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Chapter 4: SPFs


It's only the middle of March, the winds are still blowing cold, arctic air from the north and salons nationwide are filled to capacity with clients seeking solace from Old Man Winter. Yet, before long, those winds will be shifting to the south, and many of your loyal customers will be turning to Mother Nature for a dose of relaxation and nourishment.

While many salon owners believe that the summer doldrums brings a dramatic decrease in their tanning business, this is not true for marketing savvy operators. By marketing your facility as a one-stop shop for clients' skincare needs such as outdoor lotions and oils, you will keep your cash ringing throughout the summer months.

Damaging Summer Heat

The sun is responsible for our very existence here on earth. Its light is the fuel for photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants create their energy, and we, in turn, depend on the plants for food and oxygen. The sun's infrared rays keep us warm and its visible rays give us light to see by. The sun's ultraviolet radiation also is useful; however, at the same time, it is dangerous to us.

As you know, ultraviolet radiation is divided into three different bands--UVA, UVB and UVC. Virtually all of the UVC is filtered out by our atmosphere so that none actually reaches the earth's surface. However, both UVB and UVA reach the earth in significant amounts.

The summer months of June, July and August bring heat and discomfort as well as dry, thirsty skin in need of nourishment and care. By offering a complete array of moisturizers and SPFs, your clients will turn to your salon as their complete skincare source instead of spending money at the drug or department store down the street.

With the public becoming more aware of the dangers of overexposure to sunlight, SPFs are a natural fit into your retailing sector. Not only can you promote sunscreens for outdoor use to your faithful tanners, but word-of-mouth advertising from these clients may attract additional customers who don't tan indoors. Just because you are a tanning facility, doesn't mean that non-tanners can't turn to you for skincare education.

In addition, it is important to promote responsible tanning whether it occurs indoors or outdoors. By taking a proactive approach and acting as an ambassador to this industry, you as a salon owner and educator can squelch bad publicity about tanning as well as secure additional sales of sunscreens.

A Working Solution

Anyone who has had the experience of being burned by the sun knows the value of sunscreens and sunblocks. However, most people do not understand how they work to protect the skin.

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays, mostly UVB. In fact, sunburn almost is exclusively a UVB phenomenon; however, research continues on the different effects of UVB and UVA rays. This is important because the SPF system measures UVB protection and not UVA. During a sunburn the skin turns red, swells and, in some severe cases, blisters. A sunburn continues to develop for 12 to 24 hours after the exposure.

Sunscreens are chemicals that, when applied topically, keep ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin. They work either by absorbing or reflecting solar energy. The absorbed energy excites the sunscreen temporarily; then, as the chemical relaxes back into its original state, it transforms that entry into something harmless (usually heat). This process is repeated countless times per second.

In addition, every sunscreen has a characteristic absorption spectrum that is capable of absorbing only certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light energy. High SPF sunscreen formulas contain blends of more than one sunscreen because no single-chemical is capable of absorbing all UVB radiation.

High SPF products contain Oxybenzone (or Benzophenone-3), a UVA absorber. In 1986 (the last year data was published) Padimate (or Octyl Dimethyl PABA) was found to be the most widely used UVA absorber in the United States. Contrary to consumer belief, this is not the same as PABA, which rarely is used anymore because a small percentage of people are known to be sensitive to it.

One of the newest ingredients to hit the SPF market is Parsol® 1789, a highly effective filter against the sun's UVA rays. Many of the leading SPF manufacturers have begun using Parsol 1789 because currently it is the only sunscreen that also contains skincare properties.

Another new property that has been incorporated in SPF formulas is zinc oxide. Most people associate zinc oxide with the white thick paste lifeguards used in the past. It was known to be the best sunblock available, but it was cosmetically unacceptable and therefore not used by the mainstream population. Fortunately, things have changed, and you now can get the physical sunscreens that are transparent. For example, zinc oxide is now manufactured so that the particles are so small that you can not see them. These space age physical sunscreens are referred to as microfine powders and Z-CODE (microfine zinc oxide) is an example that has been incorporated into one manufacturer's higher block SPFs in the past year.

Additionally, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) is becoming an increasingly popular UVB absorber, especially in PABA-free and sensitive skin sun products. Use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen product that blocks UVA and UVB is much safer than UVB blocks alone.

Make sure to inform clients to apply sunscreen approximately 20 minutes before being exposed to the sun. This allows the sunscreen time to "set up" on the skin so that it can do its job correctly. Remember, an SPF 2 blocks out approximately 50 percent of ultraviolet rays; an SPF 10 blocks out about 85 percent of ultraviolet rays; and, an SPF 15 blocks out approximately 95 percent of ultraviolet rays and is the reason that most health professionals suggest an SPF of 15 or above.

It is useful to have an assortment of products with varying SPF numbers. The suntan lotion that is desired in the early days of summer, may have too great an SPF for the last days of August.

Another point to consider is that different parts of the body require special care in the sun. Because of their prominence, noses, cheeks and lips often require a product with a stronger SPF than needed for arms and legs. Educate your customers that regular use of suntan products and common sense about how long to spend in the sun is extremely important.

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