How to Spray Tan Bodybuilders and Fitness Competitors

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Becoming a competition spray tanner can be both a very rewarding and a very stressful undertaking. It requires tons of dedication, hours of hardwork, and lots of homework. For all that effort though, the rewards can be tremendous. A single competition spray tan service can cost from $100-$150. Before your eyes fill with dollar signs though, you have to familiarize yourself with the nuances that differentiate competition spray tan services from regular spray tans.


Even if you’re a spray tan veteran, deciding to become a competition tanner is like stepping back into day one. The application, expectation, and requirements all differ from the tans that you’re used to. To start your journey, you first need to understand the competitors themselves.

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

If it were easy, everyone would do it. But being a fitness competitor is far from easy! All competitors will have a very strict diet and many use supplements, which could be negatively affecting their skin. They will almost definitely be suffering from dry skin as a result of excessive sweating, compounded by water rationing close to their competition day, and made even worse by the stress from the even more intense workout sessions leading up to competition day. All of these factores compile together to give them your worst nightmare: some of the most neglected skin in the spray tan industry.

Always make sure you communicate with your competitor: ask them what their current diet and regimen are so that you have a better idea of their needs. If they are suffering from dry skin, be sure to give them a good moisturizer and advise them to apply it twice-or even three times more often-than a client normally would. This will help combat the issue when it comes to spray tan time, but it also help them out in general!

2. Know what’s expected of your tan

Competitions offer their own unique set of requirements. Your competitor will be testing the limits of your spray tan: showing it off under stage lighting, in unique outfits, and under the gaze of the most scrutinizing judges. As a result, you need to make sure you know EXACTLY what is required for that competition. Always check with the local association in regards to their rules and guidelines, and keep in mind that each class (bikini, figure, physique, bodybuilding, WPD, MPD, 212) all require different darkness, and all have different rules and regulations.

Also be sure to check to see if there are any tanning restrictions before the competition–the last thing you want is for your competitor to be pulled out of line and made to shower off, or get kicked out entirely! 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 newcomers to the competition tanning industry waste time and money by spraying too much solution on their client, but it’s important to reign in that desire. While competition tans do have to be darker, if they go too dark then they can lose points with the judges. Remember: your spray tan should highlight 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. Use two coats of a medium or 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!

4. Know your timeline

A normal competition spray tan service comes with it’s own unique timeline. This is not a one-and-done service: it requires several visits.

Visit one
The first visit should take place about two or three days before the competition. Remember to tell your client to shave their entire body BEFORE this initial visit. Judges require that any area they see be hairless, and they’ll be seeing most areas! Remind your competitor to bring in the outfits they are going to be wearing (if possible) so that you can get a better sense of what will be exposed, what will rub, and where you need to pay extra attention. Please note that most competitors will request to be sprayed in the nude. Be sure to remind your client that they should avoid excessive sweating while their tan is developing!

Conduct a glaze test on visit one: 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.

Visit two
The second visit ought to occur the next day or the day before the competition. This is just a touch-up visit for you to make sure everything looks good, and so you can go a level darker if needed. This is also a great time to address any questions or concerns your competitor has, or to give them a pep talk about how great they look!

Bronzer Visit
The bronzer visit usually happens either the night before the competition, the morning of the competition or, if you’re accompanying your competitor to the event, at the competition itself. Make sure you have found a bronzer that will not streak or run when a competition glaze is applied to it!

The bronzer is NOT waterproof so make sure your competitor knows that so they don’t workout, take a shower, or go swimming after you’ve sprayed them. Spray the bronzer on as normal, and remember: most events do not allow contouring or body shaping, which can result in disqualification!

Test your Bronzer
If you can’t attend the competition and have to spray your client the night before then it’s sometimes best to ask a makeup artist to match a foundation to the tan for the competitor’s face rather than spray them with the bronzer (doublecheck that the association will have a makeup artist on hand during the event!). With heavy bronzers, stage lights might make their face look muddy and grey from the judges point of view, which will then bring the competitors score down, so you might find that you want to use makeup anyways. Plus, competitors will enjoy being able to wash their face the day of the show, without feeling greasy or oily!

5. Be the “bad guy”

Don’t let your spray tan competitor get away with not knowing how to treat their tan. It’s perfectly fine to call them out if they are breaking your rules: just remind them that they are paying you to help them win, so they are only sabotaging themselves! 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!

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
Draw string pants can cause rubbing and/or a lightening of the tan if they are pulled too tight.

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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