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Sun-obsessed Gen Z is behind the Big Apple’s tanning craze — with some even ‘addicted’ to bronzing: ‘Nobody wants to be pale’

The Bronze Age is back.

Gen Z is behind a Big Apple tanning craze, with salons across Manhattan seeing a rise in younger clients using UV tanning beds — much to the chagrin of dermatologists who had hoped the sunbeds were a relic of the past.

“We’re seeing younger and younger people,” Win Gruber, the owner of Upper East Side Tan told The Post.

He said Gen Zers — born between 1997 and 2013 — now make up much of his clientele, along with people over 40, who, “when they grew up, [tanning] was all the rage.”

Gruber said his younger clients are often drawn to the salon’s signature “Manhattan Cocktail,” where they bake in a tanning bed before getting a spray tan.

The salon owner added that many of his younger clients have “some amount of UV or some amount of spray tanning as part of their routine” — with some returning once a week.

Alexis Klein, who runs The Tanning Spot NYC, also said she has “definitely” noticed more Gen Zers dropping by to use UV beds over the past seven years.

The younger generation also makes up more than 60% of the clients who bronze themselves at Portofino Murray Hill Sun Center, according to the salon’s owner, Margarita Anconova.

Mikaela Langs, 23, left, and Ava Van Marter, 23, right, go to tan twice a week. Stephen Yang
Mikaela Langs, 23, left, and Ava Van Marter, 23, right, go to tan twice a week. Stephen Yang
Van Marter, an event planner, said it helps with acne. Stephen Yang
Van Marter, an event planner, said it helps with acne. Stephen Yang

Sun-obsessed Gen Zers are being driven to tanning beds through social media, where they see glamorous influencers promoting the sun-kissed life on TikTok — with some even crowing that they are “addicted” to the act.

“Gen Z, they see their posts on social media of people being tan, and they want to be tan,” Anconova said, adding, “Everyone wants to be beautiful.”

New Jersey’s famed ‘Tan Mom’ Patricia Krentcil is glad to see sunbeds making a comeback.

“I knew it,” she said, adding that she still lies under the lights at least three times a week. “I knew it would. A lot of people I know are tanning and getting tanning beds.

Krentcil said Gen Zers are vain and the tanning comes alongside fake eyelashes and boobs, and that teens are packing her local spa to use tanning beds.

“Everything is fake now,” she said. “Plus the tanning bed takes 8 minutes. Who has time to lay out in the sun all day?”

She did note that natural tans are more bronze, while the bed version is more orange-hued.

On TikTok, Sam Boyle regularly posts videos of himself in a tanning bed under the username @yosambo.

Gen Z is single-handedly bringing the tanning craze back to New York City. TikTok/annabarger
Gen Z is single-handedly bringing the tanning craze back to New York City. TikTok/annabarger

He said he uses the UV beds twice a week — but if he has a special event coming up, he’ll bump it up to three times a week.

“I like the feeling I have after a sunbed,” Boyle, 27, explained.

“I find they boost my mood and give me motivation for the day.”

He added that he used to suffer from cystic acne and tried many different products to try to clear up his skin, but found that sunbeds worked the best.

Upper East Side Tan owner Win Gruber admitted he is “seeing younger and younger people” walk in. Upper East Side Tan/Facebook
Upper East Side Tan owner Win Gruber admitted he is “seeing younger and younger people” walk in. Upper East Side Tan/Facebook

Upper East Siders Ava Van Marter and Mikaela Langs, both 23, also said they see improvements to their skin after using sunbeds twice a week.

“It helps with breakouts and acne,” Van Marter, an event planner, claimed.

She added that tans are a “confidence booster.”

“I feel more confident with myself if I am tan,” she said.

On the social media site, Sam Boyle regularly posts videos of himself in a tanning bed under the username @yosambo. TikTok/yosambo
On the social media site, Sam Boyle regularly posts videos of himself in a tanning bed under the username @yosambo. TikTok/yosambo
He said he uses the tanning beds twice a week — but if he has a special event coming up, he’ll bump it up to three times a week. TikTok/yosambo
He said he uses the tanning beds twice a week — but if he has a special event coming up, he’ll bump it up to three times a week. TikTok/yosambo

But while UV treatments can clear up certain skin conditions, dermatologist-approved light therapy uses only UVB rays and “way less” radiation than sunbeds, according to Dr. Sapna Palep, the medical director of Spring Street Dermatology.

She said she would recommend her patients use those therapies rather than lie in a tanning bed — which may lead to further skin damage in the future.

Tanning beds can cause mutations in the skin causing skin cancer, she warned, noting that whenever she finds out a patient uses one of the beds she asks them, “Do you want to see a lot of me, or a little of me?”

Those mutations may first appear as seemingly innocuous moles on “sensitive areas of the face,” according to Dr. Nicholas Gulati, an assistant professor at The Kimberly and Eric J. Waldman Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine.

TikToker Hollie Evelyn once said she would “rather die hot than live ugly,” a sentiment repeated by thousands of others on the site. TikTok/@hollieevelynxo
TikToker Hollie Evelyn once said she would “rather die hot than live ugly,” a sentiment repeated by thousands of others on the site. TikTok/@hollieevelynxo

Tanning beds could also lead to wrinkles and sun spots, he said, claiming that many of his older patients now express regret for their tanning days.

“If they want to keep their Instagram-worthy face, they should stay away from tanning beds,” he advised.

“To me, it is so much more attractive to not have sun-damaged skin,” Palep added.

TikTokker Boyle agreed that anyone who uses tanning beds should be aware of the risks and “tan as safely as possible.”

According to recent data from the American Academy of Dermatology, 20% of Gen Zers believe that being tan is more important to them than protecting themselves from skin cancer. TikTok/jessicalhulley
According to recent data from the American Academy of Dermatology, 20% of Gen Zers believe that being tan is more important to them than protecting themselves from skin cancer. TikTok/jessicalhulley

But, he said, “It’s unfair to give hate [or] troll towards someone who uses them.

“I personally check my skin regularly for any changes and have recently been to the opticians for a ‘UV damage check-up’ on my eyes,” he noted.

Others, however, seem more apathetic to the dangers.

According to recent data from the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Gen Zers believe that being tan is more important to them than protecting themselves from skin cancer.

Almost a third (30%) also admitted that they would rather look “great” today with a tan “even if it means looking worse later in life.”

Gen Z tan addict Hollie Evelyn declared she would “rather die hot than live ugly” in a TikTok clip that has been liked more than 20,000 times — an unsettling sentiment that has been repeated by thousands more on the social media site.

Meanwhile, some young clients will walk into Upper East Side Tan saying “they don’t care” about the risks, because “they just want to look nice,” Gruber said.

Among those is Langs, who works in the fashion industry.

“I feel like it’s the same thing as being in the sun,” she said.

“It’s a little bit of vitamin D each time,” Langs added.

“It’s fine.”

Angie Palma, a 23-year-old who works at Brazil Bronze NYC, says she doesn’t think the tanning phenomenon is going away.

“If anything, it’s just going to gain popularity,” she predicted, adding: “Nobody wants to be pale.”