Tanning booths and beds were a common bond for sisters Lauren and Katelyn Gregory.
“My sister and I both together used them. We’re kind of fair-skinned, Scottish. We started going in high school and we went through college,” said Lauren.
But fun in the fake sun took a serious turn when Katelyn had to have 11 moles removed because of melanoma.
“When I realized we were all kind of willing to take that risk for it, I realized something has to change,” Lauren said.
After experiencing spray tanning in New York, Lauren decided to open her own business: Grand City Tanning in Grand Rapids.
“The trade-off for your health and your skin is so much better,” said customer Aimee Riemersma.
After spending her teenage and college years competing with friends for the darkest tan from a bed, Riemersma has switched to spray tans.
“Looking back now, I look at my pictures and I didn’t look tan — I looked mahogany,” she said.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.
It’s those young women Lauren is looking to educate.
“There are more cases of skin cancer caused by indoor tanning than cases of lung cancer by cigarette use, and I would never touch a cigarette – ever,” said Lauren.
Since Lauren opened her spray tan salon, she says five traditional tanning bed businesses in the Grand Rapids area have closed.
“I think that really just speaks to the health movement, quite honestly. I think it speaks to people understanding what the choices are and wanting to make a better choice within that,” she said.
Lauren says statistics show most people first try a tanning bed in preparation for prom. She’s reaching out to teens across West Michigan, urging them to “ditch the bed” and spread to the word to their friends that spray tanning is a healthier option.
Lauren says she is opening a second location in Allendale in two weeks.