Creating the perfect spray tan might not — scratch that, definitely isn’t — as simple as one might think. Working with spray tan solutions and achieving the perfect ‘tone/shade’ for each client, requires the extensive, scientific understanding of the solution being applied.

Remember the iconic spray tan scene from Friends, where Ross fails to follow the ‘simple’ instructions from the technician and (hilariously) ends up about 8 shades too dark on one side of his body? Skilled technicians in our industry ensure that will never happen to a client, but in order to do so, we need to understand the ins and outs of how to apply colour theory.

In our industry, there are three main components attributing to the (consistent) creation of a great tan:

1. An intricate understanding and application of colour theory
2. A solid understanding of the ingredients and compounds within the cosmetic makeup of each solution
3. Proper application in accordance to each client’s skin undertones

Luckily, I’m going to break this all down for you, and specifically discuss what working with green-based spray tan solutions require and what results you can expect. 

To begin, let’s identify the cosmetic makeup for a “green base” solution:

  • 2 parts red
  • 1 part yellow 
  • 1 part green 

Why is this colour breakdown so important to know? Because no matter which way you slice it, a green base solution will always provide a “golden” brown, resulting in a warmer-toned solution. If your wondering why, it’s simple colour theory math! Red + Green = Brown. Since yellow is a warm colour on the colour wheel, yellow is added to warm the solution up.

Now, let’s get to the really important part of this theory.

There are two key things to remember when applying spray tan solutions that will, undoubtedly, save you from a lot of botched tans (and unhappy clients).



Remember, we are usually trying to enhance and cancel out tones out of the skin hence why we apply solution based on this theory.

Pink, red and blue undertones found in skin are considered to be “cool undertones”. On the other hand, Yellow, Golden, Peach undertones found in skin would be considered “warm undertones”.

So, if your client’s skin exhibits pink, red or blue undertones, you would select a warm-based solution (like the green based) to create a tan that compliments their natural skin tone.

However, if you find yourself with a client who has a neutral skin undertone, you would create a 50/50 mixture of violet and green to neutralize both pigments of warm and cool.

Here is where things can get a little more complicated…

Not every solution offers the same percentage of dyes as the one I used for my makeup example. One company may have 1 part yellow, 1 part green and 2 parts red, while another might have 1 part red, 1 part green and 2 parts yellow (creating a more golden result). The key to success (and the proper application of this theory) lies in your attention to detail — make sure you double check the ingredients of each solution you use, to apply it correctly for different skin types and tones. 

Green base solutions typically can work for most skin types as it is categorized as a more “universal” colour. Which we explain in great detail about what this means in our educational classes available at our Training Center located in Toronto or now available Virtual Online.

Armed with this understanding of colour theory and the individualistic nature of each solution and — of course — each client’s skin tone, technicians are able to achieve the perfect, bronzed result for every client, every time!

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