Sales of sunless tanning products at US food, drug and mass stores fell 20.8 per cent to reach $66.6m in 2006, compared to sales of $84.1m in 2005 - which according to ACNielsen Strategic Planner figures is the biggest drop in the past five years.
In 2002, sales stood at $72.1m, dropped back 8.8 per cent to $65.8m in 2003, then bounced back up a further 3.1 per cent to $67.8m in 2004, before hitting the all-time high figure of 2005.
Likewise, the dollar sales trend has been followed by the trend in volume sales, so the figures are not being distorted by heavy discounting.
So why the erratic performance? Often consumers report that they feel better with a tan, but equally they are aware of the dangers of developing a tan through exposure to the sun or sun beds.
But as well as the dangers associated with a natural tan, there, the ACNielsen report on the subject also points out to the associated dangers of using sunless tanners.
Most products in this category use DHA (dihdroyxacetene) as the main coloring agent. Although this chemical is not known to be safe for topical skin application, it has been associated with health risks if inhaled - a significant consideration for spray-on products.
Likewise, the report also highlights the risk of consumers' misconception that sunless tanners might contain sunscreens, stressing that most do not contain a sunscreen.
The report goes on to highlight that of 53 sunless tanning products sold in the Boston area, only nine contained SPF sunscreen and only one showed an FDA-mandated 'no sunscreen' label on the package.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology, concluded that there was significant confusion amongst consumers over whether or not sunless tanning products provided protection.
All of these factors culminate in a confused picture for the sunless tanning category, which might go some of the way to explaining why sales for this segment are so erratic - a manifestation of consumer uncertainty.