Best way to use a tanning salon?
September 19, 2007 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Recent improvements to my body has made me consider ridding myself of my "Programmer's Pallor". I have some questions about tanning salons I've not seen addressed on here yet.

There are pictures of me as a young man stripped to the waist and brown as a nut, so I know I can tan without burning. I'm not interested in being that brown, but I do want to improve my color (as well as deal with a slight case of backne) and maybe improve my mood over the coming fall/winter.

So I have some questions about using a tanning salon:

1. How much time would each session be? How many sessions would it take to show results? How often per week?

2. What's involved in a session? Is there showering or anything else before or after?

3. How much would it cost?

4. What are the upsells? What should I avoid?

5. Do I have to use their lotion?

5. I know I'll get pilloried for this one: Why do we need to wear lotion in a tanning booth? Isn't the purpose of a tanning booth to give us a short controlled burst of radiation? If so, then why not reduce the time or intensity of the radiation instead of applying lotion?
posted by aofl to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1 - It really depends on the salon's beds, it can vary quite radically. Choose the best place you can find and follow their guidelines -- they know their machines, you don't.

2 - You lie down, wear the little goggles, get a tan. Shower, no, not necessarily.

3 - From 25 to 75 euros. Again, it depends.

4 - Avoid unclean places with old machines

5 - Bring your own. Lancome's pretty good.

5 - Skin cancer.
posted by matteo at 6:53 AM on September 19, 2007

(and keep in mind that a UVA tan is deeper and darker than a UVB tan)
posted by matteo at 7:00 AM on September 19, 2007

5 - Skin cancer.

Right, but I think the poster's point is that if you are getting a tan, the radiation is getting through the sunblock anyway, so why bother?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:01 AM on September 19, 2007

I could jump on the "tanning parlors are bad!" bandwagon, but I can't, because I have used them at various points in my life. I also have friends who use tanning facilities in winter to help counter the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

1. The time vary. You should start with something like 5 minutes at first and slowly build up to more time. You can get a really nasty burn if you go too long right away. You'll start to notice a difference in a few weeks if you go a couple times a week.

2. There is typically no showering at the facilities. You are let into a little private room with a tanning bed or stand up tanning booth. You take off your clothes and lay on the tanning bed or stand in the booth. A lot of times there is a little boom box playing top 40 music in the room with you. There is also a timer on the bed or booth that will turn off when your time is over.

3. The price varies wildly depending on where you live and how nice the parlor is.

4. Look for cleanliness. The staff is supposed to sanitize all the equipment in between customers, but you should NOT trust people who are paid $7 an hour to protect you and your skin from other people's germs. With recent epidemics in antibiotic resistant staph infections; I recommend using a stand up tanning booth, not a bed. I know a person with MRSA who regularly uses tanning beds. It's something to think about.

5. You can bring your own lotion or buy lotion at the parlor.

6. A lot of people like to wear a tanning accelerator. You might want to wear an spf on your face, as the skin is more delicate. You will also want to wear a thong or underwear because your junk will burn really fast.

Be careful not to get addicted to the tanning parlor experience. It's tempting to tan until you are very dark. Moderation is the key, unless you want to look like a whithered, leathered, pre-maturely aged person by the time you are 35. I've seen it happen and it ain't pretty!
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2007

Don't use tanning salons. Why would you want to pay to induce skin cancer later in life? Just use fake tanner. The newer formulas are a far cry from the old stuff that used to smell awful and leave you orange and streaky. Jergen's "Natural Glow" was the first of the new line of moisturizers that uses erythrulose to achieve what they term a 'subtle glow,' which actually is a reasonably fair way to describe something like a bit of color. Buy one of those at CVS or go for something like it and avoid the UVA rays and associated risk of melanoma.
posted by buka at 7:05 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to actually tanning salons, but the spray-tanning stuff was awful in the one experience I had with it last summer. It was awkward and weird. Almost immediately, I was dotty and orange and smelt of potatoes. I wasn't supposed to wash or get wet or sweat (Hi, July in Boston?) for 24 hours, but after about 8 hours I had it and rinsed off in an effort to de-potato myself. The smell got me more than anything.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:26 AM on September 19, 2007

Sunless tanning salons
posted by decathecting at 7:32 AM on September 19, 2007

There are many health benefits to tanning, as you can easily look up on the internet.

5. You might want to wear lotion to help keep your tan more even, and avoid burning in areas that burn easily (collar-bone, etc).

Also, most tanning places around here (Canada) seem to either offer to sell a pre-set amount of minutes that can be used whenever, or they sell monthly memberships that include a certain number of minutes per month. Based on your needs you might want to chose one or the other. Also, many fitness clubs offer access to tanning beds/booths, which might be an option if you're looking for some where to exercise as well.

Also, if you go with a franchise/chain operation, check for coupons on the internet or in those piles of papers that get shoved in your mailbox, you can usually find good discounts.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:12 AM on September 19, 2007

There is skin cancer to worry about. It has become such a hot button topic among dermatologists that some who have advocated short unprotected exposures to sunlight to produce vitamin D etc. have essentially been driven from their institutions. I think the party line is now pretty well established as no sun is good sun. Even if you do want some sun, artificial or real, it would be prudent to keep it to the absolute minimum needed to show a visible effect. If you go for the tanned beach bum look you are only asking for trouble. Pluckysparrow is right about addiction. Apparently, tanning is a mood enhancer such that one good tan begets another and another, and if you are not careful you will turn into George Hamilton. I'm sure those fears are overstated, but it is something to be aware of.
posted by caddis at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2007

I'm intrigued in tanning beds as winter depression symptom relievers. I always thought I was "too good" for tanning beds but I do get seriously bummed out in the long months.
posted by kidsleepy at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2007

Spray tan places are really the way to go- at home sprays can be streaky, especially around your ankles, but if you go to a place where they blast you all at once with a spray while you are standing up, it comes out really well.

Please don't get radiated, get dyed.
posted by rmless at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2007

I used a lotion that I picked up at the salon that actually had SPF since I am/was pale. It was called Angel and smelled of peaches, which I'm sure would be absolutely humiliating on a man. They also put me in the beds with older bulbs and had me in for no longer than 8 minutes. I was also told not to come more than twice a week. Then again, I wasn't there to tan, but for my "cheer up emo kid" therapy. The beds are warm, the kind of heat that goes deep and stays with you all day. Great for winter blues.

If you are pale and have blue or green eyes, a light spf meant for tanning beds may be good in your case. If the tanning salon doesn't even consider your complexion (light, medium, dark) then they probably have no idea what they are doing and may cause you some pain. Also, the first few times you close the tanning bed, it will feel a lot like a coffin. I promise it won't lock on you. Point the fan at the feet or the head for best airflow, it can get a bit sweaty in there.
posted by idiotfactory at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2007

There are many health benefits to tanning, as you can easily look up on the internet.

That's just insane.

Bottom line - going into a tanning bed is simply taking a controlled risk, no different than a tobacco habit or sex without a condom. You're essentially weighing long term risk against short term gain, which is fine, as long as you fully understand the risks.

So, first off, there's no such thing as a safe tan - it's all damaging UV radiation, so when the parlor operator tells you otherwise ignore them, as they are full of shit.

Go slow. Shorter is better, and give it a few days to see the effects. And yes, in certain people tanning may be addictive. The theory being a possible stimulation of opiate receptors. These are the people that look like George Hamilton's spawn, and who seem to be oblivious that people are laughing at them for their untethered vanity.

Good luck.
posted by docpops at 9:01 PM on September 19, 2007

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