How one Belfast woman becoming a mother of twins led to the birth of a new fake tan taking the Northern Ireland beauty business by storm
Three Belfast sisters tell Stephanie Bell how they - with a little help from their brother - came up with a revolutionary product that's ideal for those who want quick results
Three Belfast sisters have created a new luxury self tanning product which within just a few months has taken the beauty market here by storm. The trio Lynsey Bennett (42), Sarah White (30) and Leah White (40) have always done everything together - they go to the gym together, socialise with each other and left their jobs to set up a beauty business together nine years ago.
Now, the enterprising siblings have combined their expertise to invent, perfect and launch Lusso Tan - meaning "luxury tan" in Italian - a revolutionary three-step approach to tan application.
Within a matter of months since the product launched in May of this year, the sisters have secured over 40 stockists in Northern Ireland.
They now have ambitious plans to expand to the UK and the Republic of Ireland, before pushing their new product out worldwide.
The girls are no strangers to risk as at the height of the recession nine years ago they each left secure jobs to open their own beauty business together.
They started The Secret Day Spa in east Belfast in an uncertain climate with just three therapists and today employ a staff of 15.
In fact, they have found their salon so busy that Sarah is now setting up another one in Holywood before the end of the year.
The girls were well placed within their business to identify what they believe is a niche for a new tanning product but the idea for Lusso Tan came about after Lynsey gave birth to twin girls Scarlett and Sophia, who are now five.
A self tan devotee, who had her tan sprayed on throughout her pregnancy, she found after her girls were born that the existing self tanning products on the market were too sticky and unrealistic for time-poor new mums who don't have hours to sit around and wait for a tan to dry.
She was also worried about the number of chemicals in them.
As they talked about it, the girls came up with their idea of a new organic product that would be easy to apply, quick drying and with no lingering smell.
Lynsey explains: "I think when we opened the salon we felt even then we would love to get into product development.
"All three of us are passionate about tanning and we've seen some horror tans over the years. We probably do between 50 and 60 tans a week in the salon.
"I was spraying throughout my pregnancy but after I had the girls I was so tired and busy that I didn't bother. Then one day my sisters said to me that I needed to get some tan. I found it wet and sticky and smelly and it was taking too long to dry and it just wasn't practical.
"That got us talking about developing a new tanning product and our brother Luke, who is a scientist at East Antrim College, said he would work on it in his lab and he helped develop it.
"To us, it ticks all the boxes as it is organic, full of Vitamin A and E and contains Aloe Vera."
A huge selling point is that unlike most other self-tanning lotions, the girls were able to take the smell out of the DHA which is the darkening agent which gives self-tanning products their distinct smell.
Says Lynsey: "Other companies try to disguise it by adding a pleasant scent like watermelon to it but we have been able to take the smell out completely."
The sisters were also keen for their products to actively improve the quality of skin and so researched and developed beneficial and natural ingredients for the Lusso Tan products.
Ingredients such as Aloe Vera and an array of vitamins ensure that the skin is kept in the best condition possible. Lusso Tan is organic and paraben free.
Says Lynsey: "Our ethos is that you need really healthy skin to have a healthy glow and so we developed our primer to be put on before the tan and also a sparkle finishing product.
"It is just taking the basic beauty principles of make-up application and applying them to tanning. The better care you take of your skin, the better your tan will turn out."
Having their own salon gave the girls a captive audience to road test their new product.
Leah explains: "We were able to use it in the salon and got great feedback which allowed us to tweak it and we can stand behind it 100%. It has been amazing how well it has done and we really feel we have something special and unique and we're hoping it will go worldwide."
Lynsey was working in newspaper advertising and Sarah was a nail technician, while Leah worked in management when they decided to give up their jobs and open their day spa.
Lynsey explains: "We all wanted to work together and we are all passionate about beauty and skincare and saw a market for a day spa in the area where we live in east Belfast offering treatments at a good price.
"We wanted it to be somewhere people could come and relax and have their own changing area and relaxation area and keep it all very high end.
"The recession had hit and we were also giving up monthly salaries to take the chance but we were passionate about the industry and fortunately it is has worked out really well."
All three are naturally thrilled with their first foray into beauty product development and the passion is obvious as each of them talks about Lusso.
Leah says: "Tanning is really popular.
"I don't know any girls who don't get spray tans but it is all about the prep. You can't get your make-up on without prepping your skin and it is the same for tanning which is why we developed the primer.
"We were in Marbella in the summer and realised that you also needed a bit of sparkle with your tan so we added the finishing touch so that our three-step programme will leave you beach-ready."
As sisters, the girls said they have always been close despite a 10-year age gap.
Sarah, the youngest was doted on by her sisters and the strong bond remained as they grew up.
Leah says: "We've just always been very close and we do everything together. Even in business we never fall out.
"If we don't agree on something then it is good to have each other's opinions.
"Most days we will work together and go home and then be on the phone with each other discussing work."
With the salon working to full capacity, Sarah has decided to go out on her own and open Sisteen in High Street in Holywood.
She says: "The three of us couldn't commit to a second salon with the new product launch and the day spa being so busy.
"I've just turned 30 and thought it was time for me to do something I feel I am good at and I have learnt a lot from my sisters."
The focus however is on Lusso and establishing it alongside the big brands as the self-tanner of choice.
The uniqueness of the brand lies in its revolutionary three-step approach to tan application.
Lynsey adds: "It is important to us that it is a luxury brand.
"We don't have a huge budget to promote it but we have a great team round us who have helped with developing the packaging and getting it out on social media.
"It has been trial and error but we have always known we have a brilliant product and thankfully we have hit the ground running with it being stocked in shops all over Northern Ireland.
"Our plan is to make it worldwide and we don't see why not as there is nothing like it and we know how much people already love it."
The product range includes Lusso Tan Primer (£14.50/€16.56), Lusso Self Tan Lotion (£19.50/€22.27) and the final dimension of Lusso FinishingTouch Shimmer (£20/€22.84)
To mark the launch of the luxury Lusso Tan, which is revolutionising the way we get our glow with its innovative three-step ritual, six lucky Weekend readers will each win a Lusso Tan set, worth £61 each. Created by the three Belfast sisters who have extensive knowledge and experience in the spa business, each set comprises the three-step products to make flawless tanning foolproof.
A primer is misted on, followed by your shade of tan applied with the velvet mitt, then take your sunkissed glow to the next level with a fabulous finishing touch of shimmer. Voila tanned perfection.
To win one of six Lusso Tan sets up for grabs answer the following question.
Q: Name the three sisters who created Lusso Tan.
Send answers on a postcard, marked with your name, address, telephone number and email address, to: Helen Carson, Features Department, Weekend Magazine, Belfast Telegraph House, Clarendon Dock, 33 Clarendon Road, Belfast, BT1 3BG. Closing date for all entries is Saturday, November 4. Usual Independent News & Media rules apply.