by Bonnie Williamson
Over the years, attitudes have changed about tans and people who get them. Writer Cleveland Amory once said, "I can't take a welltanned person seriously." Baseball player Whitey Ford said, "The way to make coaches think you're in better shape in the spring is to get a tan."
However, the advantage of getting a tan the right way is very important and a serious business for one Martinsburg tanning salon owner.
Combining looking good on the outside, as well as feeling good on the inside is the goal of Judy Miller- Wright, the owner of Indian Sun and Silver Tanning Salon "Plus" in Martinsburg. The motto she has for her customers is, "We not only make you look good, we make you feel great." Still, as superficial as all this may seem at first, Miller-Wright finds she is in a constant battle to keep public opinion about tanning salons positive.
Even before future battles were on the horizon, Miller-Wright fought her own private war.
"In my early 20's I battled with addiction which led me to becoming an addiction counselor. I have lived with a lot of pain. I know I felt better and was healthier when I got a tan year round. I've been tanning since was 19," she says.
Miller-Wright's career choices also involved selling Indian jewelry and antiques. She continues to sell jewelry at her salon.
"I've loved Indian jewelry since I was a little girl. I would get pieces of jewelry for Christmas. I would travel around the country selling Indian jewelry, but the competition at jewelry shows kept growing. There were more shows but less and less people coming to them," she says.
Once Miller-Wright started her counseling career, she found her schedule kept her from getting her tan at salons, something she says made her feel unwell.
"We're told by so many people to stay out of the sun, but we need the vitamins, like Vitamin D, that sunlight gives us. When I began tanning again on a regular basis, I was almost never sick," Miller-Wright says.
Once she decided to have her own tanning salon, Miller-Wright says she made it a point to get as much education as she could on how to do things the smartest way.
"That's just how I am. I want to know everything. I've always been an educator. I want people to feel better," she says.
She studied with the Smart Tan Network, a professional tanning salon association that, according to its website, promotes the responsible life-long skin-care regimen of moderate suntanning for individuals who can develop a tan, and sunburn avoidance for all.
Miller-Wright studied with the Smart Tan Network and makes sure her employees do the same. Her staff is certified in the Smart Tan Master's Program. She also makes sure she knows all about her clients before she starts them on the tanning process. There are 14 tanning units. The salon has been in business since 2005.
"We are an educated salon. We guide you through it. And, you won't burn. We know our customers' skin types. We know all about them," Miller-Wright says.
Miller-Wright also carries a number of products to help customers take care of their skin. She adds that many tanning salons don't take proper care of their customers, nor their facilities.
"I would welcome inspectors to come in here and see how clean this salon is, but tanning salons don't have inspectors. You have to be so careful about where you go," she says. Miller-Wright's salon not only has tanning beds but offers spray tan session as well. Customers must sign a form before this tanning process.
According to the form, spray tanning uses a DHA Sunless Tanning solution. This solution, when sprayed on the skin, activates itself through the body's temperature by opening the pores and absorbs into the skin. It has a natural chemical reaction with the keratin and melanin in the skin, causing it to turn golden brown without the need of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
However, tanning is not the only service offered by the salon. In addition, there is a whole body vibration machine on site. Miller- Wright wants her customers to exercise. She says 10 minutes on the machine is like jogging four miles. It melts away body fat, increases circulation, energy and muscle strength.
The whole body vibration machine is private and fast, she adds. It eliminates the eight reasons people have for not exercising: no time for a regular exercise routine; don't know any beneficial exercises; afraid of injury; embarrassed to go to a gym or engage in public exercise; too old to be physically active; don't like to exercise; takes too long to experience the benefits of exercise; and illness or injury prevents someone from being physically active.
Despite all of her work to make sure her customers are tanned in the smartest fashion, Miller-Wright still finds it tough going for the tanning salon industry.
"I have customers who keep coming back. I'm always doing research to make sure things are done right here," she says. However, the tanning industry continues to take hits.
Reports connecting tanning and skin cancer are constantly in the news. On the website, skin cancer.org, it states indoor (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who never tanned indoors.
According to published reports, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed a bill prohibiting teens under 17 from using tanning beds and 14-year-olds from getting a spray tan. The bill would allow 17-year-olds to use a tanning salon provided a parent or guardian accompanies the child at the first visit to give consent.
Closer to home, the West Virginia Legislature is considering a bill to ban those under 18 from using tanning beds, says Miller-Wright.
"If you're under 15 and come here, a parent must be present. Between 15 years and 17 years old, a parent is here the first time. I don't think these laws make sense. How can young people build a base tan to protect them from burning if we don't let them tan?" Miller-Wright asks.
The Smart Tan Network's philosophy, which Miller-Wright follows to the letter, says that tanning is natural, and works the same either outdoors or in a salon. Smart Tan says, "The advantage of using sunbeds is having complete operator control over the intensity and duration of a session, which results in minimal risk of an uneven tan or a sunburn.
When it comes to UV light, both summer sunlight and most sunbeds produce pretty much the same kind and mix of sunlight. The difference is that most sunbeds are two to four times more intense than summer sunlight. That's the reason someone only stays in a sunbed a few minutes."
Again, the Smart Tan Network emphasizes that everyone's skin is different and recommends the determination of skin type so a proper exposure schedule can be set accordingly.
Miller-Wright encourages people to look into any tanning salon before they become customers. "We won't let you burn. Not all salons can say the same thing," she says.
Indian Sun and Silver Tanning Salon "Plus" is located at 1440 Winchester Avenue. The hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday thru Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.