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A spray-on tan costs about $35 and lasts about a week.

Tanning salon guide

Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Jan. 7, 2009 at 5:25 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.

During the winter months, the sun is a hot commodity, and because Mother Nature doesn't always provide enough of it, some people journey indoors to soak up the rays.

Tanning salons became popular in the '80s, but according to Ken Wolf, who has owned a tanning facility for 23 years, the customer base remains strong.

"Everyone thought tanning was a fad 20 years ago, but it's a good service and technology has improved it over time," says Wolf, who owns Ultimate Beach Tan, 6160 W. Layton Ave.

Sini Skodras opened Ultimate Sun three years ago on Milwaukee's East Side. According to Skodras, tanning beds improved greatly over the past two decades and are a healthier option over natural sunlight because more of the UVB rays -- the "bad rays" -- are filtered out.

"Tanning beds are less dangerous then direct sun exposure because you are in a controlled environment," says Skodras.

Most tanning beds are larger now than they were in the '80s. Consequently, customers can get a quicker tan, usually in about three or four sessions as opposed to eight or nine sessions.

"If someone is going on vacation and wants to get a tan in a week, we can provide that," says Wolf.

However, not everyone wants to get a tan as quickly as possible. According to Wolf, some customers use tanning as a relaxation method, and prefer to tan slowly.

In a nutshell, tanning beds emit ultraviolet light via fluorescent lamps that causes the pigmentation to darken. Tanning, generally, is more popular with women.

Wolf says his industry doesn't ensure that tanning beds are "safe," but he agrees with Skodras in that they provide controlled exposure to the rays as opposed to the outdoors, where people have less control over their exposure to sun.

Wolf also believes that vitamin D -- generated from ultraviolet light exposure -- might positively affect a person's physical and emotional health.

"People look and feel better when they are tan," he says.

Tanning packages at Ultimate Beach Tan -- and most tanning saloons -- range in price, depending on which machine or service is used and whether or not a customer buys an individual session or a package.

At Ultimate Beach, packages range from $18.88 to $100 a month for unlimited tanning. A single visit runs between $5-$7. At Ultimate Sun, packages range from $17.95 to $69.95, and student discounts are available.

The spray-on tan is also available at many tanning salons. Wolf says his salon was the first to introduce the Mystic Spray-On Tan in 2002, and just upgraded to the VersaSpa system. Spray-on tans cost about $35 and last 4-7 days, depending on the person and how many times they swim or shower after getting the tan.

Spray-on tans take only about 30 seconds to a minute to receive, and up to four hours to change skin color.

"After one session, you'll have a golden glow. After two or three sessions, you'll look like you spent a month in Tahiti," says Wolf.

Karen Hansen-Price tanned on and off since the early '90s. She believes spray-on tans provide spotty results.

"I've had some decent ones that really looked like the real deal, and some uneven spray-ons that I couldn't wait to fade," says Hansen-Price.

Ultimate Sun also offers airbrushing, which is similar to spray-on tanning, except it's administered by a person instead of a machine.

"With airbrushing you can get just your legs or your face or whatever other part of your body that needs that extra glow," says Skodras.

People tan for a variety of reasons: to get a "base" for an upcoming vacation, to offset the dark days of winter, before a special event like a wedding, prom or graduation or just for fun and relaxation.

The World Health organization does not recommend indoor tanning for cosmetic purposes. Some studies show that indoor tanners are more likely to develop skin cancer than people who do not tan indoors. However, Wolf says indoor tanning is recommended in moderation and that indoor sunbathers should wear goggles and never let their skin burn.

Most spas provide tanning services -- and some random establishments, like Bucky's Super Video in Bay View, have tanning beds -- but here are local businesses that specialize in indoor tanning:

Artistic Tanning & Day Spa
8104 W. National Ave., (414) 266-1500

Baja Tan
8667 N. Port Washington Rd., (414) 540-000

Bella Grace Tanning
3701 S. Packard Ave., St. Francis, (414) 744-1445

Caribbean Tan
6528 N. North Ave., (414) 258-2826

Sunseekers by Rosie
2420 E. Capitol Dr., (414) 831-0314

TosaGlow Tanning Salon
8722 W. North Ave., (414) 476-1940

Tropics Tanning
5000 S. 27th St., (414) 481-4900
3088 E. Layton Ave., St. Francis, (414) 481-4900

Ultimate Sun
3124 N. Downer Ave., (414) 964-7464


older/wiser | Jan. 7, 2009 at 2:18 p.m. (report)

The beds were great, but the front desk lady kept pushing those expensive tanning products on me everytime I came in to tan at Ultimate Beach on 62nd and Layton. She intimidated me so terribly that I never returned after my month was over....I like Tropic Tan on S.27th Street much better...just my two cents worth on south side options.

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jeloyo | Jan. 7, 2009 at 12:17 p.m. (report)

For those of you in the 'burbs, I love Summertime Tan on 84th Street in West Allis, and tanfastic on Capitol Drive in Brookfield.

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