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Things are looking sunnier for Central Coast tanning salons



Cristin Nightingale, owner of Sunkissed Tanning Salon in Santa Maria, had always wanted to own her own salon, "even since high school." In mid 2019, she decided to take the leap.

"It was a long process," Nightingale recalled. "I had to find the spot, get the [tanning] beds, decorate it, and all that fun stuff."

But as the salon's March grand opening date neared, Nightingale started to get nervous: More and more COVID-19 cases were cropping up across the state.

"I already had the flyers made, it was already set in stone," she said. "We had to open."

SUNKISSED SKIN Sunkissed Tanning Salon owner Cristin Nightingale opened her salon just days before state orders forced personal care services like hers to shut down. Now, she's finally able to open her doors again. - COURTESY PHOTO BY CRISTIN NIGHTINGALE
  • Courtesy Photo By Cristin Nightingale
  • SUNKISSED SKIN Sunkissed Tanning Salon owner Cristin Nightingale opened her salon just days before state orders forced personal care services like hers to shut down. Now, she's finally able to open her doors again.

Sunkissed Tanning Salon opened on March 15, the day that Santa Barbara County reported its first case of COVID-19. Nightingale was forced to close her doors just four days later.

Now, more than half a year later, personal care services like tanning salons are allowed to reopen, so long as the county they're in stays in the red tier in the state's reopening system.

SLO County allowed salons to reopen indoors at the end of August, and Santa Barbara County salons received the go-ahead as of the Sept. 30 Health Officer Order.

But Nightingale is still recovering from the losses.

"It was kind of a roller coaster," she said. "But I also feel that everything happens for a reason and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

On another part of the Central Coast, Haley Murphy—owner of OATS, Organic Airbrush Tanning Salon, with locations in San Luis Obispo and Orcutt—said it was a grueling few months.

"Right before COVID I was just going into my busiest time of the year because wedding season was starting," Murphy said. "So basically right when I was starting to get busy was right when we had to close down."

Murphy said the mortgage company for her SLO location gave her a three month deferment for payments, which helped her make it through. But at her Orcutt location, Murphy said she had to pay rent as she normally would.

"Unemployment took almost two months to kick in," she said. "I'm still dealing with the anxiety and the stress of it, but luckily I don't need to close either one of my locations down."

In the face of these hardships, both Nightingale and Murphy are finding ways to stay positive and keep their businesses alive.

"I've been the face here. I've been working 12-hour days, and I'm the only employee," Nightingale said. "This is all me: I came up with the logo, the name. ... I want people to know me."

Murphy said that in order to incorporate required sanitization procedures, she has to space out her appointments more now—but this change came with a positive side effect.

"At first I was kind of bummed about that," she said. "But it's actually kind of a fortunate thing because it allowed me to give a better service. I'm able to talk to my clients more and not take it so fast-paced."

Nightingale's Sunkissed Tanning Salon offers both tanning beds and custom airbrushing.

"I have a really cool bed named the Sunboard XTT ... that allows only a small percentage of the UVB rays," she said.

Murphy said that OATS specializes in airbrushing, and she also offers lash extensions.

"I wanted to offer a healthy, organic alternative to going out into the sun," Murphy said. "My mom had skin cancer really bad, so I grew up with her telling me, 'Don't go in the sun.' So spray tanning became huge for me."

As for adapting their business operations to the pandemic, both salon owners said that their services easily accommodate for mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitation.

"I just maintain the cleanliness that I normally do," Nightingale said. "I've always wiped down everything that anybody could touch."

OATS is located at 630 High St. in SLO; visit for more info. In Orcutt, OATS is at 3558 Skyway Drive, suite A1; Sunkissed Tanning Salon is located at 325 E. Betteravia, suite B-11, Santa Maria; find more info at

Fast facts

Fred and Betty's Thrift Store reopened Oct. 12 after closing its doors mid-March to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The shop's hours are currently 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with a special shopping hour on Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m. for seniors and those most vulnerable. COVID-19 protocols are in place, including required mask wearing, limited customers inside the store, frequent sanitation, and the temporary closure of fitting rooms. Donation days are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during open hours—all clothing and cloth donations must be sealed in a trash bag. For more information or questions about donations email or call (805) 593-0255.

• The SLO Food Bank has been selected as a 2020 California Nonprofit of the Year by California Association of Nonprofits and Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo). The SLO Food Bank is one of over a hundred other nonprofits that will be honored by their state senators and assembly members for their contributions to the communities they serve. For more information about the organization or to learn how to get involved, visit or email Δ

Sun Staff Writer Malea Martin wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to

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