NAILS: How safe is indoor tanning?

LEVY: Our industry likes to refer to indoor tanning as “smart tanning.” The federal government does not want us to use the word “safe” to refer to our service, and that’s fine. Because we are encouraging people to be sun-smart — to think about their tans, to avoid sunburn, and to practice moderation — “sale” is probably not the right word. The word “safe” almost implies that one can recklessly abuse something without the risk of injury, and that’s not what the tanning industry is saying.

On the contrary, we’re saying that people need to think about their tans and do everything humanly possible to avoid sunburn — your skin’s worst enemy. That’s why we refer to indoor tanning as “smart.” Indoor tanning allows you to control exactly what kind of ultraviolet light exposure your skin receives, thereby minimizing your risk of over contracting a sunburn. It also allows you to eliminate many other environmental variables that can’t possibly be controlled when tanning outdoors, such as the duration of your exposure, the intensity of the light, seasonal conditions, cloudiness, and other confounders that make tanning outdoors a guessing game.

The bottom line is that people need to avoid sunburn, and for people who want to tan, tanning in a salon is the best way to avoid sunburn. It literally is a smart tan.

There is a lot of rhetoric in the consumer media about the risks involved with tanning. Most of it is unsubstantiated hype propagated by parties that stand to gain from the proliferation of the anti-sun message. Don’t kid yourself — fear of the sun is a multibillion-dollar business. Sunscreen manufacturers and giant cosmetics companies for example, profit by proliferating a “fear of the sun” message. Just flip through a beauty magazine and read the fear-based advertising.

NAILS: What about all the research that says tanning causes skin cancer?

LEVY: Tanning does not cause skin cancer any more than water causes drowning. Tanning is your body’s own built-in protection mechanism against sunburn and overexposure. Your body- is designed to tan. The anti-tanning lobby likes to twist the results of research studies to make it look as if tanning is responsible for permanent skin damage. In reality the aggregate result of all the research conducted on this topic points plainly at one conclusion: sunburn is the enemy. And sunburn is exactly what the indoor tanning salon industry hopes to prevent.

NAILS: How does a salon owner promote tanning during the off-season? Will tanning services remain profitable then?

LEVY: The seasonality of tanning varies geographically in the United States. In the Midwest and Northeast, brutal winters, spring vacations, and the anticipation of summer make the 16 weeks from February through May “the busy season.” In recent years, however, we’ve seen that salons are remaining quite busy from January through July. And many customers do tan in the summer and autumn for different reasons.

There are 28 million Americans who patronize indoor tanning facilities. And they all have their own reasons for enjoying their tanning salon experience. Convenience, control, and relaxation are the biggest reasons, and those can be promoted all year long.


NAILS: What liability issues surround tanning services? Do salon owners need additional insurance when they add tanning?

LEVY: Liability in a tanning salon is essentially similar to any other salon business — no insurance is going to protect you from an act of gross negligence. But because exposure times on your tanning units are established by strict government guidelines, a salon owner who follows the rules, understands the tanning process, and insists that customers gradually establish their tans really has very little to worry about. Education is the key.

Many tanning salons purchase liability insurance as protection in the event that a customer is injured in the salon. Some salons are required to have such insurance as a condition of their building lease. It is best to talk to an insurance agent. There are several who specialize in tanning salon liability policies. Call Tanning Trends Magazine at (517) 784-1772 for more information.

NAILS: How do state regulations affect tanning services? Do salon owners need to be licensed or certified to offer tanning?

LEVY: There are 25 states that have enacted some form of regulation for indoor tanning salons — most of the states’ rules simply mirror federal standards set for tanning equipment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Regulatory programs in effect today vary from state to state. Some states, such as Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, and Iowa, require tanning facility operators to complete some form of formal training before they can work in a salon. Most do not, although it is becoming more and more important for operators to do everything they can to be educated about the tanning process, skin care, and how ultraviolet light works.

NAILS: How much extra square footage is necessary per bed/booth?

LEVY: As you might suspect, a booth requires less space in most instances than a bed unit does. Space, however, should not be your primary consideration. Make sure whatever you add to your salon is what your customers want; otherwise you might be wasting your space.

Rooms with beds generally take no less than 10-feet by 8-feet; booths can take as little as 5-feet by 8-feet. Some booths are designed as rooms of their own and come complete with attached dressing rooms so you do not have to build any walls in your salon.

NAILS: What building codes do salon owners need to he aware of when installing extra rooms or tanning beds in an existing salon?

LEVY: Generally, standards for adding tanning rooms into your business are no different than codes for adding any other type of enterprise. As you know, building codes and electrical requirements can vary from city to city and state to state. Cheek with your local building inspectors before beginning any work.

NAILS: Where do salon owners get continuing education for tanning services?

LEVY: Tanning Trends Magazine is the independent trade journal for the indoor tanning salon industry.

Tanning Trends staff serves as the administrative arm of the International Smart Tan Network — an affiliation of professional tanning salon owners across North America who are dedicated to the concepts of education, moderate tanning, and the prevention of sunburn. The Smart Tan Network offers different programs to educate tanning salon personnel, including a correspondence course.

Because some states require tanning salon employees to complete formal training before they begin their jobs, it’s best to check with state officials or with Tanning Trends before you plan to open your salon. Tanning Trends and the International Smart Tan Network are in constant contact with state regulators across the country and can usually assist you with a regulatory question.

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