Faux Tan How-To: Part Two with Alison of Malibu Tans RVA

by christinamdick

Meet Alison, Richmond’s spray tan expert and my lovely friend. I’ve been seeing her for years to get spray tans for special occasions. Alison owns Malibu Tans here in Richmond, and she’s generously agreed to share her faux tan secrets with us. Read on to find out her favorite products, what’s in her makeup bag and the one thing she tells all her customers!


Tiramisu For Breakfast: How long have you been in the industry?

Alison: I’ve been in the industry for the past 12 years. I started by answering phones at a skincare spa and loved it so much that I got my aesthetics license! I’ve been an airbrush tanning artist for 8 years and worked at the big salons like Nesbit and Bombshell before going out on my own.


TFB: Tell us about your business. Where is it located? Who are your clients? What are your goals/vision for the company?

A: Malibu Tans is 1 year old and located in the West End on Skipwith Road near the intersection of Parham Road and Broad Street. It’s in a little yellow building that used to be a house. My typical client is anyone who wants to look like they have a tan, but is short on time and doesn’t want to go in the sun or a tanning bed. They are concerned about the health of their skin but still want that “sun-kissed” look. My goal is to provide the best service using the highest quality organic products. I want to help people look their best while caring for their skin.

TFB: Why a spray tan?

A: Spray tans are fantastic because they are fast and UV-Free. You can go from Winter pale to dark bronze overnight! It takes about 10 minutes to apply the tanning solution and then it gets darker while it develops over the next 8 hours. You can also choose how dark you want to be. And it’s customizable so if you want your legs to be darker than your body or face, I can do that!

TFB: How long does it last?

A: The airbrush tan lasts from 5-7 days if you take care of it correctly. This means moisturizing well every day and avoiding certain products like mineral oil and Dove. Hot tubs, pools, and sweating a lot can also fade the tan faster.

TFB: What are the different types of spray tan options?

A: At Malibu Tans I do offer a few different spray tan options. First, I have 6 shades of traditional tanning solution to choose from. Everything from a light golden glow to a dark chocolate-y brown. I also have an “express” solution for clients on the go. I spray it on just like regular tanning solution but you wash it off after only 1-3 hours. It still takes 8 hours for the color to peak, but you can wear regular clothes sooner. Secondly, you can choose to tan your full body, only half of your body, or just your face. And finally, I offer a pH balancing prep spray for clients who didn’t get a chance to shower.


TFB: How does it work? How long does it take? What does it feel like? Does it smell? Will it rub off on my clothes?

A: The spray tan is actually a simple chemical reaction. It’s called the Maillard Reaction and it’s the exact same chemical reaction that happens when you cut up an apple and leave it out. It gradually turns brown.
The tanning solution contains sugar (DHA) that reacts with the amino acids in your skin cells and causes them to oxidize and turn brown. You are the apple! The more DHA in the tanning solution, the darker you get. The tanning appointment is fairly quick. The airbrush tan takes 10 minutes to apply but 8 hours to fully set in. You have to be careful for the first 8 hours not to get wet. It will mess up the tan. Since the tanning solution is made from sugar, it does have a sticky feel to it, especially for the first hour or so. It also has a slight odor. The tanning solution I use doesn’t smell as strong as most, but your own body chemistry will determine the final outcome.I recommend wearing loose, dark clothing to the tanning appointment because the cosmetic bronzer in the solution can rub off on your clothes.

TFB: How should someone come prepared for a tan? What should they wear?

A: To prepare for the tan you want to exfoliate your skin so it’s nice and smooth, concentrating on elbows, knees, feet and anywhere you might have a rough patch. You also want to do all of your hair removal before the tan. This includes waxing, shaving and depilatory creams. If you plan on getting a mani/pedi, a facial or a massage, do them before the tan, too. All of these services can remove the tan or make it streaky. The day of the tan, try not to use lotions, oils, or perfumes. You will want to bring loose, dark clothing to your tanning appointment. You don’t want to rub the tan off with tight clothes. Flip-flops are helpful so you don’t get sock or shoe “tan lines”. You can wear a bathing suit, a thong or panties, or nothing at all during your tanning session. I have disposable thongs at the salon for my clients to use if they want.

TFB: What products do you recommend? Which ones do you carry? I know I like the bronze buffer.

