How to Use Tanning Beds & Sunbeds- A Complete Guide

December 29, 2019

Do you want to go on a tanning bed but aren’t sure how long a session you need for your skin type? How to maximize tanning during your session? Which is the best type of sunbed? What a tan accelerator does? Or how to tan safely?

Fear not! We have done all the research for you in answer to these important questions so that you can get the best results from your sunbed sessions whilst tanning safely and caring for your skin.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sunbeds

How often can you go

Depending on your skin color, in general the average person can develop a base tan in 3-5 sessions which then can be maintained with regular sunbed use. Two sessions a week should be enough to further deepen your tan in a safe and gentle manner. If you simply want to maintain the tan you already have (for example, when you get back from holiday), then one session a week will probably be enough. It is very important to leave a minimum of 72 hours between each session so that your skin has the chance to rest and regenerate between sessions. By caring for your skin in this way you can avoid burning or brown spots, which can happen if you spend too long on a sunbed. Also, your tan will be a better colour and should last longer.

How old you need to be

In the UK you must be 18 to use a sunbed, and you may be asked for ID, so make sure you take your ID with you if you’re lucky enough to look younger than your age!

What to wear

Before going to a tanning salon it’s a good idea to decide whether you’d prefer to tan in your underwear or if you’d prefer your birthday suit and tan completely in the nude. This is entirely your choice, but there are two points to remember. If you’re going to wear underwear, think about your tanning lines and what they’re going to look like, and thus plan your underwear choice accordingly (you could always wear your bikini if that’s easier). If you’re going commando, it might be a good idea to protect your most sensitive parts, such as nipples and genitals, because the skin is more sensitive and could be more prone to burning (you definitely don’t want to burn there-ouch!). 

Whatever you decide, remember that all salons should offer a cleaning spray within each private room so that you can wipe down the beds before you jump on. If they don’t, you can always ask for one.

Eye safety

Please never start a tanning session without goggles, this is so important. Merely closing your eyes on a sunbed isn’t enough because the UV rays can still penetrate your eyes through the thin skin of your eyelids and cause serious damage to your retina and eyesight. Not just any goggles will do, and sunglasses don’t work as a suitable substitute. They must be goggles made specifically for sunbed use, because they will have the proper UV protection to safeguard your eyes. You can buy your own personal pair, or some sunbed shops will lend them to you for free, or other shops might charge you a small fee to hire them. However you get your hands on them, NEVER forget those goggles.  

Tip: You might sometimes find goggles swimming in a bowl of liquid at the front desk and wonder what that liquid is. It’s a cleansing solution, and a good sign that your sunbed shop cares for its customers.

If you’re on any medication

If you are taking medications or natural supplements you should research if they are capable of causing a photosensitive reaction, and adjust tanning times accordingly.

Tan Accelerators

Using a tan accelerator will maximize the results of your tanning session by giving a deeper tan with less time spent on a sunbed. Amazing, right? Just make sure you use a high quality accelerator, because some brands are simply moisturizing lotions that are able to call themselves tan accelerators on the premise that moisturized skin tans better. Although this is true, their effect is minimal, if any. A good tan accelerator that actually does what it should will contain ingredients that stimulate skin to tan faster, such as Inositol, as well as ingredients that your skin needs to produce a better, deeper tan more quickly whilst combating UV-induced free radicals, such as vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidants. Some accelerators contain bronzer, which kick-starts your colour and results in a beautiful golden-hued tan. If you’re at a loss for which brand to go for, Earth Tan is an organic, 100% natural, high-quality brand of accelerator that contains all of the above, in addition to being gorgeously scented.

Before hitting the sunbed shop, you need to work out what your skin type is to make the most of your session.

What Skin Type Are You?

By knowing your skin type and its tanning abilities, most sunburn can be avoided altogether. Skin typing determines the amount of natural protection you have against ultraviolet light, how many sessions it will take you to establish a base tan, and how long you can be in the tanning unit each session.

Dermatologists categorize people into 6 different skin types, starting from the lightest and working up to the darkest:

What’s your Tanning Skin Type?

Skin Type 1 – Usually very white or pale, blue or green eyes, red hair and many freckles. This skin type burns very easily and tans with great difficulty. Tanning must be undertaken very carefully.

Skin Type 2 – Light beige skin, blue or green eyes, blonde or light brown hair and maybe freckles. This skin type has a tendency to burn. Tanning must be undertaken carefully and correctly.

Skin Type 3 – Light brown skin, brown eyes and hair. This skin type sometimes burns but always tans.

