Fun in the Sun: Is the reign of indoor tanning coming to a close?

A combination of increased government regulations and the public health concern has all but eliminated tanning salons. (photo from © 

OLGA KHAZAN --- The Atlantic 

Ryan Baker, a director of operations for Palm Beach Tan, ushers me through the narrow, pastel hallways of one of the chain's salons in Washington, D.C. It's a tiny place, squeezed into a strip mall between a Chipotle and a beauty parlor. But in a pinch, some see it as a mini-vacation—a dose of artificial sunshine when life’s too busy, or the outside world too cloudy, for the real thing.

Some customers pop in and out of the rooms in 10 minutes, Baker says, while others take their time, luxuriating for a half-hour or more as they primp and apply lotions in the full-length mirrors.

One of the higher-end beds looks like a spaceship, or at least an 80s rendering of one. After the tanner climbs underneath its shiny convex cover, he can blast his preferred music by hooking an iPod up to the built-in speakers. The inside is climate-controlled, and every few minutes it releases a puff of an aromatherapy scent. There are even vertical "beds," for those who prefer not to give up on their standing-desk lifestyles even while soaking up UV rays.

Baker repeatedly reminds me that these amenities are to be enjoyed only while hewing to the "golden rules of tanning:”

1) Always know your skin type. Palm Beach uses dermatologists' Fitzpatrick scale, which ranges from "very pale" to "dark brown." People on the paler end of the spectrum should bake for just a few minutes at a time.

2) Take it slow to reach your "cosmetic objectives." Build up a tan by using the beds for short periods over a series of sessions.

3) Apply professional tanning lotions before and after your tan. These don’t protect against UV exposure, but they help with dryness.

4) Always wear eyewear. He tips his head back to demonstrate how one would never sunbathe on a beach with one’s eyes open. Nor should one do this while inside a 63-lamp iBed Swing Commercial Tanning Bed.

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