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  • Writer's pictureKim Van Tussenbroek


Updated: Jun 7, 2018

pH does matter when it comes to spray tanning!

What is pH?

As we are now discovering the pH level of the skin is really important when it comes to spray tanning and the development of the tan.

pH stands for potential of hydrogen or potential hydrogen, which is basically the concentration of Hydrogen Ions in a liquid.

Just to clear things up, it’s not actually the skin itself that has a pH reading. Objects that are solid can’t have a pH, so for anything to have a pH reading it must be liquid.

The skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface which is called the acid mantle. The acid mantle is a combination of the sebum (free fatty acids that are excreted from the skin’s sebaceous glands), and the lactic and amino acids from sweat. Producing this is a way that your skin naturally fights the growth of bad bacteria and keeps a comfortable level of moisture in your day to day life. This is what actually creates the skin’s pH. Your skin is continually producing this regularly and what is excreted through the skin is what gives the skins pH reading.

In all research documentation I have come across (as well as already being known as a standard term in the spray tanning industry), we will still refer to it as skin pH, but just remember that it’s what is excreted through the skin that is creating the pH not the skin itself.

The pH level of the skin refers to how acidic or alkaline it is. On a scale of 0-14, with 0 being the most acidic to 14 being the most alkaline, 7 is considered a neutral reading for your skin’s pH. The ideal pH for the skin should be slightly acidic – at around 5.5.

How does pH affect your spray tanning?

Spray tan solutions are formulated with a pH of around 4 – 6, so the standard pH level of the skin is perfectly suited to a spray tan solution. Having a skin’s pH with too high or too low a reading can potentially affect the outcome of the spray tan result.

The further the skins pH is away from the spray tan solution’s pH the less desired the results will be.

The important thing to remember is that not only do we have to worry about the pH of the skin for the duration of the time it’s on the skin, but also whilst the tan is developing for the first 24 hours… not just at the time of the spray tan application. Whatever is excreted through the skin will change the pH level of the skin and therefore the outcome of the spray tan, and as the tan is in development for anywhere up to 24-36 hours then we need to think about what we/clients are doing for the duration of that time to get the best spray tan results.

So this brings me to the question… Do spray tanning pH balancing sprays really work the way they are meant to?

If a clients pH is over or under 5.5, and the pH balancing spray is supposed to perfect the pH of the skin for your spray tan, and the pH naturally adjusts itself back to its standard pH level over time (1 pH point per hour), what happens if a client has a naturally higher pH level due to diet, or medication or other means? Their natural pH level will be higher than normal. The pH balancing spray that is used on the skin has a limited lifespan so what happens with the skin for the remaining 24-36 hours whilst either the solution is still on the clients skin or in development after their first initial wash off? Wouldn’t you continually have to use this product on the skin to ensure that the pH levels are perfect throughout the whole duration of the tanning process? As the pH of the skin isn’t actually the skin itself and what is excreted via the acid mantle, and this is an ongoing basis, wouldn’t the pH need to be adjusted repeatedly throughout the tanning process? I would think so… so a one off spray of a pH balancing spray wouldn’t make that much of a difference to the results of a spray tan.

The prep spray or pH balancing spray is perfect for those clients who may have have sweat, product or oil on their skin at the time of the appointment that the prep spray will remove when used, but I don’t think that it is 100% foolproof to guarantee that the pH of the skin will be adjusted for long enough to make a difference to the overall result of the spray tan.

Those clients who have a higher pH (alkaline) than the product being placed on the skin will find that their tans will over process quicker and go orange, but can also develop lighter but still with quite a golden result… which is why we say that the tan can turn orange easier with a higher pH level. This has also been confirmed in a report on Dihydroxyacetone by M.C Biotec Inc.

Those clients who have a lower pH (acidic) than the product being placed on the skin will find that that their tans may not develop as dark as they are meant to, and it also won’t last as long, so clients who have a lower pH will always develop lighter than normal and have a shorter lifespan. The only difference between a higher pH and lower pH result is that the lower pH skin will not overprocess the solution, so you will very rarely get an orangey or golden result with a client who has an overly acidic pH skin level.

pH Balanced Products… Are they ok for spray tanning?

