First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Today is the first day of summer, but a lot of folks already have their beach tan.
Increasing numbers of people are getting that summer glow at tanning salons.
An estimated 1 million people go to tanning salons each day; North Carolina ranks near the top nationally for the number of tanning salons.
Lumberton houses nearly 10 such salons. Some cover beauty while others focus on fitness. The Green Tangerine has a nail salon, and Total Elite Fitness embraces aerobics, massage therapy and energy drinks.
“When I first moved down here from Rhode Island, I thought I could go to the beach,” tanner Deborah Wilkins said. “Then I realized that it costs more to go to the beach than it did to go to the tanning bed. It was $40 in gas just to go to the beach, and I spend $25 at the tanning bed.”
Some people say they like to pack a tan for vacation.
“I always try to tan before I go to the beach, so I don’t burn,” Barbara Jackson said. “I try to come about one month ahead of my vacation.”
Others use the tanning salon as a way to relax.
Malisa Capps said she prefers tanning beds “because I like to have a hint of color, and it beats laying out in the sun.” Capps says tanning gives her “escape time.”
“That 20 minutes is my 20 minutes,” she said.
Special occasions rank high as reasons for tanning.
“I’m in a wedding,” Allyson Goodman said. “I’d like to get a little tan for the wedding.”
Evelyn Vincent’s EndlessSummer offers the most tanning beds in Lumberton, with nine. Vincent enjoys her role as confidant and compares herself to a bartender.
“We build a lot of relationships in here,” she said. “Everyone comes in here with the same purpose, and they’re so friendly.”
Wanda Lloyd, owner of Maxine’s Styling Salon, believes in the old-fashioned method of tanning first.
“In my personal opinion everyone needs 15 minutes of good old God-given sunshine a day,” she said. “If you insist on tanning, controlled tanning is the only way to tan.”
Most experts agree with Lloyd. Excessive exposure to UV rays has been shown to cause skin cancer, according to Dr. Andrew Hendricks of Southeastern Dermatology.
“Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer of all,” Hendricks said.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma.
Customers who are on medications must be careful because some react with UV rays.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Health and Natural Resources regulates all tanning salons. Tanning salon operators must provide their clients written warnings of the dangers of UV exposure and have them sign a release. Tanning beds may only be used for 20 minutes or less.
Operators must document dates and times of customers' visits. But salon-hopping is common.
Equipment must be sanitized. Operators at some salons clean beds after each use.
Eye protection is another important safety measure.
“Tanning bulbs can burn your eyes and even cause cataracts,” Vincent said.
She supplies goggles for her customers while other salons allow customers to purchase their own goggles. At Total Elite Fitness, a pair costs $3.
Under state law, no person 13 or younger may use tanning equipment unless prescribed by a doctor. Looking Fit magazine says most tanners are between the ages of 18 and 49. The magazine says 70 percent are women.
Tanning time depends on skin tone. People with a fair complexion should begin with lower doses of UV rays while darker skinned people may begin with a higher dosage.
“You start with three minutes and work up to 20,” Lloyd said. “Some people never reach 20.”
Vincent recommends moisturizing the skin after each visit to the tanning bed.
“Moisturizing lotions are very important to keep skin from drying out,” she said. “In fact, a moisturizer is as important to a good tan as anything.”
There are many myths surrounding tanning. Many people think that if you don’t burn, you don't get a tan. Hendricks says that is not true.
“In reality, any type of tanning does damage skin,” he said.
Salon operators are familiar with this first myth.
“Customers have said this to me,” Biggs said. “If someone’s pink, there may be a two-week waiting period, and we usually bump them back down.”
Sunburns increase risks for wrinkles, freckled skin, leathery skin and skin cancer, according to Hendricks.
Tanning beds provide protection from burns, but lotions and sprays don't always offer protection.
“A tan itself can protect,” Hendricks said. “Self ones (lotions and sprays) will not unless they have a sunscreen in them.”
Sprays wear off with time.
“It stains the skin, and it wears off as you bathe, in seven to nine days it wears off,” Lloyd said.
Sprays are often applied by stylists. A face-and-neck spray costs $6.50 at Betty Biggs Beauty and Tanning Salon in St. Pauls, while five full-body sprays cost $100 at Hair and Body Gallery in Lumberton.