Twenty years ago this month, I started the process of hosting Smart Tan conventions — not because the indoor tanning community needed a trade show, but because the still-young salon market was under attack and needed a shot in the arm. Indoor tanning needed to move forward.
If you were in indoor tanning 20 years ago, you remember the 1995 season as the year the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology pressed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to explore banning indoor tanning altogether. That six-month effort culminated in a June 1995 symposium at FDA Headquarters, where the FDA explored and dismissed the AAD’s please after two days of testimony. Smart Tan formed as a group, in part, to represent the market at those proceedings. Smart Tan’s Joseph Levy represented the industry on that expert panel, pointing out the flaws in dermatology’s case and letting the scientific community know that the professional market was evolving to become part of the solution in real-world sun care moving forward.
That’s when we knew the market needed a salon-first convention and trade show built to help professionalize this evolving indoor tanning community. Indoor tanning needed a rallying point at which the market could put a stake in the ground and move forward. And 15 months later — after working with hundreds of salon leaders and suppliers — Smart Tan hosted its first convention to do just that.
I will never forget the morning of Sept. 12, 1996: I looked across the atrium of the Renaissance Orlando Resort at 7 a.m. and wondered how many people would actually step into the ballroom for our first general session; I wondered if the salon community would buy-in to and share the vision of professionalizing the industry. I remember the relief when the empty atrium populated and the first ballroom filled to capacity.