We see everywhere products advertised as pH balanced, but are they beneficial for a spray tan?

In all reality a pH balanced product (ie pH balanced body washes, soaps etc) will have a pH reading of 7, which is still 1.5 pH points higher than the average pH level of the skin – 5.5… and can still lead to an unwanted result of a spray tan if used right before a spray tan appointment.

As mentioned before, we have found that if your skin is more acidic than the product being placed on the skin the spray tan won’t last as long and it will wear off very quickly… if the skin is more alkaline you are more inclined to go a golden or orange colour… and this is why no body products should ever be used on the skin whilst the spray tan is still in development due to the alkalinity of most body products. Even water with a pH of 7-8 can affect the outcome of a tan, and why a client should not shower within 3 hours of their spray tan appointment (natural pH of 5.5 – with water having a pH of 7-8. 8 - 5.5 = 2.5… so hence 2.5 - 3 hours before the skin’s pH is back to its standard pH level after showering with water only).

If you constantly shower with body products, especially the wrong body products you can strip the barrier of your skin. Soaps are very alkaline and the skin doesn’t set itself back to its natural pH level immediately, it takes a while for it to ‘reset’. In fact it takes about 1 pH point per hour to get back to its natural pH levels, so whilst the skin is resetting it can leave the skin extremely dry or oily in the meantime which is not good for the tan either way.

When selecting products for the skin slightly acidic pH levels are easiest for products to be absorbed by the skin as the standard pH for the skin is 5.5, and is why the pH of spray tanning solutions are formulated and manufactured with a lower pH level. Also, DHA is more stable in an acidic environment. Having a body wash or soap that is pH balanced is ok, but having one that is slightly acidic or at the perfect pH for the skin (5.5) works best as it doesn’t throw out your pH levels.

Look for products that have a pH of around 5.5-6.5 (lower than 7). These are perfect for your skin overall in everyday use, and is also perfect for maintaining the longevity of your spray tan.

Colour Me Bronze Professional is working on a specific body wash that has a pH of 5.5, which is absolutely PERFECT for a spray tan. You will definitely notice a difference when using this product, and your clients will also see a significant difference with the spray tan maintaining its colour for longer and hence extending the longevity of the spray tan.

Another product and Brand that I can recommend is TANfinity Skin care, which has soaps and body creams specifically formulated with a low pH. Most other products will be at 7 (balanced) or higher. Try to avoid these higher pH products as much as possible. Soaps can have a pH level of anywhere up to 9 or 11, which with long term use can permanently damage the acid mantle of the skin. You may not think that a pH level of 9 or 11 is damaging… but when you compare it to the pH of bleach, which is around 12.6 and you see the effects that bleach has when cleaning products, you can only imagine what damage a product with a slightly lower pH than bleach would do to the skin with long term use.

Colour Me Bronze Professional skin pH meter tester

Colour Me Bronze Professional has released a Skin pH Meter Tester that can test the pH levels of your client's skin prior to a solution being sprayed on to a client. They are specifically manufactured to be able to test the pH level of the skin.

These will be a fantastic way to ensure that the clients skin is at the perfect pH level and will allow you to adjust your selection of solution to accommodate the pH level of your clients skin... if the pH of the clients skin is slightly higher or lower you will be able to adjust the colour and DHA% that you use on your client to always get the perfect result. It will also give you that edge and advantage over other spray tanners in your area, as nobody else will be doing as an extensive a test on the clients skin prior to the application... it really brings the standard of your spray tanning and consultation process higher than anybody else using other solution Brands...

These pH Skin Testers will be available only to those spray tanners who are using the Colour Me Bronze Professional Brand.

If you found this information interesting, then you would enjoy our spray tanning courses. We provide you with so much information outside of the scope of a normal standard spray tanning course, as we feel this type of information is just as important as the standard subjects taught in spray tanning courses.

Our soon to be released online Standard Spray Tanning Course covers this and lots more.

If you haven't yet done one of our FREE online courses you can do so by clicking here, which will take you to our online training platform. This is where we will be continually adding in further courses... both free and paid courses... to give you the best education in the spray tanning industry. These courses can be taken by anybody worldwide and you will receive a Certificate of Completion once you have completed each course.

For enquiries on anything about the above topics please contact

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