Skin Type 4 – Light brown or olive skin, dark brown eyes and hair. This skin type sometimes burns and tans easily.

Skin Type 5 – Brown skin, dark brown hair and eyes. This skin type rarely burns and tans very easily.

Your Indoor Tanning Regime

Skin Type 1: Limit tanning to very short sessions, no longer than 1 minute for your first 3 sessions. Build up the length of time tanning in 1 minute increments only, and do not rush the process. The minute you start to feel your skin getting too warm or uncomfortable, end your tanning session immediately. The key is to build up your base tan slowly and to avoid burning at all costs in order to keep the progress of your tan going. If you burn, your skin may start to peel and you will have to start all over again. The Coconut or Acacia tan accelerators from Earth Tan is perfect for your skin type.

Skin Type 2: Session 1 – 2 Minutes, Session 2 – 2 Minutes, Session 3 – 3 Minutes, Session 4 – 3 Minutes, Session 5 – 3 Minutes, Session 6 – 4 Minutes. Due to your skin being prone to burning, only increase your tanning sessions in 1 minute increments. Do not rush the process. The minute you start to feel your skin getting too warm or uncomfortable, end your tanning session immediately. The key is to build up your base tan slowly and to avoid burning at all costs in order to keep the progress of your tan going. If you burn, your skin may start to peel and you will have to start all over again. The Coconut or Acacia tan accelerators from Earth Tan are excellent for your skin type and will help you see results faster.

Skin Type 3: Session 1 – 2 Minutes, Session 2 – 3 Minutes, Session 3 – 3 Minutes, Session 4 – 4 Minutes, Session 5 – 4 Minutes, Session 6 – 5 Minutes. Increase your sessions slowly, do not rush the process. You are likely to see results relatively quickly Do not spend more than a total of 6 minutes in any one session. The Carrot tan accelerator from Earth Tan will do wonders for your skin type.

Skin Type 4: Session1 – 3 Minutes, Session 2 – 4 Minutes, Session 3 – 5 Minutes, Session 4 –5 Minutes, Session 5- 6 Minutes, Session 6 – 6 Minutes. You are likely to see results quite quickly, therefore you will not need to spend as much time on the sunbed to get results. Do not spend more than a total of 7 minutes in any one session. The Carrot or Acacia tan accelerator from Earth Tan will do wonders for your skin type.

Skin Type 5: Session 1 – 3 Minutes, Session 2 – 4 Minutes, Session 3 – 5 Minutes, Session 4 – 6 Minutes, Session 5 – 7 minutes, Session 6 – 8 minutes. You are likely to see results very quickly, therefore you will not need to spend as much time on the sunbed to get results. Do not spend more than a total of 10 minutes in any one session. The Carrot or Acacia tan accelerator from Earth Tan are perfect for your skin type.

About the Beds

There is more than one type of sunbed and most tanning salons will consist of three different types, these being low pressure beds, high pressure beds and a booth.

Low pressure beds are traditional tanning beds. UV rays are emitted in a spectrum that is similar to natural sunlight. The lamps produce color quickly but the risk of sunburn is highest in this kind of bed. If you do burn easily this bed is NOT recommended.

High pressure beds emit a higher proportion of UVA rays (UVA penetrates deeper layers of skin and stimulates tanning, UVB rays are the ones that can cause sunburn if abused). In this kind of bed you will get a deeper, longer lasting tan, but it will be slower to build. Usually this bed is slightly more expensive, but if you have fair skin or burn easily this will be the better choice of beds for you.

Booth, also known as Stand-up Beds, are a vertical tanning bed. Instead of lying down, you stay standing up. By going on a stand up bed you are free to move and put your body in any position you want to catch a tan (excellent for a more even tan, especially under your arms or between your thighs). Plus it’s a great option for anybody cautious of the lie down beds and don’t like to be to in enclosed spaces.

How to Take Care of Your Skin after Tanning

After the tanning bed turns off your skin will continue to tan and produce melanin for at least another 12 hours. It is important to keep your skin moisturized during and after this process. Tan accelerators such as Earth Tan are designed to continue to keep your skin hydrated well after you have finished your sunbed session. You may also want to use a cooling Aloe Vera gel because it can get warm in a tanning booth. This will leave your skin wonderfully soothed, cooled, and moisturized.

 Got more questions? Don't hesitate to email us at, we will be delighted to help!

Disclaimer: We are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current. The material on this site is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information. Any reliance on the material on this site is at your own risk. 

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