The University area is a veritable hot-bed for tanners.
At least four signs advertising “tans” cling to different business windows in Dinkytown. In nearby Stadium Village, two tanning shops sit face to face on opposite sides of Oak Street.
Tom Myers, who owns a small empire of local Style and Tans, said there were even more tanning shops near campus a few years ago. Their existence is more of a profit supplement for hair salons than a business entity unto themselves, he said.
While Dinkytown has seen an ebb and flow of business in recent years, the beauty industry still looks good.
One reason for the teeming tan trade: It’s a cheap bake. Prices around campus average between $3 and $4 per session, or about $25 for 10 sessions.
University-area tanning is much cheaper than in the suburbs, said Carlson School of Management sophomore Angie Sherman and former University student Eric Salo, both tan enthusiasts.
The frequency with which tanning booth operators change bellarium bulbs affects the cost discrepancy, said Sherman, who also works at International Style and Tan in Dinkytown. Some businesses change bulbs every 500, 600 or 700 hours. When changed earlier, the lights retain more consistent intensity, Myers said.
These bulbs provide artificial light that some people believe helps lessen the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition brought on by lack of exposure to light and prominent during winter months.
Some university students even claim to open their eyes and look into the lamp light while tanning, intending “to get some sun” and cope with their depression.
In reality they’re just hurting their eyes.
“I hope most people don’t do that,” said Dr. Sharyn Barney of Boynton Health Service’s General Medicine and Dermatology Clinic. “One problem with UV-A light is that it frequently causes cataracts,” Barney said.
Tanning lamps emit two of the sun’s three kinds of ultraviolet light: UV-A and UV-B light. Although lamps primarily emit UV-A, a longer and less dangerous wavelength, both rays increase the risk of skin cancer and premature wrinkling, Barney said.
For people with greater sun-sensitivity, the American Cancer Society recommends not using “sun lamps, tanning parlors or tanning pills.”
“We find that most people are very concerned with not overdoing it,” Myers said. “Our customers are careful not to get burnt.”
But students often ignore the dangers of overexposure.
“Everybody knows the dangers of it. It’s the same thing in the sun,” said Lindsay Schaffer, who works and tans at Stadium Style and Tan.
Employees at Hair By Stewarts, which offers tanning, said they strongly recommend using goggles or eye stickers, but occasionally find the stickers they handed out left unused in tanning rooms.
The ability to control UV exposure is a factor in choosing timed tanning beds over laying out in natural sunlight, say local tanning authorities.
Reasons for basking in the artificial heat rays vary. Most people use tanning booths before leaving on vacation to set up a primer tan before setting off to bask in the real thing. This is especially true around the University campus, where winter and spring break excursions prompt throngs of sun-splashers to build an artificially induced base before heading south.
Many students use the beds as pit stop during a hectic work-load. “It’s kinda like a power nap,” Salo said.
Some say they reap benefits from the drying effects of bellarium bulbs, explaining that tanning clears up problems with acne.
Others have no delusions about the vanity factor. “It makes me feel attractive when I’m tan,” Sherman said.