A: I’m a product junkie so I have lots of recommendations. First, you need a sulfate-free body wash when you have a spray tan. No bar soap and no Dove! I like the California Tan Sunless Body Wash. Second, you need to moisturize well but you can’t use anything with mineral oil. I use the Norvell Body Butter. It’s thick and has a light lime scent that’s great in the morning. I also use plain Aveeno lotion at my boyfriend’s house. It works well with the spray tan and doesn’t smell “girly” so I can share it with him. Third, you need a good tan extender. They are lotions that have a little self-tanner in them so it gives your color a little extra “oomph”. I love the Norvell Venetian tan extender because it’s a bit darker than most and I can see results after just one use. And finally, to fix any trouble spots I also love the Bronze Buffer. It’s like a Magic Eraser for self-tanner! I carry the Norvell line of tanning products, as well as Coola organic sunscreen and the Bronze Buffer. But I will try anything once:)

TFB: How often do your typical spray tan clients come in? Do they use self tanner on their own in-between appointments? Do some people come in only for special occasions, or is it more of a regular thing?

A: Clients who want to maintain a healthy glow all year round come in about every other week. Some come in just for special occasions like weddings, vacations, and charity galas. I do have many clients who use tan extenders between appointments. I also have some who choose to use self-tanner at home but I warn them to not use it until a week after getting a spray tan. Too many layer of sunless tanner can take on an orange-y look.

TFB: What’s one thing you tell all of your clients?

A: The one thing I tell all of my clients is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! It really does help to hold the tan longer and allow it to fade more naturally.

TFB: What’s on your vacation checklist?

A: I always like to get a pedi with a bright polish before I go on vacation. The vibrant colors look great against my gold Tory Burch sandals. Of course getting a bikini wax and a dark spray tan are also on that list. I usually bring my Unite Beach Day salt spray to give my hair beachy waves. A trashy novel is my required beach reading and I keep my Olympus TG-4 camera ready to snap pics. Laura Mercier SPF 20 tinted moisturizer is what I use on my face and Coola Sport SPF 30 spray in Pina Colada for my body.

TFB: What’s your personal skincare/tanning routine?

A: Being an aesthetician, I’m pretty into skincare. I love using cutting edge stuff. My skin is a little sensitive so I wash with the SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser. I’ve been using the Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair to moisturize day and night. When the tan on my face looks like it’s fading, I’ll substitute the Norvell Clear Complexion Gradual Facial Tanner & Moisturizer for the Blue Copper. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 is my go-to sunscreen. And lately I’ve really gotten into the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer in Radiance. It has a slight shimmer that makes your skin look lit from within. To keep my skin from looking it’s age, I also get facials and light chemical peels. Enzyme peels are my favorite! And for good measure, I get Botox from Dr. Godin a few times a year. As far as my tanning routine goes, I get my boyfriend to give me a spray tan every other week by bribing him with dinner. Yes, I had to teach my BF how to spray tan:) I also use tan extender every few days so I never get too white.

makeup bag

TFB: What’s in your makeup bag?

A: My makeup bag has lots of goodies in it! MAC eyeshadows are my favorite but I also have some great ones from Bobbi Brown and Too Faced. MAC Mineralize Loose Powder Foundation is what I dust over my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, followed by bareMinerals READY Bronzer in Skinny Dip. Benefit Erase Paste is the best under eye brightener. It actually makes it look like I got sleep! MAC blush in Dainty and Nars blush in Orgasm are what I use to give myself a flushed look. And I love my Smashbox SoftLights highlighters in Shimmer and Prism. My mascara routine is a bit weird but I’ve been doing it since high school and nothing seems to work better. I layer Lancome Definicils mascara over L’oreal Voluminous. It gives me volume and length and doesn’t run very easily. Finally, I use Coola Makeup Setting Spray SPF30 to keep everything where it should be.

TFB: I know I met you through social media. Do you think social media has helped your business? How do you promote your business?

A: Social Media is a wonderful tool. I personally use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for my business. I think it’s a great way to connect and engage with my clients. But when it comes down to it, good old fashioned word of mouth is what gets me the most new business. And Yelp. I’ve gotten quite a few new clients from Yelp. I try to also promote my business through community involvement. I was a sponsor for RVA Fashion Week, Cinderella Dreams, and I’ve donated time, services, and products to local charities such as American Heart Association, Massey Cancer, and Richmond Animal League. I enjoy giving back to the city I love.

Alison is having an event at Malibu Tans this weekend featuring a makeup artist from Bobbi Brown. Come check out her salon and get your makeup done! Details here.

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