Tanning centre sector trends

Woman in black bikini lying face down in sunbed

What has been happening in the sunbed tanning sector

The number of different outlets providing tanning sessions has grown over the last decade because both men and women have become more and more conscious of the way they look. Many people think they look better and more healthy with a tan and aim to maintain a tan throughout the year. Many people also use tanning studios to help them build up a pre-holiday tan and to help a holiday tan last longer. Others will have a course of tanning sessions ahead of a major event, like a wedding.

Hand-in-hand with this has grown concern that skin cancers can be caused by over-exposure to UV radiation, from both natural sunlight and from tanning equipment. Publicity has also been given to the skin damage and premature ageing effects of too much tanning. In January 2018 the Sunbed Association drew to the attention of its members the results of studies published in the journal Anticancer Research which claimed to show that there is no proven causal link between moderate commercial sunbed use and an increased melanoma risk. This finding runs contrary to reports from the EU and the World Health Organisation.

Limits have been placed on the UV radiation that sunbeds emit - now sunbeds must have a maximum UV output of not more than 0.3 watts per square metre. This is the same as the midday sun in the Mediterranean. The limit of 0.3 watts is an EU regulation and will remain in place at least until the Brexit withdrawal process is complete. The government may then decide to retain it as part of UK regulations.

There has been particular concern over the growing numbers of children using unsupervised coin-operated sunbeds. Recent legislation throughout the UK has banned under-18s from using commercial sunbeds, and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all salons offering sunbed sessions must be supervised.

Despite the adverse publicity surrounding the dangers of too much sun, demand for sunbed operators appears not to have weakened, with many customers coming back year after year. The industry was given a boost recently by the publication of reports showing that many people in the UK are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because they don't get enough sunlight (exposure to the sun is the best way for vitamin D to be manufactured by the body). Some research has shown that vitamin D levels can be improved following a course of tanning sessions, so long as sunbeds emitting UVB are used (UVA does not stimulate vitamin D production in the same way).

However, the sector is very competitive and in some areas session prices are extremely low. You will have to decide whether there will be sufficient demand in your area for the services you plan to provide, at the price you plan to charge. Also bear in mind that consumers reduce their spending on non-essentials like tanning and beauty services when they need to make economies.

Keeping up with the sunbed tanning sector

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry.

The Sunbed Association represents the interests of sunbed operators. Members must abide by a Code of Practice and have to undergo regular inspections. The Sunbed Association is a member of the European Sunlight Association, which promotes responsible tanning. Visit the Sunbed Association website for more information.

You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show for the beauty industry, like BeautyUK, held at the NEC in Birmingham in May. The show covers tanning services as well as beauty treatments and complementary therapies.

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