two pre-competition tans, a bronzer application, and any touch ups required; others offer it as a “as needed” service, meaning that they charge only for what the competitor uses (so if they need only need one session of spray tanning they don’t get charged for the second session). Realistically you should expect to charge anywhere around $95-$150 if you are not traveling to the competition and $150-$200 if you are joining your competitor at the event.

How many tans will my competitor need?

Your competitor will probably need one full tanning session followed by another session of either tanning or touchups, and a bronzer application session. But keep in mind that they may need some emergency touchups, so if you commit to being their tanner be aware that you may be receiving some frantic calls!

What should I tell my client to wear to his/her tanning session?

Because competition tanning goes on a bit heavier than standard spray tanning, even with an oil-free, less sticky solution it is recommended that your client wears loose-fitting clothing with no elastic waistbands; and as always make sure they don’t get wet and avoid excessive sweating!

How long will a competition tan last?

Because the first two sessions of a competition tan were conducted with a medium-to-dark spray tan solution containing DHA, you can expect that the spray tan will last anywhere between 5-15 days depending on how dry your client’s skin is and how frequently they use a moisturizer. The bronzer portion of the competition tan will wash off as soon as your client rinses in the shower: this is important for them to know so that they don’t rinse before attending the event if you are spray tanning them early!

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