New Study Explores Sunless Tanning Options for Business Owners

Harrogate, Tennessee, Dec. 18, 2018 – Owners of tanning bed businesses argue that policies restricting minors use of tanning beds would harm their small business, but a new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology Nov. 29, 2018, gives hope that businesses may be able to stay financially viable without ultraviolet (UV) tanning services by offering only sunless tanning services such as spray or airbrush tanning. Dr. Vinayak K. Nahar, a Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) assistant professor and researcher, served as co-investigator on the study with a team of researchers led by Dr. Sherry L. Pagoto, a professor and the director for the University of Connecticut Center for mHealth and Social Media.


Tanning BoothTo date, 16 states in the United States restrict minors from using UV tanning beds. According to statistics listed on the American Academy of Dermatology website, it is estimated that indoor tanning may cause upward of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year, and indoor tanning before age 24 increases a person’s risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by age 50. In May 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new regulations including a strong recommendation against the use of tanning beds by minors under 18.


The principal argument against policy restricting indoor tanning is the concern it would harm small businesses. Nahar set out to investigate if that was indeed the case. Nahar and his team of researchers interviewed 15 sunless tanning business owners for the study. The owners were asked about business characteristics, UV tanning, financial viability, whether they discuss dangers of UV tanning with their clients, their perceptions regarding public interest in sunless tanning, business opportunities and threats, views about UV tanning legislation, demographics and UV tanning habits of their clients and client pros and cons of sunless tanning.


“Interest in sunless tanning among the public has increased over the last five years,” Nahar said. “Sunless only tanning businesses are already in existence and we wanted to see what insights owners of those businesses might be able to provide on this as an alternative business model.”


Of the business owners interviewed, 86.7 percent found that offering sunless-only tanning was a viable business model. The remaining 13.3 percent could not confirm it to be a viable business model yet as they had just started their business. Unanimously the business owners said they had no intention of providing UV tanning services in the future, and very few viewed UV tanning salons as a threat to their business. All owners supported legislation banning minors from tanning beds.


According to the business owners in the study, most of their clientele are former tanning bed users.


“UV tanning salon owners who switch to a sunless only business model have an opportunity not only to retain current clients but to regain many they are losing to sunless tanning,” Nahar said. “The recent decline in tanning bed use among both minors and adults could mean UV tanning salons may need to change their business model to stay viable.”


Nahar serves several roles at LMU including assistant professor of Public Health and One Health at LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine, a researcher for the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Center of Animal and Human Health in Appalachia. Nahar also serves as a researcher for the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He was responsible for the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data as well as drafting the manuscript. His research focuses on using health behavior theoretical models to conceptualize preventive behaviors.


Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or email at [email protected].

Back to previous page