Frequently Asked Questions
(Click Each to Expand)

How does the tanning process work?

There are three components that make the tanning process work. UVB starts the tanning process by stimulating the tanning cells (melanocytes) to produce melanosomes, which contain melanin (pigment). UVA darkens the melanin that has been produced, but before that can happen, melanin needs a certain amount of oxygen to facilitate UVA. The third component, oxygen, comes from blood vessels beneath the skin. The tanning process can be optimized through the use of professional tanning lotions which contain nutrients for your tanning cells. For those that seem to develop a tan rather slowly and become impatient, you need to know that a single tanning session can potentially take a couple of days to fully mature. This is called DPD or Delayed Pigment Darkening.

What's causing the scent that I smell after tanning?

In a word, melanin. Ultraviolet light in the UVA range causes melanin to enlarge and turn brown. During the process, dermatologists say a chemical reaction takes place. A natural side effect of the reaction is the aroma. This occurrence is normal whether you've been tanning inside or outside. Some tanning lotions have been designed to minimize or prevent the odor from occurring, but ultimately a shower will remove the odor.

Can I wear my contact lenses while tanning?

Problems have developed in the past with contacts sticking to the eyes while tanning. The primary reason is due to de-moisturization. Your whole body naturally loses some moisture during the tanning process, including your eyes. If somebody is going to tan with their contacts in, it is recommended that they not only wear protective eyewear, but use moisturizing drops prior to or just after the tanning session to prevent any discomfort. The skin on your eyelids is the thinnest skin on the body so simply shutting your eyes is not good enough---you need to wear protective eyewear.

I'm over 40, and I don't seem to tan as well as I used to. Why is that?

The reason is that after 40 your body begins to lose melanocytes. Not to worry though. Through controlled, systematic exposures you can slowly replenish what your body began to lose. A good quality lotion will help the process along.

Why does some of a person's tan wash or fade away?

The top skin layer is continuously renewing itself. The renewal cycle takes about once a month to complete and skin cells that have finished their cycle lay on the skin's surface until shaved or washed off. Since these skin cells also tan, the skin sheds or loses some of its tan when it is cleansed.

Why isn't closing my eyes good enough?

Eyelids are not made of UV blocking material. The result is that UV passes through, damaging the cornea, retina and lens. Cumulative long term effects include cataracts and eyelid cancers. Always wear eye protection.

Does tanning indoors have the same effect as tanning outdoors?

Yes. "What's the advantage of tanning indoors?" The advantage is "control." You always know what you're getting from an individual tanning session. It is a very precise, calculated, controlled exposure designed to give you a cosmetically pleasing tan without burning your skin. When you go outdoors, you place yourself in an uncontrolled environment. You don't know how much you are getting and frequently tanning outdoors results in developing erythema (sunburn). You get Vitamin D from tanning indoors as well as tanning outdoors.

What causes white spots?

There are several reasons that a person will begin to develop white spots. One common reason is vitiligo, which is characterized by irregularly shaped white patches of skin, surrounded by dark borders. The white patches are sensitive to UV exposure. Doctors will often use a lotion based form of psoralen (an extremely photosensitizing agent) and induce up to second degree burns on the specific areas. This in effect, reactivates dormant melanocyte cells into producing melanin again. In time the white areas will gradually begin to match the surrounding areas.

Another cause for white spots is a skin fungus known as tinea versicolor. This fungus actually begins in the hair and falls down primarily onto the upper body like dandruff (however, this is not dandruff). The affected areas prevent the skin from tanning and as a result create white spots. Sometimes the spots can be a little scaly. The fungus in tinea versicolor produces an acid that inhibits the production of tyrosinase in your skin's melanocytes, which in turn prevents the production of melanin in the affected areas. Treating tinea versicolor is fairly easy, but recovery may take up to several months. Shampoos like extra strength Selsun Blue are very effective at killing the fungus. Properly cleaned tanning equipment, by the way, will not spread tinea versicolor. If you notice this condition after tanning, you most likely had the fungus all along, but only noticed white spots after you started tanning. Larger ones are caused by how a person lays in the tanning bed. Three areas of the body are affected by how a person lays in the tanning bed: shoulder blades, tailbone area, and the backs of the calves. What happens is that pressure is created on those areas of the body that restricts blood flow. A person needs UVA and UVB in order to tan; however, they also need oxygen (those who sleep in tanning beds often get these white spots). There is a simple way to minimize and even eliminate this condition--have your customers take their right forearm (not their elbow and not the heel of their hand) and the bottom of their right foot and push up gently for a few seconds. This will relieve pressure on the right hand side of their body, allowing their skin to breathe for a few moments. After they have done this, they should lower their right side and raise the left side up the same way.

Why is cosmetic dermatology attacking indoor tanning?

In their own trade journal the American Association of Dermatology admits tanning's connection to skin cancer is unclear.

"There is no compelling evidence that suntan parlors have induced a single melanoma."- Dermatology pioneer Dr. Bernard Ackerman

"We don't have direct experimental evidence."- AAD spokesman Dr. James Spencer

And yet dermatologists treat cosmetic skin conditions with their own UV tanning equipment. They charge up to $100 a session for what tanning salons provide for $5. So is cosmetic dermatology concerned about public safety, or do they just want their multi-billion dollar business back?

Why Did the FDA Implement Tanning Tax?

Sources: Wall Street Journal December 22, 2009 - ABC News January 3, 2010
January 19 2010 - Dermatologists were able to remove the so-called Botax from the Senate's health-care overhaul bill and replace it with a 10 percent tax on tanning services.

The American Medical Association had also opposed the proposed 5 percent tax on cosmetic procedures, dubbed the Botax after the anti-wrinkle product Botox.

There are an estimated 20,000 tanning salons in the U.S., mostly stand-alone shops, and it's impossible to know what total revenue figures are for the industry.

Dan Humiston, president of the Indoor Tanning Association, said that, "it's almost laughable" to think the tanning industry's revenue adds up to what Congress is projecting.

Note: The tanning association actively opposed this change, but since it was pushed through at the last minute we only had weeks to fight the bill. We hope to get it repealed along with the Health Bill.


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