Standardizing Optimal Tanning Schedules
by Rick Mattoon
One of the most crucial responsibilities a tanning salon owner or operator has is determining a proper tanning schedule for clients. Interestingly, many tanning facilities have written policies and procedures for equipment maintenance, cleaning duties and lotion sales but have no set standard for properly and consistently establishing a customer’s tanning schedule.
In order for salon owners to control their exposure to liability, an in-house written procedure should be established to consistently offer clients an optimal tanning session while reducing the potential for overexposure.
Skin Typing Is The Key
One of the most important factors involved in calculating a client’s optimal tanning time is skin typing. Indoor tanning professionals must be able to accurately and consistently identify the various skin types of their tanning clients.
Most skin-type charts today are based on the Fitzpatrick system. An offshoot of an earlier biological system, the Fitzpatrick system was first developed in 1987 for the sole purpose of determining the optimal UVR exposure for the treatment of psoriasis with PUVA therapy.
In some states, as part of an “initial visit statement,” salon operators are required to use a state-approved skin-typing form to determine a person’s “skin sensitivity” when determining a session time for a client. In Louisiana, a state-generated form using a point system is divided into three categories: hereditary disposition, sunbathing experiences and tanning habits. The client answers 10 questions and the results are tallied to determine his or her skin sensitivity. A person using this program is assigned a “skin behavior” estimate of Very Sensitive (I), Sensitive (II), Normal (III) or Very Resistant (IV).
Plugging In The Numbers
Whichever skin-typing system you choose to use—or are required to use by regulations—matching the client’s skin type to the manufacturer’s recommended tanning time is another crucial element in establishing an effective tanning schedule. Since 1986, manufacturers have been required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to post a recommended exposure schedule—including duration and spacing of sequential exposures and maximum exposure times in minutes— on tanning units.
The manufacturer’s recommended schedule is designed to allow an indoor tanner to build up a tan gradually and maintain it while reducing the risk of acute injury or delayed adverse effects. Because the UV dose necessary for developing a tan or causing a sunburn is not the same for everyone, the manufacturer’s exposure schedule for the client depends on the skin type of the individual as well as the number of prior tanning sessions the person has had.
In addition to standardized skin-typing procedures and use of a manufacturer’s recommended schedule as a guide, additional measures can be taken by indoor tanning professionals for minimizing professional liability. Pre-established written standards for things like parental consent for minors, photosensitive drug checklists and a salon eyewear policy may help eliminate employee guesswork while protecting a salon against liability lawsuits. In the past, court decisions often favor those who take a proactive approach to salon standards.
Salons also should get in the habit of using resources such as manufacturers, distributors, industry associations and even insurance agents to help develop written standards for proper salon operations. Many times these groups will have written material available for interested salon owners who are looking for guidance in heading off potential problems.
While written local and federal tanning codes are excellent resources for establishing salon standards that minimize or avoid professional liability, they also may help salons to develop procedures that are consistent with important regulations that may directly affect their tanning businesses. For a list of state and federal regulatory offices or a list of suggested operating procedures, visit the National Tanning Training Institute’s Web site at www.tanningtraining.com.