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From bottles to booths, sunless tanning is hot business

Monday, May 5, 2003

SIKESTON -- While many people are already slipping into those warm tanning beds this spring, others are opting for a safer method of tanning that can give the same natural glow -- sunless tanning.

Improved versions of countless sunless tanning lotions are available at nearly every department store and some grocery stores.

"A lot of people like the all-over-the-body bronzer which is available in a spray or a lotion that comes in different tints of light, medium and dark," said Kathy Kelley, Estee Lauder consultant at Accent Shop in Sikeston.

Most of Kelley's customers prefer the lotion over the spray, she said. Face bronzers are also available, she said.

Kelley said Accent Shop is very busy selling the sunless tanning this year because Estee Lauder made a new and improved bronzer.

"And it doesn't turn you orange or streak," Kelley said, adding that "it doesn't stink, and it dries pretty quickly. The more you reapply, the darker you will get."

In addition to offering tanning beds, some tanning salons across the nation are also offering sunless tanning spray booths, where people can get the same bottle glow without even touching the bottle.

"We have people come in year-round for the sunless tanning, but we do get busier in the summer and around prom time," said Brandi Nine, front desk manager at Elan Day Spa and Esthetics in Cape Girardeau.

Each business is different and at Elan, a trained technician airbrushes the tanning solution onto customers, Nine said.

"It works naturally and reacts with the melanin of the person receiving the treatment," Nine explained. "Customers can wear their bathing suits or even go nude if they don't want a tan line."

Elan Day Spa using an FDA-approved tanning solution produces within 24 hours, a golden, natural-looking tan, Nine said. The tan lasts about a week to 10 days.

"We're averaging about 15 to 20 people a day who are getting the sunless tanning application," Nine noted.

Also known as sunless tanning lotions, the active ingredient in the tanning solution causes amino acids in the top layer of the skin to produce a tan -- just like the sun, but without the damage, Nine said. No dyes or colors are used, she added.

The active ingredient in sunless tanning lotions is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a colorless sugar that interacts with dead cells in the skin's outer layer, staining the skin darker. The dead cells shed off over several days, the tan gradually disappearing unless the lotion has been absorbed.

"It's kind of like when you cut an apple and the apple starts to turn dark," explained dermatologist Kenneth Dempsey of Sikeston.

Dempsey agrees sunless tanning is a safe approach because it contains the DHA ingredient, however, it's very poor at sun protection, he added, which is why a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be worn daily.

And it's not just the fair complected people who use sunless tanning, either.

"We get a lot of people who lie in tanning beds but want to even out their tan so they buy the bronzer," noted Kelley. "And then there are others who don't want to use the sun at all and buy the bronzer."

Nine said the spa also sees a variety of people of all ages and complexions. From working women, retirees and teens those with fair complexions and people with dark complexions, more and more people are using sunless tanning, she said.

Some parents even call for Elan's teenage clients, asking about the safety of the tanning solution before booking an appointment for their child, Nine said. They'd rather spray them with a safe tanner than put them under a tanning bed, she said.

Nine suggested anyone who plans to receive sunless tanning to wear loose-fitting clothes, exfoliate well before receiving the application and not shower immediately after the application.

"These days, more people are thinking about their health," Nine said about the increased interest in sunless tanning. "And everyone is always pleased with the results."