- 1 Before You Go
- 2 Safety
- 3 Types of Tanning Beds
- 4 Indoor Tanning Lotions
- 5 Preparation & Use
Before You Go
Before you go indoor tanning for the first time, it’s good to know what you’re walking into. The most important thing to always keep in mind is your safety and health. You don’t want to burn or cause any avoidable damage to your skin. Everyone has different skin types that respond differently to tanning.
(image from usatoday.com)
After understanding your personal tanning needs, there’s a whole lot of information out there on the different types of tanning beds, the different tanning lotions you’ll run into at the salon, and then you have to actually figure out what to do to tan.
We’ll cover each of these topics in just enough detail so that you can go into your first tanning feeling prepared and ready to ask the attendants informed questions about anything else you might want to know.
Safety is the biggest reason you should learn as much as possible before heading to a salon. The most immediate risk to your health is the chance of getting sunburned, but there are also long term implications you can’t ignore for aging and cancer. Read our detailed look at the long term safety of sun tanning for a full picture.
For your first time tanning, however, you need to understand your skin type at the very least. This will help you make good decisions or understand the suggestions on the types of bed to use and how long to go for your first sessions. The basic rule is that you should go the minimum amount of time needed for your body to start getting tanned.
Understanding Your Skin Type
If you’ve ever wondered why some people only seem to burn and stay fair-skinned while others get darker just walking to their car, it’s because of the idea of skin types. It’s a set of useful general categories for understanding how different people respond to UV exposure.
Although your skin type is largely based on how you tan, it’s also based on genetic factors, too. This includes factors that are related to things like your eye color, natural hair color, and skin tone.
The skin type summaries here just cover your tanning response and how it relates to indoor tanning. And remember, no matter what your skin type, you should always get regular skin examinations for any possible signs of cancer.
If you’re this type, you pretty much always burn and hardly ever tan. It also means you’re at the highest risk for cancer. Proceed very carefully with any tanning attempts. It’s possible that your best bet may just be to go with sunless tanning.
You burn easily and tan very little, but with consistent exposure to the sun, you definitely get darker over time. You’re also at higher risk for skin cancer than the next four skin types, so be vigilant about skin checkups, whether you tan or not.
As a type III, you fall right about middle of the skin type spectrum. When you stay out of the sun, your skin is white, but in the sun, you can tan fairly well. You’re still susceptible to burning, but at less risk for cancer than the previous two types. Be sure to still get regular skin checkups.
If you’re a type IV, your skin is still on the lighter side ranging from close to white to very light brown. You don’t burn very often and you get darker from just short periods of time in the sun.
You have a moderate brown skin tone and rarely if ever burn. You tan easily and although you’re at lower risk for skin cancer, not detecting it early enough is still dangerous. Get regular checkups if you’re out in the sun often.
As type VI with deeper brown or darker skin, you pretty much can’t burn and tan very easily. The same skin cancer concerns for type V’s still apply to you. Even though you’re at lower risk for skin cancer, not getting regular checkups could mean letting malignant growth grow out of control.
Types of Tanning Beds
Tanning beds come in all sorts of different types. At the tanning salon, they’re often named by what level bed they are. You’ll see them go anywhere from levels 1 to 6. Levels 1 and 2 are low pressure beds while 3 and up are high pressure beds. Each type of bed provides different advantages for tanning.
Low Pressure Beds
Including level 1 and level 2 beds, low pressure beds are usually the cheaper options at a tanning salon. Like the sun, tanning beds emit different levels of UVA and UVB radiation. Low pressure beds emit more UVB radiation than high pressure beds.
UVB rays get into the top layers of your skin, causing sunburns and also signaling your skin to produce more melanin. Depending on your skin type, the results from level 1 or 2 tanning may take a few days to show. This is because your body needs the time to produce the melanin it needs to protect you in the future.
High Pressure Beds
Tanning salons sell sessions in high pressure beds as level 3 to 6 tanning. They target experienced tanners because these beds usually have stronger bulbs.
In addition to the higher power, high pressure beds emit less UVB rays than low pressure beds. Instead of UVB rays that’ll increase the melanin in your skin, the UVA rays in high pressure beds are good for darkening a tan that you already have.
Stand Up Booths
Stand up booths are just a different form that can be either low or high pressure. Talk to your tanning salon about any stand up booths they offer and what level they are. Stand up booths are listed on their own because they provide unique advantages.
They can help you tan hard to reach places and have more room to move around. If you’re also worried about the cleanliness of touching a tanning bed, stand up booths are a great option for you.
Indoor Tanning Lotions
Tanning lotions come in all different types. The main thing to know about indoor tanning lotions is that you shouldn’t use them outside. You also shouldn’t tanning lotions not made for indoor use in a tanning bed.
Indoor tanning lotions usually have no SPF so you can get the most out of your tanning sessions. They’re also designed to be used safely on acrylic material in tanning beds. Other tanning lotions may melt or damage the tanning bed.
Now, they come in a lot of different types, and although we’ve covered them elsewhere, here’s a quick overview of each type.
(image from sunislife.com)
Bronzers are lotions with ingredients that actively make your skin darker on top of your normal tan. The most common ingredient is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which work on the top layer of your skin to darken old skin cells. Bronzers are the best option for getting that tan looked quickly.
Advanced tanners often choose tinglers as their lotion of choice. They’re called tinglers because they have ingredients that can make your skin tingle and feel hot by increasing bloodflow to your skin. The ideas is that this would make your body tan faster. Be warned that some people find tinglers very uncomfortable.
Maximizers can be the most confusing term out there for tanning lotions. They’re supposed to be lotions that help you increase your tan without bronzers or tinglers. However, different brands use the term differently. Most don’t have bronzers, but some do, so always read the product information carefully.
Preparation & Use
Now that you’re equipped with all of the basic information you need. Here’s a quick and dirty list of what to do to actually go tanning.
Your skin is always replenishing itself. Over time, you can build up a lot of old and dry skin. Good exfoliation prepares your skin for a fresh tan. If you’re using any bronzers, this is even more important. Having overly dry skin in any one part of your body can lead to an uneven tan.
2. Limit Your Session
Tan for the least amount of time needed to get your body to start getting darker. This could be as little as 6-8 minutes. Tanning any more than you need to just increases your risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and being burned.
3. Move Around
It’s tempting to just get into the bed and lay still for the entire session. Maybe you even want to take a nap until the timer goes off. Note that any part of your body that’s touching the bed won’t tan as well. If you go tanning repeatedly without moving around, you’ll start to notice spots on your arms and hips that are lighter than the rest of your body. Switch it up between laying on your sides and back while lifting your arms to get an even tan.
Happy tanning! Check out our collection of other articles to answer any other questions you might have in detail.