Research study profiles indoor tanners

04/21/04

Atlanta, GA, April 22, 2004 A growing number of people who regularly or occasionally use commercial indoor tanning beds do so because they are aware of the expanding body of medical research that has identified many important health benefits from tanning, according to tanning technology researcher Michael Stepp. Stepp, a widely-published UV light researcher who is also CEO of Wolff System Technology the world's leading manufacturer of sunlamps for indoor tanning beds commissioned this study to help the tanning industry better identify and serve its core market of tanners.

"Instead of tanning just for cosmetic reasons, an increasing number of regular tanning bed users have learned that regular, responsible and moderate exposure to UV light from natural or artificial sources is important to well-being, natural vitamin D production and disease prevention," Stepp said. "In addition, regular indoor tanners are becoming increasingly aware that the links between tanning and skin cancer have been brought into question by medical researchers in studies published in the U.S., the UK and Europe."

To develop this information, Wolff System has completed an extensive market research study conducted among a randomly-drawn sample of 300 men and women who use commercial indoor tanning beds. In this study, 61 percent of individuals surveyed said they use indoor tanning beds frequently, and another 30 percent use these beds fairly often. Wolff also polled other industry experts on indoor tanning, including senior executives at industry manufacturers and tanning salon chains to validate and interpret the findings of their study. The objectives of this research study were to determine:

  • The current demographic profile of indoor tanners

  • Their motivations for tanning indoors

  • Their awareness of the perceived benefits and risks of indoor tanning

Over the past eight years, the survey noted that there has been a dramatic change in the demographics of indoor tanners. Since its last survey in 1996, which revealed that indoor tanners were primarily young women, today men now make up almost 30 percent of all indoor tanners nationally and in New York City and other major metropolitan areas, "demographic parity is approaching" Stepp pointed out.

A review of patrons at 160 Canadian tanning salons indicates that 25 percent of Canadian indoor tanners are men, a significant increase over the past decade.

Another tanning salon reported that, while men comprise 27 percent of their clientele, they account for 40 percent of revenues, suggesting that on average, men who use tanning salons do so more frequently than women.

In addition to the transition from an almost all-female profile to an increasingly balanced male/female tanner profile, the age of the average indoor tanner has increased significantly. Once indoor tanners were predominantly college-aged women; but today, 70% of all indoor tanners are over 25, and their average age is 32 in some markets, as high as 36.

In New York City, often seen as a bellwether of cultural trends, the greatest recent growth demographic segment has been for men over age 40, who have embraced indoor tanning in unprecedented numbers. They also appear to use tanning facilities more often, on average, than do women patrons.

There also appears to be trends developing among senior citizens and among some Hispanic and African American population groups, who are tanning for health-related benefits as well as for cosmetic reasons. While still statistically small, the numbers appear to be on the rise.

"My analysis has found that, since tanning salons have become more professional in structure and most have been removed from hair salons men are more comfortable coming in to tan," said Greg Henson, president of Heartland Tanning, one of America's leading indoor tanning equipment and accessory distributors. "As the documented, medically-sound health benefits of tanning have become more well known, we have seen additional interest in indoor tanning among health-conscious men and women," he said.

These are some of the highlights of the Wolff study:

Tanners Understand the Health Basics of Indoor Tanning:

Some critics of indoor tanning suggest that typical clients don't understand the risk/reward profile of indoor tanning. However, Stepp noted that the research points to a clear awareness among regular indoor tanners at professional salons of both the health benefits and the potential risks involved with indoor tanning.

  • 95% of those surveyed reported that they were aware of the limited potential risks associated with indoor tanning primarily from over-exposure (sunburn) and also understand the importance of regular and moderate tanning, as opposed to "binge" tanning.

  • 94% reported that they understood that some prescription medications cause the skin to become photosensitive, and knew that they understood how to check medications by reading the label for warnings, by asking their pharmacist, doctor or salon management.

  • 85% said they believe indoor tanning salons keep tanners informed of health risks and proper tanning techniques.

  • Nearly 55% believe indoor tanning is a responsible way to protect the skin from overexposure by the sun. These regular tanners recognize that there is a growing body of validated medical research pointing to the benefits of UV-generated Vitamin D as well as the serious medical and health risks of chronic sun-deprivation Vitamin D deficiencies.

Tanners Believe in Their Ability to Decide For Themselves:

"Some healthcare professionals have tried to limit individuals' rights to tan responsibly, moderately and appropriately," Stepp explained. "These are the same kinds of people and organizations who also want to impose radical dietary or lifestyle restrictions on the public. However, our survey demonstrated that indoor tanners are individualists who understand that some medical associations and physicians have their own conflict of interests with the tanning industry," Stepp said.

Among these findings are two key indicators:

  • 98% of those surveyed believe that adults should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they should be free to tan indoors.

  • 97% believe that, if they have the right to tan out-of-doors, they should also be able to choose to tan indoors.

Reasons for Tanning Indoors:

Among those who choose to tan at indoor tanning salons, Wolff System Technology's research has identified a number of significant, motivating reasons for individuals to regularly, or occasionally, use commercial tanning beds. These include:

  • 97% reported that they tan indoors because it makes them look healthier.

  • 95% reported that they tan indoors instead of outdoors because of privacy. They are uncomfortable tanning in public, or they want to avoid tan lines, which requires a higher level of tanning privacy.

  • 92% reported that indoor tanning made them feel rested the warmth and peace is relaxing.

  • 91% felt that indoor tanning allowed them to take a break from stress indoor tanning sessions give them a break where cell phones, pagers and other high-tech modern intrusions can't reach them.

  • 84% reported that they tan indoors because of the warmth a factor especially important during the peak winter months, and most notable during this especially cold winter.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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