Background: The development of new pigmentation (tan) in human skin after UV exposure requires several days. Once it is developed, the tan can last for weeks. Current recommendations for tanning exposure schedules in the USA (FDA Letter to Manufacturers: Policy on maximum timer interval and exposure schedule for sunlamps, August 21, 1986) allow exposures three times per week for the development of a tan, and one to two times per week for maintenance exposures. However, this policy is often interpreted in the indoor tanning industry as allowing three exposures per week on a continuous basis. We believe that the reduction of the recommended cumulative dose to indoor tanners should be explored. Two approaches for achieving this are (1) decreasing the number of exposures and (2) increasing the time interval between exposures. To explore such changes, we conducted a pilot study.
Methods: The pilot study involved three exposure schedules (evaluated on each of six subjects) that evolved throughout the course of the study. Digital photography, visual assessment and diffuse reflectance spectrometry were used to assess skin color changes. The six pilot subjects were studied for 8–18 weeks. The changes in skin color obtained through the use of the different exposure schedules were compared with changes reported by Caswell (Caswell M, The kinetics of the tanning response to tanning bed exposures, Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2000: 16: 10–14) who used schedules based on current recommendations.
Results: Two out of the three experimental schedules produced tans comparable with those reported by Caswell. In these two schedules, cumulative doses were a factor of 2–3 below doses from current schedules.
Conclusion: The UV burden to indoor tanners can be substantially reduced without compromising the cosmetic effect. These results need to be confirmed in a larger study.