Salon Operations: Regulation and Inspection

Danielle Clark Comments

Anti-tanning legislation has become increasingly prevalent in the last few years—on local, state, national and international levels—and 2009 was no exception.

Internationally, a major first occurred this year when Germany passed a law banning anyone under the age of 18 from tanning indoors, due to the risks of developing skin cancer. For some, this was a complete surprise, especially considering the fact that Germany is called the birthplace of tanning. For others, however, this was an expected next step following the 2007 adoption of the European Union maximum-irradiance standard.

Whether the news was expected or not, most of the industry is in agreement that it has set a precedent that only spells trouble for future regulation of teen tanning.

In the U.S., the ITA had its hands full dealing with 27 states seeking additional regulation for the industry, of which many were focused on restricting teen access.

And, following the release of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) report this summer, industry experts are predicting renewed efforts at the state levels for additional regulation that use the report as their basis. This means that salon owners must constantly be aware of what is going on in their states—not only does awareness of current regulation and proposed changes ensure that compliance is met, it also ensures that the industry has a voice in the process.

Let’s review what current regulations are in place for indoor tanning salons.

Federal Regulations

There are two branches of the federal government that share responsibility for regulating the indoor tanning industry: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FDA’s regulations are based on two laws. The Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act regulates the manufacturing and use of protective eyewear, timers, and tanning equipment and instruction manuals. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act regulates equipment labels in regard to detailed warnings and directions for equipment use.

The FTC enforces a variety of federal antitrust and consumer-protection laws, and shares responsibility with the FDA for regulating advertising claims that promote the use or sale of tanning and tanning-related services, products and equipment.

The Federal Trade Commission Act mandates that advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive, advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims and advertisers cannot be unfair. Those specific guidelines most affect tanning salons in regard to the types of claims made by salons in their advertisements—salons are prohibited from directly or indirectly promoting the healthful benefits of indoor tanning and from saying that tanning is safe.

State and Local Regulations

The FDA has the right to inspect any indoor tanning salon, but due to its limited budget and personnel, federal inspections are rarely performed unless a complaint has been filed; therefore, it has fallen to the state and local governments to create and enforce a regulatory system. Since the mid-1980s, more than half of the states have implemented regulations for tanning salons—typically, the guidelines govern the actual operation, licensing and business practices of commercial tanning facilities.

Some common regulations include registration fees, formal training requirements and minimum-age requirements. In addition, most have provisions requiring that all businesses offering tanning be registered, that warning signs be posted, that consumers are adequately notified of the risks of tanning, that protective eyewear is available, that certain minimum cleanliness standards are observed, that minors not be allowed to tan without parental permission and that the state or the FDA be notified of any injuries.

It’s also important to recognize that some states have regulations that exceed federal standards—so, if you are operating in a regulated state, you should obtain a copy of your state-specific regulations and review them to ensure you are compliant. To research regulatory specifics for your state, you’ll need to contact your state radiation control office—visit the National Tanning Training Institute's Web site,, and click on “A Guide to State Radiation Control Offices” for a state-by-state list of contacts, as well as a brief overview of what each state currently requires of tanning salons.

It’s also important to be aware that, while you may not have regulations governing tanning salons at the state level, they may be in existence at the county or city level. So, when discussing regulations with your state radiation control office, be sure to also ask if any county or city regulations exist.

Salon Inspections

For the most part, regulations—at the federal, state and local levels—are key elements to keeping the indoor tanning industry running on a level playing field and ensuring the professionalism of salons that represent the industry.

Of course, when most salon owners think about regulation, they think about the inspection process and, for those that haven’t experienced an inspection, it can seem rather daunting.

“Inspectors look at a variety of different aspects during an inspection,” says Doug Abodeely, president of Lucasol Products Corp. “Some of the major things they look for include: a DOH (Department of Health) license, proof of insurance, documentation of proper training, that required warning signs are posted, availability of equipment manuals, availability of adequate eye protection, presence of approved sanitizers for equipment and eyewear, and that emergency override timers and emergency shut-off switches are working.”

Violations may carry penalty fees or fines for non-compliance and, just as local regulatory requirements are different across the country, those fees vary. Fortunately, avoiding violations is easy as long as you know exactly what regulations apply to you. Here are a few general guidelines to maintaining compliance:

  • Post warning and proper-usage signs in a conspicuous location. Many states have specific guidelines regarding size, placement and wording of signage.
  • Establish an accurate record-keeping system, detailing each client’s visit. Include dates, exposure time, room used and attendant. (The National Tanning Training Institute offers sample record-keeping forms, including consent forms, skin-typing/subtyping questionnaires, tanning equipment maintenance logs and tanning injury report forms. Visit and click on “Sample Tanning Forms.”)
  • Be sure the equipment in place at your facility has been manufactured in accordance with FDA regulations 21 CFR Part 1040.20.
  • Be sure that your equipment meets the FDA’s 21 CRF Part 1040.20 regarding timer accuracy—the FDA’s policy allows for no more than a (+ or –) 10-percent error.
  • Make sure your equipment has all of the labeling required as part of the FDA’s 21 CFR 1040.20.
  • Be sure the lamps utilized in your equipment are compliant with the manufacturer’s requirements and labeling, or that replacement lamps have been certified by FDA standards to be equivalent to the original lamp listed on the equipment label or in the owner’s manual.

Because inspectors do ask to see quite a bit of paperwork, it’s a good idea to keep all of this information in one place. You may want to create a three-ring binder to store materials such as tanning device owner's manuals, maintenance records and lamp equivalency certification. Also, remember to show your staff where this information is kept. That way, if you are not available when an inspector comes in, your employees will be able to provide him or her with the necessary paperwork.

Overall, there is no need to panic when faced with an inspection. The purpose for the inspection is ensure the health and safety of your customers, and is designed to point out areas that are not in compliance and need to be addressed or corrected. Staying on top of all regulation on the federal, state and local levels will ensure that you complete an inspection with little to no serious violations.

Related Content:

Salon Inspection: Common Violations

Salon Inspection: Sanitation


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