“Laying out” in the sun, just like Richard Gleason and Ashley Cro, used to be the only way to tan. These days, there are a number of options to exposing skin to UV rays.

Randy Gibson always has a warm, bronze glow to his skin, possibly because he makes a point of maintaining a tan.

“[Having a tan] makes me feel good about myself,” said Gibson. “I like the way I look.”

Gibson, communications coordinator for the Cherokee Nation, has frequented tanning salons since his college days at the University of Oklahoma.

“Back then in the mid-’80s, when tanning first became popular, the stand-up tanning booths didn’t even have Plexiglas over the bulbs,” Gibson recalled. “They were covered with wire. I remember holding onto the wire and feeling like I was in a cage.”

According to Mandy Patton, manager of The Look tanning salon, Gibson has been a customer since the business opened its doors several years ago.

“Randy is one of our favorite customers,” said Patton. “He uses the high-pressure premium tanning beds.”

Before the advent of tanning beds and salons, the only way to get a enviable bronze tan was to cover yourself with some homemade concoction, such as baby oil and iodine; pick the perfect slab of concrete next to the nearest pool; park yourself in your adjustable lawn chair; and remember to turn every 15 minutes.

Back then, “PTA” – or peak tanning hours, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – were adhered to by many a teenage girl.

Now that science has linked sunbathing to skin cancer, many people use alternative methods to achieve their healthy glow.

Patton’s salon, The Look, offers one such alternative: Mystic Tan. It’s sprayed directly on the body in a booth, and lasts anywhere from four to seven days, said Patton.

“I think the Mystic spray tanning is really catching on,” said Patton. “We’re busier this year than ever before. It’s the only completely safe form of tanning.”

Patton is pregnant, and received her doctor’s permission to use Mystic Tan.

“If I weren’t pregnant, I’d be in one of the UV beds,” said Patton. “But it could harm the baby. So now I use the Mystic Tan booth.”

Patton said The Look features two types of UV tanning beds: regular beds, which give off UVB rays, and the high-pressure or premium beds, which limit exposure to UVB rays and enhance UVA rays. Even when regulated in a tanning bed, both rays are considered risks in terms of skin health.

Gibson’s 9-year-old daughter was also interested in tanning last year, and he allowed her to use the spray-tanning method.

“The only problem we had was her size,” said Gibson. “The hair protector was a little too big, so she ended up with a little white line across her forehead.”

The active ingredient in Mystic Tan is DHA - dihydroxyacetone, a carbohydrate compound approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in sunless tanning solutions. It is usually derived from a vegetable source, like beets or sugar cane. According to Patton, DHA has been used by Mystic Tan to apply more than two million sunless tans, with no documented reports of adverse effects.

When applied to the skin, DHA reacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of the skin to temporarily darken its appearance. The coloring doesn’t wash off, but it gradually fades as the dead skin cells slough off.

“It’s really important to shave and exfoliate prior to getting a spray tan,” said Patton. “Mystic Tan works similar to static electricity; it needs a smooth surface to stick to.”

Ashley Cro, lifeguard at Bear Creek Pool (or City Pool, as many locals know it), spends a lot of time in the sun.

“I went to a tanning bed for just a little bit before the pool opened this summer,” said Cro. “I wanted to get some color to my skin to prevent burning. Moisturizing is the most important part, though, If you want to protect your skin.”

Cro has also used sunless tanning creams.

“I prefer the Neutrogena or the Clinique sunless tanners,” said Cro. “The Clinique is new just this year. It took a couple of applications before I could see a difference, but it wasn’t orangey like many of the others tend to be.”

Patton offers a number of lotions and enhancers at The Look, but steers clear of sunless creams.

“I just don’t want a customer being dissatisfied with the look of her tan, when we have no control over the application,” said Patton. “Some of the creams, if not applied correctly, can be streaky, and I’d hate for a customer to think it was our product.”

Avoid streaks!

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, newer sunless tanning products offer an even, natural-looking tan, if they’re applied correctly and carefully. For best results, follow these tips:

• Choose a light- or medium-toned product, which tends to look more natural.

• Before using the product, wash and exfoliate your skin. Women should shave their legs for an even application.

• Apply the sunless tanning product evenly and lightly. Use less product on dry skin or thickened skin, such as over your ankles, knees and elbows. These areas tend to absorb more product.

• After applying the tanning product to face and body, wash your hands with soap and water to avoid staining your palms. Be sure to remove any product from under your fingernails. Then use a cotton ball to apply the sunless tanner to the top of each hand.

Most sunless tanning products don’t contain a sunscreen and don’t protect your skin from sun damage. If you spend time outdoors, be sure to apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 before going outside.


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