Tanning America, One Face at a Time

It’s 5pm in England. While this is the end of the work day for most of us, James Read is still hard at work running his tanning empire. In the midst of prepping for his show at QVC US this month and consulting with his many celebrity clients, he made the time for a quick phone call to InsideQ from across the pond.   


“I’ve always loved working with QVC,” says James in his charming English lilt. “My brand launched on QVC UK about five years ago. We’re at QVC Germany, as well. I love America because people are very receptive to the tanning market.”


James is constantly challenging himself to color outside the lines when it comes to the tanning industry. He’s proud to have pioneered the concept of incorporating skin care with tanning. “Why not have one product that moisturizes and gives a natural-looking tan? My products are about looking after your skin, suiting all skin tones, and a natural-looking tan.” Not one for complacency, he continues to seek out new approaches to tanning with every new product. “Each year I try to do something out of the box; something new to reflect my take on tanning.”

What's New

This month, James is debuting Gradual Tan H20 Drops, his newest innovation. “You just add a few drops of it to your moisturizer. You can add one, two, three, or four drops—however dark you want your face to be, depending on your own skin tone.” James designed these drops to offer an alternative to the oil-based tanning products that currently dominate the industry. “The concept is a feeling of stripped-back beauty. You won’t even notice you’re wearing a tanner, but after three to four hours, you’ll notice a really amazing, natural-looking color that looks great on the skin.” When asked if a water-based product could dry out the skin, James does not hesitate. “The H2O Tan Drops contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to add moisture.”


Coconut water is another emerging trend in the tanning business, and James has wasted no time incorporating this ingredient into his line. “We’ve got a coconut water mist for the face coming soon to QVC. And there’s one for the body, too. It also gives a natural-looking tan. Just spray it on the skin and it dries, and four or five hours later a beautifully, natural-colored tan starts to appear. It’s an easy way to get color.”

Facing the Future

When developing new products, James has always had a keen sense for what’s missing in the industry. “When I was beginning in the industry about 16 years ago, tanning brands weren’t really concentrating on face products. It was only really an add-on. It was like they did a body version and then sold the same version for the face as an extra.” James saw an opportunity to turn the tanning industry on its head. “About five years ago I launched a sleep mask. Overnight, it seemed other brands were putting out their own versions. It set the trend, not only for tanning, but for facial tanning. It changed how people saw tanning.”


James continues that approach to this day. “I listen to what people want and listen to feedback on existing products to see how I can make a difference when developing new products. If I’m going to put my name on a product it has to be perfect. If I wouldn’t use it myself, I wouldn’t sell it.”