Misconceptions About The Industry Still Common Despite An Array Of Health Benefits
By Molly Allen
The stigma surrounding the indoor tanning industry has been hotly debated since it first spiked in popularity in the 1980s.
But even though the industry has come a long way over the past 30 years, some local business owners feel like they still have to defend themselves against outdated stereotypes.
“There are so many reasons that people come in to tan,” said Angie Beaudry, owner of Revive Tanning & Wellness. “It can be to relax or to get a base tan before vacation, but for a lot of people, especially in winter, it can be beneficial for skin conditions and seasonal depression. There’s much more to it that people don’t realize.”
Angie Beaudry purchased Planet Sun Tanning, at 901 W. Yakima Ave. #5B, in 2000 before changing the name to Revive Tanning & Wellness.
Since then, she has become an advocate for teaching users about the many potential benefits of tanning — done in moderation, of course.
“Indoor sun exposure is not like it was 20 years ago,” she said. “Modern equipment, lamps and exposure times are all regulated. Responsible salon owners and staff members are there to help guide you through the process properly.”
According to the FDA, the amount of time a guest can spend in a tanning bed is set through a computer system at the front desk of every salon.
A customer may end a session early but cannot add more time once their session has begun.
While tanning, each guest is required to wear FDA-approved UV eyewear. Most salons provide eye protection for their guests and also post signs noting the requirement.
State law also says no one may tan more than once in a 24-hour period, and nobody under the age of 18 can tan, even with parental consent.
There is a lot to understand before a business owner can get started.
Heidi Redfield took over Envy Spa & Tanning, at 304 S. First St. in Selah, in 2015 after retiring from the Navy. She had tanned all her life and was presented with the unique business opportunity to buy the salon when she moved back to the Valley.
“Going into it, there was a lot to learn about the regulations that I didn’t realize,” Redfield said. “The business owner and staff monitor everything, from the type of tan to the length allowed in the bed. In the old days, you could just turn the timer up to 30 minutes or more, but it’s nothing like that now.”
In addition to strict regulations, tanning business owners also must pay a separate tanning tax. When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, it included a 10 percent excise tax for all tanning service locations.
“It’s all heavily regulated, and we as business owners have a lot to comply with, which we do,” Beaudry said.
But with so many regulations to work with, tanning business owners like Beaudry and Redfield are still committed to disproving the misconceptions of tanning and helping their clients enjoy its many potential benefits.
For some, just being under the bulbs of a tanning bed for a few minutes has been said to benefit those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it can help with Vitamin D production during the dark and dreary winter months.
“I’ve had a number of clients who come in with a doctor’s note that suggests tanning for SAD,” Redfield said. “It’s really amazing the benefits someone may get from it.”
For others, tanning may help with dermatological conditions. Many people who suffer from psoriasis notice that their symptoms tend to get better in the summer when they are exposed to the sun, but those benefits are lost in the winter months.
“Some customers come here because they were told by a doctor that it can help,” Beaudry said. “We have many professionals including nurses and doctors who use our salon’s services.”
Marie Lichota, who has suffered from psoriasis for about two years, only found out about her skin condition because she took a break from tanning.
“I started tanning in high school because of the boost of self-confidence it gave me and because it was helping with acne,” she said. “I stopped for a while, and then noticed my skin changing, so I went to a dermatologist who suggested it was psoriasis.”
The tanning regimen Lichota had begun back in high school had been keeping her psoriasis at bay until she stopped doing it. Now that she realizes the health benefits, she has started tanning again, usually once a week. But it’s always on her mind to keep it in moderation.
“There is still a stigma behind it, and it is controversial,” she said. “But I’m very aware of how often I tan and am sure to do it in moderation, in combination with dermatologist visits.”
In addition to possible medical benefits, some clients may simply enjoy the feeling of tanning. They may just find it relaxing or notice that they receive a boost in confidence after their session, just as Lichota had experienced when she started tanning as a teenager.
“It really is an industry that offers different things for different people,” Redfield said. “I’m able to get to know my clients on a personal level because everyone comes in for something different.”
One of the primary misconceptions about tanning is that the industry is still unregulated like it was back in the ‘80s. But recent changes in state law have made it so all tanning businesses must operate in a safer, more regulated environment.
At the same time, most clients police themselves. Some people use the tanning beds progressively as a way to prep their skin for sun exposure.
“Just 15 minutes in the sun without any sunscreen will get you your daily recommended amount of Vitamin D, but that doesn’t mean it’s always that easy,” Beaudry said. “Outdoor exposure is not regulated and there may be more of a potential risk involved. Most people will spend more than 15 minutes outside when they lay on the beach or by the pool.”
In a controlled environment, it’s easier to prevent burning from extended exposure from the sun on the beach or a visit to a location with hotter days.
“Outdoor exposure is not regulated and there can be a potential risk involved,” Beaudry said. “Seeking the sun in small doses can boost your mood. Especially in winter, people really notice a difference.”
Originally published in the Yakima Business Times.