Tanning Salons: A Shocking Look Behind The Scenes. Exclusive By Belly Dancer, Dilara Sultan
By Dilara Sultan
In the past 30 days, I have traveled over 4,000 miles: Los Angeles, New Orleans and a million places in between. Travel always opens my eyes, but an unexpected education about what can really happen in a tanning salon has blown me away. So now, I share a trip with you. Please fasten your seat belts, and hold on. This is a journey you will not soon forget.
It's not enough that HipMix.net has been telling belly dancers for more than a year about the dangers of tanning beds. We even offered up articles and tips from other belly dancers about safe tan alternatives. But now, we share with you what goes on from the other side of the bed, if you will --- the realities of the tanning business from someone who currently works in the business. And what she says may help you make the healthy decision to be fake!
I’m on a road trip and preparing for a performance.. and by preparing I mean I’m shopping. I forgot my sunless tanning lotion at home. I’m with my friend Amy, and one of her friends in town for the event.
“Good thing you are a fake-tan fan,” Amy’s friend said to me. “You would not believe what happens behind the scenes where I work.” I encouraged her to continue, and the first thing she said to me is this, “You CANNOT tell anyone that I have told you these things, I would be fired.”
“Wait a minute, you are working in a tanning salon now? I asked. "Yes, for about a year now. Do I like it? Not really, but I have to pay bills,” she said.
Being the belly dancer/journalist that I am, I made a professional “pinkie-promise,” with her:
I will NOT tell her name or where she works. She is not a disgruntled employee. Perhaps this is a situation where confession is good for her conscience... but whatever the case, here are her confessions:
"A timid new customer walks into my large tanning salon one hot summer morning. She is looking into opening a membership, but has some serious questions about how safe tanning actually is. Of course, I could tell her the truth…
'That regular tanning increases her chances of skin cancer by 75%, that the UVB rays in our level four bed equal the damage she would get after spending 10 hours in direct sunlight, and that she will begin to show more hard wrinkles, lines and age spots after tanning than she would if she turned around and left the salon forever.'
"But of course, if I said any of that I would lose my job. So, I tell her what I have been trained to say…
'That tanning is perfectly SAFE! Safer than staying out in the sun, and that sunburn actually causes skin cancer, and tanning decreases the risk of burning, therefore decreasing the risk of skin cancer.'"
My source added, "The twisted facts are somewhat true… but distorted to make tanning look beneficial to your health when its actually a huge risk."
My source went on to share her first-hand experiences....
Table and Chair For One, Please
"There was a woman with bandages on her forehead who came into the tanning salon and asked for a chair to sit on in her room. Curious, I asked why and she told me that she had a spot of melanoma removed from her head the previous week and has another spot scheduled to be removed from her arm the next month. She wanted to sit in the chair so she could prop her currently cancer-free legs in the tanning bed.
"I noticed her dark, leathery skin that made her seem much, much older than the age stated in her customer profile and wondered why anyone would risk their health to look like she did. A year and four cancer spots later, she still tans daily."
Clean As A Whistle?
My source continued:
"Besides being unsafe, tanning and tanning salons are actually not as clean and sanitary as you think. After working at a large tanning salon chain for a year now, I can say that I have seen it all, well least I hope so. Some of the claims that tanning salons make are completely bogus.
'We use hospital grade cleaner when cleaning ALL of our beds.' - I am required to say this whenever a new customer questions our cleaning policy, although they rarely ask. The truth is, we DO use hospital grade cleaner. It’s called Lucasol, and we keep it in a “kool-aide” jug. All I know is we are supposed to make sure the test-strip is green when we check to make we have mixed it properly."
I asked her more information about the cleanser used, but she did not know hard facts. This is what I have learned:
Lucasol is the industry standard when it comes to cleaning tanning beds. It is effective in killing just about every “bad germ” we know of. The test-strip she referred to measures the ppm (parts per million) to ensure proper dilution. The testing strip looks like this:
According to the company's website and the product label, which I downloaded and printed, when mixed to 700 ppm, double quat, LUCASOL One Step has the highest available germ-killing power in the industry Hospital-grade; kills disease-causing single cell organisms including staph, strep, hepatitis-B, HEPATITIS-C, herpes and HIV; helps stop the spread of contagious diseases.
The only additional information that my source revealed about her knowledge of the cleaning of tanning beds was quite simple. "All our manager has ever told employees is: 'make sure the strip is not yellow.' We check the cleaner once a day, and the only time we change it is when it's so low, its equal to plain water. I can remember more than a few days that we have cleaned with cleaner that had a number of 0."
I paused and asked her if there were any other cleanliness issues she has been involved in, and the answer is yes.
"'The towel in your room is fresh and unused.' - On any given day, this may be true or untrue. "If we are cleaning a dirty room and see an seemingly unused towel on the bench, we leave it. It is less laundry for us!" my source explained. She then described different scenarios that can take place.
"The previous customer could have sat on it, wiped their dirty hands on it, or used it and refolded it. As long as it looks clean, we don't question it. In desperate situations, we refold the one crumpled in the bed, covered with sweat, and pass it off as clean. It's dirty, but when you have 30 plus customers in a store with 5 beds…you do what you have to do."
She then took me through the next cleanliness claim scenario:
"'Every bed is thoroughly cleaned and wiped down before use' - "When we wipe down a bed we get it fairly clean. Sometimes we just wipe the bottom of the bed if the top looks clean enough. If the store is busy, we put two or three squirts of cleaner on the bed and quickly wipe it down. It's sort of gross to think about, since one customer's lotion can linger on the bed for 3 to 4 tans after they leave. Sometimes, we find dirt or hair in the bed, and usually just wipe it to the side."
Besides dirt and hair, it is typical for tanning salon employees to find other surprises after a customer leaves. For that part of the interview, CLICK HERE