May 2010

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Spray Your Way to Success

When it comes to dealing with brides, proms and other special occasion groups “spraying” can give you a competitive edge and fabulous results.

Spraying? Yes, airbrushing makeup foundation can get a flawless finish in a fraction of the time it takes to put it on the conventional way.

You can take your spraying a step farther by offering your clients a truly healthy alternative to tanning by airbrushing on their tan.

Airbrushed makeup looks good in photos, from a distance and close up. Instead of looking like makeup, it looks like fabulous skin.

That is why the larger television stations that have an in-house makeup artist are turning to airbrush makeup for high-definition television broadcasting. Dinair, Kett and other major suppliers have foundation formulas that are water soluble, waterproof or water resistant, depending on which one you purchase.

It is important which base you are using as you must clean the device with the cleaner designed to go with the base. A water base product means the machine should be cleaned with water. The water proof base must be cleaned with an alcohol based product. If you try to clean it with water the foundation will set up in the gun and you will have a royal mess.

Airbrush makeup can vary from just applying the base to doing foundation, blush, contouring and, with practice, even eye shadow. But most artists like to just spray on the base, maybe a dusting of blush or contour and then go from there with their powders. I found the sprayed-on shadow tones had more of a tendency to crease around the eyes. There is also a risk of cornea damage if your machine is putting out too much air pressure. Powder eye shadows also come in a much wider range of colors to allow for your artistic creativity.

Learning to airbrush is easy. You can learn the basics and get a pretty good feel for it in a one-day class. The equipment has changed dramatically from when I first started doing it in the 1980s. Then it was large, noisy and somewhat intrusive. Now the units are small quiet and portable. While some manufacturers offer a DVD, I strongly recommend finding a class to take, or find someone that does it and hire them to teach you. As with anything else, there are some tricks to get the best results that come with the hands-on approach. In a group situation you will also get to experience what it feels like and as with every other part of esthetics, there is much to learn by being the client.

You can get everything you need in an airbrush makeup kit. Go with one of the firms that is known for these units rather than trying to pick up something at a hobby store. Why? I tried it that way and ended up getting devices that weren’t designed for this job and constantly broke down. Once I went with the professional equipment, my work life has been much easier. Airbrush devices do however require that you take the time to keep them cleaned out – EVERY time you use them. If you don’t, the next time when you need them they probably won’t work. As with any other fine piece of equipment, they need proper maintenance. It’s easy, but it must be done.

Makeup airbrush kits start about $279 - $500 depending on what is included in the kit besides the airbrush unit. Most manufacturers include some foundations. Variations in price can be based on how many foundation colors are included and the size of those foundations. Be sure to check the size of containers as this will greatly affect the cost. The smallest size is big enough to do just a few faces. As a professional, you will be better off to invest in the larger size bottles.

The cost of the investment can be quickly recouped by the increased price that the specialty makeup goes for, anywhere from $10 - $25 more than manual application. It will also help you trim the time it takes to complete a client so that you can do a wedding party in a shorter period of time.

With the dermatologists working diligently to get tanning beds with much more severe restrictions, anyone doing spray tanning is going to see an increase in their business. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) president just testified before a FDA panel considering changes in the classification of tanning devices.

The AADA president stated there is “Compelling, irrefutable scientific evidence showing that indoor tanning is causing skin cancer in our young people and that is unacceptable.” Dr. James went on to say, “At the very least we encourage the FDA to shift the classification of indoor tanning to one that more closely matches the health risks of these devices and place additional regulations on these harmful devices.”

While they would like to see them totally banned, they at least want to prohibit their use to minors and implement other restrictions.

So airbrushing is starting to replace tanning beds as a much safer way to have color for that special occasion. Like airbrushing makeup, it can be learned in a one day class – at least the basics. Learning to sculpt and contour the body like is being done for models and body competitors can take more time and practice.

A key consideration to the spray tanning is air quality control. There needs to be some form of protection for both the client and the technician so that they aren’t breathing in the fine airborne overspray. OSHA and other agencies are keeping an eye on this. You will breathe it if you aren’t wearing a mask. Some systems employ an exhaust setup. Some have the client hold their breath. It is certainly something that must be looked at for the long term side effects to prevent lung irritation or later respiratory problems.

There is also the issue of overspray in the room. While it is pretty easy to control where the spray on a face is going, doing a full body is different. Some clinics have incorporated a special work area lined with shower type curtains that can easily be taken down and washed. Others use a permanent or pop-up tent system that the client stands in to control where the overspray is going.

The compressor required for body services is generally more powerful than those for the face. They need to be able to put out more product and pressure to get the job done.

By the time you get all of your supplies expect to invest between $400 and $600. Pricing for the services will vary with location, just as it does for any other service. Some clinics charge more and do two coats on the first visit and then less expensive one coat maintenance tans. A Seattle reporter tested out spray tanning and reported that she still had color on her legs a week later although her face had paled. So this is a business that will have routine repeat clients.

If you want to get a jump on serving specialty clients, and increase your revenues, check out the great ways to spray yourself to success.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit