Tanning salon implications leave bad burn

Greg Dool

Break ends, a mild winter gives way to an early spring and the March sun hangs high over Sheehan Beach, affording the season’s first tanners an extra hour of sunbathing-and a few male students an extra hour of pretending not to watch. For the unfortunate members of the population who returned home last week rather than vacationing in Miami, Mexico or the Bahamas, however, going au naturel may not suffice. A head start is in order, one of the tanning bed variety.

According to one local salon owner who preferred not to be identified, the salon receives so much business from the University’s students that it almost depends upon them to remain in operation. Students come in with regularity throughout the academic year, but the busiest times are from January to May.

In total, there are six tanning salons along Lancaster Avenue within five miles of the University, an additional four in King of Prussia, and two in Conshohocken. MetropoliTANS, a popular salon in Rosemont, even accepts Wildcard as payment.

“The sun is awesome, but for the actual purpose of tanning, I prefer tanning salons,” senior Karen Choi said. “You tan more evenly and efficiently. It’d be kind of weird to tan outside, naked.”

Local salons offer a diverse variety of services, almost to the point that “tanning salon” could be a misnomer. In addition to machines of escalating intensity in which customers can either stand up or lie down, salons provide spray tanning for customers wishing to avoid the risks of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. MetropoliTANS and megaSun Tanning in Ardmore offer to whiten clients’ teeth, and Better Health Tanning in Conshohocken can give clients Botox. Eterna Bella in Ardmore is a full-service spa and massage parlor for women, which just happens to have tanning on the menu. All the salons also sell lotions and other skin products designed for use during and after tanning.

            Prices vary greatly, from as little as $20 for a spray tan-from a machine or a certified technician-and $8 for a tanning bed session to $40 and $70, respectively. For the budget-conscious college student, however, nearly every salon offers weekly, monthly or even yearly memberships, as well as bulk packages of up to 20 tans. MetropoliTANS and Endless Tan in Berwyn offer free tans for first-time customers.

            Despite their popularity on campus, not all students are sold on tanning salons.

            “Tanning outside just looks more natural than a salon tan does over time,” Sara Walton, junior, said. “Plus, it’s free.”

            Other students prefer the outdoors to the neon blue enclosure.

            “I feel like people that go to tanning salons a lot can get into an addictive habit with it,” Katie Matsushima, junior, said. “I’d rather lie out on the beach and enjoy the sun while getting tan at the same time.”

            The most common argument cited by artificial tanning detractors, however, is the potential health risks.

            “I used to go to tanning salons, until so much information came out claiming that it is a carcinogen,” Melissa Leighton, junior, said.

            Indeed, the best method of tanning is safe tanning. It is important to educate oneself about the risks and benefits of artificial tanning before entering the bed or booth. Tanners should take care not to overexpose particularly pale areas of the body, always remember to wear eye protection and make sure they are not on any medication that could have an adverse reaction to increased levels of Vitamin D or ultraviolet radiation.

            Although supporters of the tanning industry argue that indoor tanning allows for careful control over exposure levels and duration, research increasingly points in the direction that excessive tanning-both indoor and outdoor-can have the potential to cause a number of health problems for young people, including but not limited to melanoma, a rare but deadly form of skin cancer. Tanning, like so many other ostensibly good things, is an act best done in vigilant moderation.