Fun in the Sun

Business owner and spray tan technician Ashley McKinzey makes her clients feel bronzed and beautiful at Third Coast Spray Tans & More.

By: Stephanie Kusy
Photos by: Paul Marshall

A nicely tanned body might be the hottest accessory anyone can own. Everyone knows a bit of color makes most people look better. Now that beautiful bronzed look can be achieved instantly without baking in the sun for hours and causing skin damage. At Third Coast Spray Tans & More, owner Ashley McKinzey makes sure the gorgeous glow lasts year-round. She has been delivering high-quality airbrush spray tanning since 2008.

McKinzey says she got her start in airbrush spray tanning after she bought the equipment to try on herself. Soon after, she began practicing on friends and family, and they loved the look. “The cool thing about spray tanning is that it gives men and women a sense of confidence. That’s what I love the most,” she explains. “They leave feeling so much better about themselves. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to give that gift to someone.”

McKinzey initially went mobile back in 2008. She traveled to 10 to 15 homes a day to spray tan clients. Eventually she turned her home office into a spray tanning room. After a year-and-a-half, she grew out of the space and opened a boutique on the South Side in January, which features two spray tanning rooms, two standup UV tanning beds, one lay-down bed, lotions and a line of clothing and swimsuits to show off that golden glow.

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Bright colors cover the walls of the nautical-themed boutique. It matches the owner’s personality, a 28-year-old mom who seems to do it all. “I was scared to death to open this location, as this was the first time in my career I had such a large overhead,” she says, “but I give all the glory to God to be able to have such a great location and see it prosper.”

Her two boys, Vincent, 9, and Sylus, 5, play quietly in the other room while the interview takes place. Sylus was born with a congenital heart defect called double outlet right ventricle, and he has undergone three major open-heart surgeries at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. McKinzey’s children are the driving force behind her business. When her husband left for Arizona to attend school for 14 months, she needed a source of income to provide for her family, yet be flexible enough to tend to her son’s medical needs.

“I feel like that was the moment I had a choice: I could be defeated and wallow in my sorrows, or I could give it to God and do something about it,” she says. “So that’s when I decided to really push and grow my business, and I think through all of that I have been able to provide for my family, grow as a person, provide for my kids and create this life.” She hopes to soon start a nonprofit in honor of her son for families dealing with the financial difficulties of having an ill child.

McKinzey carries what she calls the Rolls Royce of solutions in her boutique. Derived with an array of vitamins, the solutions carry anti-aging antioxidants that are vegan approved and certified organic. All products are safe for her clients’ skin.

The biggest myth she often hears from suspicious users: Solutions will turn your skin orange. The spray tan should not turn orange if the correct DHA level and density of solution is applied to fit each person’s skin type. “I’ve tanned thousands of people,” she says, “and when you have that experience, you learn what to do and not to do.”

Her clients include several local celebrities and socialites such as radio and TV personalities, local actors and even the famous Steve Kuclo, a professional body builder.

With a fast-drying formula and streak-free precision, most spray tans last seven to 14 days with proper maintenance. “Our No. 1 thing is customer satisfaction,” she says. “We genuinely care about our clients and their outcome.”

Airbrush tanning is an art form in its own right. A certified technician mixes solutions and sprays the entire body with a fine mist. In the beginning, McKinzey played with many brands to find what worked and what didn’t. Now she can simply look at someone and know what color will look best on that person’s skin tone.

“The first year was really rough,” she says. “People are going to tell you how they see it. Searching for the best products on the market had its ups and downs, but I think in any situation in life, you can either learn from it or grow from it. It’s not what happens, but how you respond to situations that make all the difference. I think for me, keeping that in mind throughout my life has helped me become better at what I do.”

McKinzey can do it all, but now she doesn’t have to. She’s hired an additional staff member training to become a spray tan technician to help meet a growing business. This allows for a flexible schedule, so she can meet her children’s needs and maintain a successful business.

“I want to tell other women who are facing adversity or who have a child born with a medical condition – don’t be stuck in your situation. We have to stay strong for our babies. We must continue to learn, grow and follow our dreams – put our ‘big girl’ panties on,” she says, laughing. “Our kids will thank us for it later.”

 

Third Coast Spray Tans & More is located at 6181 Saratoga Blvd., Ste. 117, across from Wal-Mart. For more tips on how to prepare for a spray tan, call the store at 361-906-0245, visit Ashley McKinzey’s website at www.thirdcoasttanning.com or look for McKinzey on Facebook.

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