How to Start a Mobile Sunless Tanning Business

Updated March 23, 2017

As more studies reveal the dangers associated with traditional sun tanning, people are turning to sunless tanning for a safe and healthy tan. With sunless tanning, a solution is sprayed onto the body, creating a tan that can last up to two weeks. If you are considering starting your own business, are personable and comfortable working in an intimate environment, consider a mobile sunless tanning business.

Understand what you are getting yourself into. A mobile business presents fewer risks and start-up fees; however, expect to pay around £6,500 for the sunless tanning equipment, your van, licenses, fees, advertising and accounting tools. Write up a business plan to help you identify your competition, any potential roadblocks and the financial commitment.

Enrol in an airbrush and high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) training course, if you are not already familiar with sunless tanning. Doing so will help you become familiar with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, how to prepare your customers skin, how different ingredients may affect different types of skin and how to apply your sunless solution. Your state may require you to provide proof of your training. In addition, this will help you identify what type of equipment you will offer, such as airbrushing, low-volume, low-pressure (LVLP) guns or HVLP guns.

Contact your state board of cosmetology about any licenses you may need, in addition to your business license and sales tax permit.

Purchase your equipment. An airbrush system may be cheaper, but it offers a smaller range of motion and can take longer to complete a tan than the HVLP. The HVLP or LVLP gun has less overspray. On the other hand, some HVLP systems can be particularly noisy. Be sure to speak with a knowledgeable sales representative about which system is right for you. Things to consider are the size of the equipment, whether it comes with a warranty and how the long the company has been in business. In addition, you may sell tanning lotions, exfoliating creams and other moisturisers.

Purchase a utility van. Check out and your local paper for deals. Then adorn your van with your business name, license number and phone number, as well as a note stating that you are insured and a fun logo. If you have not yet purchased liability and auto insurance, do so now. Purchase shelving, mirrors, a comfy chair, a makeshift cash counter and cute decor, such as faux plants for your van.

Select locations for your mobile unit. In addition to visiting your clients' homes, consider setting up a temporary shop at fairs, flea markets, gym car parks, outside of beauty salons, hotels and shopping centres. Ensure that each location is properly zoned in advance, to avoid any fines. You may be need a temporary vendor's license for each location, so be sure to check in advance.

Make a name for yourself. Introduce yourself to local business owners who may be interested in exchanging clients. Advertise on notice boards at grocery stores, Laundromats, local restaurants, gyms, and college campuses. Consider setting up a booth at your local community college. Pass flyers and coupons around neighbourhoods that allow solicitation.


Set up a merchant account for your mobile business. Visit local tanning and beauty salons to get an idea of what to charge your clients. Be sure to include the cost of gas and van maintenance when calculating the amount you will need to make in order to turn a profit.

Things You'll Need

  • Van
  • Tanning equipment
  • Driving licence
  • Liability insurance
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About the Author

Shanika Chapman has been writing business-related articles since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in social science from the University of Maryland University College. Chapman also served for four years in the Air Force and has run a successful business since 2008.