I read a blog post from someone the other day about whether or not tanning is safe. It was written by a student that had done some research on how tanning works because they had some knowledge about how skin reacts to UV rays and how a tan is produced. But they clearly had never really been in a tanning salon because that bit was not at all accurate. It stated that being in a tanning bed gives you too much UVA and UVB in concentrated amounts and doesn't allow your body to build up the melanin needed to produce a tan. I commented on the blog and checked back on it a few days later, and to my surprise, my comment was not approved by the moderator. The subject made me think about the misconception of how a tanning salon works. Maybe I should address that here because I am guilty of not completely understanding the process before I started tanning. I thought it was going to be like it was back in the 80's when my best friend tanned occasionally in a salon. She went in, told them how long she wanted to tan and that was that. I don’t even think there were different types of beds back then. There have been many advancements in the process and regulations have been put in place since then.
My background is in restaurants. So I will put this in terms comparing the process to what I know. The biggest thing restaurants work on is making sure their staff handles and serves food safely. If that doesn’t happen, their customers get sick, that is to be avoided. They train their staff to properly prepare and handle the food. There are regular health inspections to assure the safest practices are being used. The same approach is made in tanning salons by training their staff to properly handle a customer’s skin. If they don’t do it right, the customer burns, that is to be avoided. While I’m not certain how regulations are enforced in the tanning industry, I do know there are laws and restrictions on their practices, I just don’t have those details readily available.
So what happens when you go into a tanning salon for the first time? The salon employee will ask a handful of questions about your skin (freckles? Moles? Coloring? Tendency to burn, ever been able to tan, etc.) Based on your answers about your skin, and using their judgment based on what they can see, they will determine your skin type. Skin type 1 being the fairest, and the one that can’t tan, if you are determined to be a skin type 1 the salon would only offer spray tan because there is too much risk for burn. Skin type 6 is the darkest, and doesn't burn.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzpatrick_scale this link shows the 6 different types and how they typically tan.
So once the staff member determines your skin type, they figure which type of bed would work best for you. Just as there are different levels of skin types, there are different level tanning beds as well. Once that is determined the staff member will help you decide how long you should be in the bed. There are limits of how long you can be in based on both the above factors of skin type and bed type. There is science involved, it isn't just throwing you in the bed and turning it on until you feel you have had enough. These are not kids off the street with minimal training. It isn't like what you would find in a retail clothing store. I know they follow these guidelines, this is how I was able to tan for the first time in my life. I went in to tan yesterday and there was a woman who was a new client. The salon employee took her time explaining the different aspects of how things work. She was informative and didn't rush through anything because I was waiting. I respect that. This young lady was not the same girl I worked with so I feel confident the entire staff takes this very seriously. That is good business.
Hopefully this brief explanation of the process helps people better understand that there is a right way to tan to reduce the risk of burning while getting the desired result for the customer. If it isn't done properly, the salon wouldn't stay in business very long. For a salon, a well trained staff and attention to the customer’s needs while educating them on the best way to achieve their goal is the key to success. With that being said I’d like to give a big shout out to the staff at Tan the Moon in my neighborhood for being such a big part of my tanning success.