Tanning habits may border addiction

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    By Theresa Kasallis

    As indoor tanning facilities continue to dot Utah County, a growing number of locals are flocking to get the perfect golden glow, but some say there could be more to it than meets the eye.

    In a Foxnews.com 2005 survey, more than 145 beach-goers were asked a series of questions related to tanning dependency. According to one standard, 26 percent of participants showed signs of tanning addiction. By a separate measure, 53 percent of participants qualified to have ultraviolet light addictions. The survey was conducted by researchers in the dermatology department of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

    While sun exposure and indoor tanning effects remain a heated debate, some say tanning is becoming the new euphoric high for several indoor tanners. Some tanning-bed users can”t get enough of the sun-induced facilities and say they crave the feel-good stimulant.

    “What happens is that the ultraviolet light releases the same endorphins as working out and it makes you mentally feel good,” said Donna Thayer, manager of Waikiki Beach Tanning Salon. “People with depression do it and it”s good if you have a skin condition – its good in moderation but for the most part you feel better and look better when you have a tan.”

    Thayer said she has been in the industry for a long time and her clients between the ages of 20 and 35 tan most regularly.

    “I”ve been tanning for about five or six years because it gives me a great base tan all year long,” said Kelsey Grover, a 21-year-old BYU graduate.

    A speculated reason for the possible addiction could be based on vanity, said Jay Stone, from the Utah County Commission.

    Grover agreed there could be a connection between self-esteem and tanning but said not all people fall in that category.

    “I don”t think everyone does it for those reasons, but I think a lot of people think if they”re tanned they feel better about themselves, and think they look better,” Grover said.

    Approximately 30 million people use indoor tanning facilities nationwide, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. While 2.3 million users are teens, nearly 70 percent of Caucasian women ages 16 to 49 frequent indoor tanning salons.

    Another possible reason for the dependency could be attributed to the fact that tanning beds are made readily available to the public. Due to the high volume of users, certain locations are banking off of the trend by using it as a marketing tool to increase clients.

    The Branbury Park Apartment complex added a tanning bed to its clubhouse nearly seven months ago, said MaryAnn Rushton, a Branbury leasing agent. Since the addition, business has increased and more potential tenants have shown interest.

    “[The tanning bed] was added to the amenities and is a good seller,” Rushton said. “We wanted to be a package deal and wanted to be the best, and we felt like the addition helped set us apart.”

    According to the SCF the indoor tanning industry earns approximately $5 billion in annual revenue.

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