"These people, you just guide them until they become these people": Learning to become a frequent indoor tanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Many young women experiment with using indoor tanning beds with some becoming regular users. There is a dearth of research focused on factors related to the development of regular tanning. This study was designed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences of a regular indoor tanning bed user for the purpose of discovering working hypotheses related to the development of this behavior. The article thesis is that initial interactions with tanning salon employees transmit insider knowledge that serves to encourage the regular use of indoor tanning beyond experimentation. Methods: We used Spradley's ethnographic interviewing technique to conduct six iterative interviews with a key informant who was an active indoor tanning bed user and former salon employee. The research was completed in the United States in 2015. Results: The informant described her experiences as a salon employee including her interactions with salon patrons. The informant was trained as a salon employee to talk about tanning as a complex process that requires multiple salon visits to achieve desired results and to develop rapport with salon patrons to be viewed as an important source of guidance and advice. In the informant's experience, indoor tanning users who viewed tanning as a complex process and felt connected to salon employees were more receptive to purchasing larger amounts of bulk tanning sessions and committing to purchasing salon memberships. Conclusions: Findings provide insights into our understanding of the development of regular tanning behavior and we propose working hypotheses about this behavior to be examined in future research. There are also implications for policy makers to reduce excessive tanning behaviors including considering point-of-sale regulations that limit sales techniques of salon employees and pricing restrictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalBMC Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 4 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Ethnographic interview
  • Indoor tanning
  • Key informant
  • Melanoma prevention
  • Skin cancer prevention
  • Young adults

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