West Campus apartments offer tanning beds to residents

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

As new apartment complexes continue to rise in West Campus, they're beginning to share a new standard in amenities: tanning beds.

Eleven apartment complexes in West Campus offer free tanning, or discounted tanning, said Lucas Horner, finance junior and West Campus Living employee.

“Nowadays, people ask for gyms and business centers to do their homework in,” Horner said. “As more complexes build tanning beds, it will kind of become a standard.”

The Block is one apartment complex that offers free tanning. They have two tanning beds in their leasing office available to residents of their seven locations. Daniela Zabbatino, biology sophomore and a community assistant at The Block, said she sees a few regulars but not a constant flood of tanners.

“I know a few people that will come in about three to five times a week,” said Zabbatino. “There are a few people that come in all the time to use them, but some people use them occasionally about once every few weeks.”

The Block follows federal regulations on tanning beds, which require residents to sign a waiver and provide date of birth to prove they are at least 18 years of age. Residents can only tan for one hour, every 24 hours.

“We just unlock the tanning bed doors in the morning, and, when they ask to go in, we set the timer in the back because there are timers in the office connected to the beds,” Zabbatino said. “They go in themselves and and close the door and open them back up.”

On 28th and Rio Grande streets, Aruba Sun Spa caters to West Campus residents as well. Manager Ashlee Medlin said free tanning beds may be more hazardous to those using them than paying for a tan at a salon.

“We provide several things [apartment] complexes don’t,” Medlin said. “We have a trained, knowledgeable staff that know everything about our equipment and can advise customers. We also have maintained the cleanliness of our store and maintenance of the equipment. In a situation where you have something free, it doesn’t mean it’s best for you.”

Medlin said dermatologists have sent patients to Aruba Sun Spa for certain skin conditions. Ammar Ahmed, dermatology assistant professor at Dell Medical School, said doctors prescribe tanning salons as a last resort.

“There are very rare cases in which people with certain skin conditions have to get treatment with UV treatment — psoriasis, vitiligo,” Ahmed said. “For that, there are generally more safer specifically dosed ways to get it with less risk. But used as a last resort, we can send patients to tanning beds to get their treatments.”

Tanning needs differ from client to client, Medlin said.

“You want to speak with customers about tanning goals and also adjust to their skin type,” Medlin said. “Our goal is to not even let people get pink. We take the smart approach to tanning.”

Adjusting times and intensity with each client does not mitigate risk for skin cancer, Ahmed said.

“I would liken it to cigarette smoke,” Ahmed said. “There’s a lot of pollution out there and you inhale it and manufacturers of cigarettes could say if you smoke every now and then with a filter, it’s relatively safe. There is no safe way of doing it. … I think that dermatologists will refute the arguments made by proponents of indoor tanning. there is no such thing as safe indoor tanning.”

The quality and safety of tanning with free tanning beds at apartment buildings is much lower than at a professional salon, Medlin said. While free tanning may sound tantalizing, there are dangers of not having educated salon employees to assist with the tanning process.

There also is a danger to tanning beds becoming a standard amenity of apartment complexes, Ahmed said.

“I do think that is a slippery slope there,” Ahmed said. “I think if you offer something there, people will be enticed to use it. Clearly, we have knowledge and evidence now that tanning beds are really not safe in any form or any amount, large or small doses. I think that putting that out there as a marketing tool is potentially putting the clientele of that complex or community at an increased risk for skin cancer.”

Medlin said the requests for tanning beds versus sunless tanning — spray tans — are split quite equally, but she predicted increased demand for spray tans.

“The demand is probably going toward sunless because there are more options in types of color and how instant it is,” Medlin said. “People who aren’t able to tan can get one from sunless tanning.”

Ahmed said he thinks sunless tanning works as a perfect alternative to tanning beds.

“Not a problem,” Ahmed said. “Those things are really quite safe. For people looking for a quick tan, do that.”