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Spray tans gaining as sun-exposure fears grow

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 31, 2014, at 10:25 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 1, 2014, at 6:51 a.m.

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Some people want a darker tan.

But others may want to look like a “Venetian Goddess” – according to Jennifer Szenay, owner of Glisten Salon and Sunless Boutique.

Glisten is one of dozens of places throughout Wichita that offers spray tanning, an alternative to tanning booths that use ultraviolet rays to darken skin.

Spray tanning has become more popular over the last several years as more people grow concerned about the effects of UV rays and overexposure to the sun. Those include everything from premature aging to skin cancer.

“I started tanning just my friends and it blew up into this,” Szenay said of her salon. “Business keeps growing.”

Szenay started Glisten in February 2009 after living in Orlando, Fla. Her sister has survived three bouts of skin cancer, and Szenay wanted to look for an alternative to traditional tanning as well as a job where she could be self-employed.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that tanning beds and sun lamps must carry new warnings that they should not be used by those younger than 18. The warnings are part of an effort to reduce skin cancer.

More than 76,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed this year, causing 9,710 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. While most cases are diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s, the disease is linked to sun exposure at a young age.

When Szenay started, she said there were only two other places in Wichita that offered spray tans. Now, she says there are more than 30 individuals and salons that offer it.

Glisten has eight employees and sprays 700 to 1,000 people a month in the summer season and around 400 a month in the winter season, Szenay said.

“We get a lot of people in the winter who are older; they’re coming in for cruises or before vacations and special events. Then you also have your die-hard tanners that come in year-round no matter what,” she said. “There’s Valentine’s Day, then spring break, then we have prom, graduation, wedding season and then (cheerleading).”

An estimated 2.3 million teens in the U.S. use indoor tanning beds each year.

Szenay says she has a lot of moms come and buy packages for their daughters.

“They want to keep them out of the tanning booths,” she said.

Spray tanning is not regulated by the Kansas Board of Cosmetology. But Szenay says she wishes it was so that products and services could be regulated for safety.

Kansas lawmakers considered a bill earlier this year that would have prohibited anyone younger than 18 from using tanning booths, but the measure was never brought to a floor vote.

Brooke Watkins, who works at Caribbean Sun Tanning, 340 S. Andover Road in Andover, says they’ve done spray tans since the business opened in 2011. Caribbean Sun also has indoor tanning beds.

They also have a mix of older and younger clients who use spray tanning, Watkins said.

“We have two different kinds, one that is darker and one that is lighter and not as noticeable,” she said. “We do multiple coats to get the color they want, usually two or three coats, and it takes 10 minutes or so to dry,” Watkins said.

The spray tan can usually last about a week depending on how active people are who have it or how often they bathe.

Some sunless tanning sprays include the chemical dihydroxyacetone (DHA), according to the FDA. The chemical darkens the dead surface cells of the skin, which simulates the look of a tan for several days. The FDA allows the chemical to be applied externally, but it should not be inhaled, ingested to applied to the lips, nose or around the eyes.

Spray tans do not include sunscreen, so the FDA encourages people who get them to also wear sunscreen outdoors to avoid sunburn.

Contributing: Associated Press

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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