Why in the world does anyone go to a tanning parlor in a place where the sun shines 85 percent of daylight time in any given year?
“The fact that there is sun doesn’t make it any less of a market, ” said Ryan Boyle, the owner of Tan-Tastic, a tanning parlor on Fort Lowell rd. in Tucson. Boyle says business booms during spring, when it’s starting to get hot and before the college students leave for summer. Ryan says he has a wide mix of customers, but business slows down during the holidays when school isn’t in session. After college students leave, Ryan’s business gets a mix of “random” customers who only tan before going on vacations.
Time, of course, is a big driver. Sun-tanning — whatever warnings about the potential health risks of excessive sunlight exposure (see this from the Skin Cancer Foundation) — takes hours, as opposed to minutes in a tanning salon.
Danielle Fifield, the owner of Destination Tan AZ on Ina rd. in Tucson, has several reasons for the success of a tanning business in a place where the sun always shines. Among them is that sunshine means people are busy doing things outdoors year-round. “In a sunny place like Tucson, who has the time to lay out for hours on end?” she said. Like Boyle, Fifield has customers who tan all year-round, as well as seasonal clients. Peak tanning season, according to Fifield peaks, from January through July.
Fiefield, who says her customers range from ages 16 to 70, started becoming interested in tanning herself because she said tanning helps her control her eczema. “My dermatologist told me,” she said.
Jacqueline Hunker, an employee at Maui Beach Tanning who describes herself as a “tanning enthusiast,” says one of the reasons customers prefer tanning beds to sun bathing is the speed of the procedure. “You could spend an hour outside in the sun or you could come in for 20 minutes in our air conditioned beds,” according to Hunker.
“Before I started working here, I would burn when I tanned outside,” Hunker says, explaining why she prefers the moderation of a tanning bed.
Hunker said it’s also easier to convince new customers to tan by showing off her own tan. When asked if it was an employee requirement, she said pale people can work there too.
Travis Tackett has been using tanning booths three to four times a week for the last 17 years. “I’m sure the dangers of tanning beds are real, but the sun is just as likely to give you cancer,” he reasoned, adding that he doesn’t mind spending $30 a month to maintain his tan, even though the sunlight is abundant and free.
Anna Vient, a tanning fan, also said she prefers a tanning bed because it’s faster than the sun. Vient only seeks a tan on special occasions, and she doesn’t mind using tanning beds.
Vient mentioned how all tanning beds she’s used come with warning notices. Asked about the radiation in UV-B rays that are common at most tanning salons she exclaimed, “and that’s why its faster than the sun!”
Cassandra Sekich, another tanning-bed fan, also cited time as the reason. “I use it because I don’t have time to go lay out all day; you get better results in a shorter time.”
She said she thinks most salons are expensive but those closest to the university offer a better price with a variety of tanning packages along with student discounts. As to the UV-B rays, she agreed with Vient: “Well that’s what giving you the tan in the first pace anyway.”
Kristin Andrews had another reason for using tanning beds. Our scorching weather.
“Its really hot; its easier to just go sit in there for eight minutes where there are fans than sit in the sun for an hour sweating, for the same results,” she said. She added that she doesn’t mind paying for a tan because, she said, outdoor sun bathing leaves you with unsightly tan lines, while tanning beds do not, since a tanner in a salon goes naked, which is not a practical option, say, on the campus mall.