Behind the Scenes of Sydney’s New Automated Tanning Studio, The Afterglow

The Afterglow – a self-titled automated glow studio – is at the forefront of the self-service tanning trend. Hannah Gay caught up with owners Jessica Leonard and Ashleigh Potocki to better understand the business model’s appeal.

The Afterglow tanning salon owners
Owners of The Afterglow Jessica Leonard and Ashleigh Potocki

When did The Afterglow open its doors at Illawong, south of Sydney?

“We opened on November 22 2023.”

Why did you opt to set up a salon at this location?

“When opening a business of this type (heavily automated, unmanned, self-service) we felt it really important that it was close to not only our homes, but our existing businesses. We are able to be here within ten minutes, if necessary.”

Talk us through the space’s look, feel and design choices.

We are very fortunate to have had access to extremely experienced trades (who were very patient with us). They collaborated closely with us on how to make this space feel beautiful and luxe, and like your own personal oasis yet be functional. For example, everything is centred around our name – The Afterglow. Our beautiful orange roof gives off glowy sunset vibes but also acts as a barrier to the inevitable wear that comes with spray tanning. 

And whilst we are a business born out of convenience, we are also a business of luxury and offer a moment of peace for our clients, so the sparkling and boiling water tap in our beverage corner and cosy waiting area were non-negotiables for us. Our custom mirror [was chosen] to encourage user generated content. And our colour palette has been considered with each and every design decision, promoting cohesion and brand recognition.

The vending machine choices were endless, but it was essential that it felt like part of the room and not an added extra!”

The Afterglow Tanning Salon Design

How many staff members do you employ?

“Ash’s PA assists a few hours a week with social media and maintenance, and we have a cleaner, but everything else is managed by [the two of us]. As a self-service business, the labour is certainly reduced, which is why we opted for this business model.”

Jessica, I understand you have 20 years experience working in the industry! What led you to open a tanning business?

“My other clinic, Beauty at Bliss, was spray tanning for almost 20 years, however at the end of 2022 we ceased this service for varying reasons – it can be loud and messy, and we really want to focus on skin and up-and-coming technologies. This caused an UPROAR, so I knew we needed to offer something else locally, but in a completely ground-breaking way. Moving to [an automated model] made complete sense.”

I understand you offer two hero services – tanning and LED. What is it about these two treatments that compliment each other?

“Firstly, it needed to be an automated service. As our business is a blend of groundbreaking technology and beauty offerings, we needed the second room to house something equally exciting for our customers.

We really wanted to offer something new. As far as we can see, we are the only studio in Australia offering self-service LED light therapy with devices that are TGA approved and clinically proven to treat a range of skin conditions. Whilst we want the experience to be relaxing and a new concept to our customers, we also want it to be something that provides them with results. The Dermalux Tri-Wave MD does exactly that.

We offer the option of booking out the entire space, which would mean coming in, having a shower, a massage and LED treatment, then a spray tan. It’s not rushed – there’s ample time to sit and enjoy a tea and biscuit in solitude. It’s the perfect me-time, especially for those that want a treatment without conversation or human interaction; a real cup-filling experience.”

LED salon room design at The Afterglow

I understand you operate tans using the VespaSpa Pro device. Talk us through the benefits of working with an automated tanning device? Has the investment paid off?

“Sunless are at the forefront of tanning technology and the VersaSpa Pro is their newest offering. It really is a step up from what we have seen previously in terms of the customer/user interface, as well as the way the tan is actually applied. We are really happy with the decision, and look forward to continuing to work with them. 

The benefits of automated tanning are obviously privacy (we have so many customers that have not tanned for years due to body image or shame of being seen naked, or younger girls wanting a tan for their formals), and we then remove the element of human error when giving someone a spray tan.”

Jessica Leonard and Ashleigh Potocki with the VersaSpa Pro Tanning Machine
Jessica Leonard and Ashleigh Potocki with the VersaSpa Pro Tanning Machine

 You also provide a shower to all incoming tanners. Why did you feel this service was important?

“Many people come from work or the gym and we wanted to ensure they could have perfect tan prep right here in the studio. We provide towels, body care and prep products. The end-to-end element of our offering is essential. If you need it for the perfect tan or LED experience, we offer it.”

“The end-to-end element of our offering is essential. If you need it for the perfect tan or LED experience, we offer it.”

Clients can choose to purchase a membership. What are the benefits to your business and to your clients offering this payment option?

“The benefit for our business is in forecasting budgeting and cashflow. Our members benefit by having access to a cheaper service offering.” 

What are your 2024 plans for the business?

Our plan is to expand and look to open more sites in Australia. We recently did extensive research on automated beauty clinics globally with plans to visit them and apply any findings to The Afterglow, but it appears that we ARE the global trailblazers and we can’t wait to continue this journey!”

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