Safer shades of sun

Published 9:49 am Thursday, May 3, 2012

Holly Miller, a skin cancer survivor, holds the sprayer of a portable spray tan setup she operates out of the Golden Tress Spa & Salon. Miller hopes this will be an alternative to using tanning beds. -- Eric Johnson/

After skin cancer diagnosis, woman shares tanning alternative

In a way, Holly Miller is helping people become healthier.

Instead of tanning beds, Miller helps people get a tan in a healthy way. Miller, a skin cancer survivor, is the only spray tan specialist in Austin.

Holly Miller, a skin cancer survivor, sits next to a portable spray-tan set-up she operates out of the Golden Tress Spa & Salon.

“We’re the first one in Austin to do it,” said Miller, who works with the Golden Tress Spa & Salon.

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Miller claims she knows firsthand that tanning beds can be dangerous, as she was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer, four years ago.

“I’m a California girl. I was always in the sun,” Miller said.

Miller was at the doctor for a check-up when her physician noticed how tan she was. Miller used tanning beds at least three times a week at the time, but she didn’t think it could be dangerous. After checking her body over, her doctor said she needed to get a biopsy on some parts of her skin. From then on, Miller was put through treatment for melanoma, where the cancer must be completely surgically removed for a patient to get better.

“It was a reality check,” Miller said. “A lot of people don’t know how serious it is. Luckily all of mine surgically came out.”

Miller still has to get checked every six months for melanoma flare-ups. Her last appointment was the first one where doctors didn’t find any cancer.

Miller claims the tanning bed contributed to her cancer based on where it was. That’s why she was excited to find out about spray tanning. A friend of hers recommended a spray tanning line back in California about a year and a half ago, and Miller decided to give it a try.

“I went out of town and I did try it and I loved it,” she said.

Since then, she’s become an independent contractor. She says the spray tanning process is easy enough: Make sure your skin is completely clean before coming in for an appointment. Wear a bathing suit or underwear, depending on how comfortable you are, and Miller uses an airbrush-like machine to apply the tanning solution. It normally takes about 10 minutes, and people will be dark as soon as they leave. Leave the solution on for about eight hours and try not to sweat during that time. After that, rinse it off. Most spray tans will last about seven to 10 days.

“It makes your skin in better condition,” Miller said. “The more often you do it, you’re more moisturized.”

Spray tanning is starting to catch on. Miller said she has about 25 high-schoolers to spray tan in time for prom this week, and her appointment book keeps filling up. She even tanned a breast cancer patient recently, and Miller felt relieved at how much her client liked her new tan.

“It really made her feel good,” Miller said.

What’s more, she says it’s a lot healthier than the alternative.

“It’s catching on quickly, but still people in Austin don’t realize that it’s healthier for kids,” she said.