A Guide to Indoor Tanning Beds
Tanning beds often get a bad rap, but with new evidence of the benefits of vitamin D, some doctors are re-thinking our sunlight phobia. People with fair skin who get too much sun exposure are at risk for developing skin cancer – absolutely. Many in the medical field, however, think we might not be getting enough vitamin D, which the body makes naturally from exposure to ultraviolet light.
Many of us enjoy getting a nice golden tan. Let’s face it – that sun-kissed look will never go out of style. Of course, lying in the sun for hours is one way to tan, but there’s no way to control the natural sunlight. It’s easy to overdo it, especially before you get a good base tan. And if you fall asleep in the warm sunshine, you could wake up with a nasty sunburn, which could be very dangerous and damaging to your skin.
Also, many people don’t have the time to devote hours and hours to outdoor tanning. The solution? Indoor tanning beds. With an indoor tanning bed, you can easily control the amount of time you spend tanning and build your tan gradually without burning.
There are several types of indoor tanning beds:
The standard indoor tanning bed
The typical indoor tanning bed is a curved bed with a “lid” that opens for entry. Before you get in, you tell the tanning salon employee how long you wish to tan. For most beds, the maximum is 20 minutes. If you don’t have any tan at all, it’s best to start at 10 minutes. If you have very fair skin, you might want to start with 8 minutes of tanning.
Usually, when you arrive in the cubicle, you’ll notice the timer is set for 3-5 minutes. This gives you time to undress and apply lotion or spray. Once you’re in the bed and ready to tan, you can press “start” if there’s still time remaining on the prep timer. This will turn on the tanning lights and begin the tanning process.
Be sure to wear the goggles provided to protect your eyes from the UV light.
Many modern indoor tanning beds have special facial tanners over your face. These can be turned on or off. Personally, I don’t usually tan my face because I worry about wrinkles.
Indoor tanning beds have lights below you and in the lid above you. Once you’re in the bed, pull down the lid. You won’t have to turn over to get tanned on both sides.
I’ve always been very claustrophobic, and I didn’t think I’d be able to endure the confines of a tanning bed. I was surprised to find that indoor tanning beds didn’t bother me at all! It might be because the ends are open and because fans are constantly providing a breeze.
Most tanning salons pipe in music to the tanning beds, so you’ll have something to listen to. When your session is up, the tanning bed lights will automatically shut off.
Stand up tanning
Another type of commercial tanning beds is the tanning booth, which provides stand up tanning. Instead of lying in a tanning bed, you stand up and are surrounded by tanning lights. These booths are usually round in shape.
Many people prefer stand up tanning because they can move around in the booth instead of lying still. In fact, I know girls who dance while stand up tanning to get a workout, thereby killing two proverbial birds with one stone.
Also, stand up tanning is the best way to tan the underarms and the sides.
The mega indoor tanning bed
Yet another type of commercial tanning beds is the mega bed. These are larger versions of the typical tanning bed, with more space and more lights for extra tanning. Some of these beds also have an aromatherapy option to enjoy while you tan.
It’s best not to get in a mega bed until you have a base tan. The maximum time allowed in a mega bed is usually 12-18 minutes.
The leg tanner
Among all the commercial tanning beds, the leg tanner is my favorite! It’s a slightly slanted horizontal tube with a partial divider down the center. All the inside surface is equipped with tanning lights. To use the leg tanner, you sit in a chair on wheels, place your legs in the tube, and pull yourself up close to the machine. While you’re tanning, you can read a book or flip through a magazine.
I’ve found that the leg tanner is the best way to tan your feet – an area that always been hard to tan for me.
Most tanning salons will allow you to use the leg tanner and another type of tanning bed during the same visit.
The bronzer tanning bed
The commercial tanning beds known as “bronzers” are amazing! I’ve interviewed many people who have used the bronzer, and only one reported a sunburn, and she was extremely fair skinned. The bronzer is supposed to tan you without burning.
I don’t pretend to know how these things work, but I do know they use pressurized air. A session in the bronzer is expensive, so I’ve only tried it a few times. I must admit, however, that when I did, it looked like I had spent the day at the beach!
Some people are fortunate enough to have home tanning beds. Most of these are the traditional type of tanning bed. The problem with home tanning is that you have no one to regulate and monitor the time you spend in the bed or the number of times you use the bed in a single day. If you have a home tanning bed, use it wisely!
Preparing to tan
Before you visit an indoor tanning bed, prepare your skin first. Take a shower and exfoliate any skin that you want tanned. To remove dead skin, use an exfoliating scrub in a circular motion. Pay special attention to knees, heels, and elbows.
Many people also like to wrap their hair before entering a tanning bed to avoid damage by the UV light. This can be accomplished with the use of a terry turban or with a towel.
Also, before entering the indoor tanning bed, apply a tanning lotion. Some tanning salons won’t allow oil-based lotions or sprays, so keep this in mind when purchasing tanning supplies.
The indoor tanning accelerator
I like using a lotion or spray with an indoor tanning accelerator. A tanning accelerator contains amino acids like tyrosine and/or psolaren. These amino acids stimulate the production of melanin in your skin to help you tan faster.
Most lotions and sprays that contain tanning accelerators clearly state it on the label. If you really want to tan quickly, use a good indoor tanning accelerator and apply it generously and evenly. If the tanning accelerator is applied spottily, your tan won’t be even.
How to maintain your tan
Once you’ve reached your desired shade of tan, you won’t need to visit the tanning salon every day. With most people, one visit per week will maintain your tan, especially if you’ve used the indoor tanning accelerator.
Also, after each tanning session, you should use an after-tanning lotion to keep your skin moist and supple. After each bath, shower, or dip in the pool, use a moisturizer. If you apply the moisturizer while your skin is slightly damp, that moisture will be trapped and will benefit your skin.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
How do I turn on the power to a tanning bed?
Ask an attendant. Each bed is different.