A Beginner’s Guide to Tanning Beds

Using a tanning bed can be a daunting experience for beginners. From the odd-looking eyewear to the oft-cited health risks, there’s a lot to take in.

That’s why we’ve created this beginner’s guide to tanning beds. If you’re a tanning bed novice, read this guide before you start tanning so you can stay as safe as possible and achieve a beautiful golden tan.

Ahead, we’ll answer these five common beginner questions:

1. How can I use tanning beds safely?
2. What should I do before tanning?
3. What’s with the weird-looking goggles?
4. Should I wear a swimsuit inside the tanning bed?
5. What should I do after tanning?

Let’s get started so you can start tanning.

1. How Can I Use Tanning Beds Safely?

Before we got any further, it’s important to know that there is no way to be 100 percent safe when tanning, whether you’re using a tanning bed or are simply soaking up some natural sunlight.

However, you can make your tanning bed experience as safe as possible with a few key pieces of knowledge. Here’s what you need to know in order to tan more safely:

● Family history matters: While UV exposure can certainly increase your chances of getting skin cancer, family history is an incredibly important factor, too. According to an article titled “Melanoma Causes and Risk Factors” from SkinCancer.org, “Each person with a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease than people who do not have a family history of the disease.”

● Age is important: Believe it or not, tanning before the age of 35 is more dangerous than tanning after that age. As the American Academy of Dermatology stated in the article “Indoor tanning,” people who tan before 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 59 percent, with that number rising with every use.

● Use in moderation: Even if you don’t have a family history of skin cancer and are over the age of 35, remember that tanning will increase your risk of skin cancer the more you use it. So, always tan in moderation, and use your tanning bed as infrequently as possible (you can extend your tan in between sessions with a variety of products … more on that below).

2. What Should I Do Before Tanning?

There are several things you can do to prepare for your tanning bed session and make your experience even better.

Here’s what you should do before hopping in your tanning bed:

● Exfoliate: Exfoliating your skin will remove dead skin cells to create a smooth, even canvas, and therefore a smooth, even tan. To do this, take a warm shower or bath for at least 20 minutes, and shave any necessary areas. Then, gently exfoliate with an exfoliating glove and/or a scrub. After your shower, apply an oil-free body moisturizer. If you’re planning on tanning immediately, skip the deodorant and perfume.

● Check your medications: Some medications can increase sensitivity to UV light, even if they’re over-the-counter. For example, acne products containing benzoyl peroxide, certain antibiotics and common antihistamines.

● Remove any jewelry: Jewelry can not only burn you when it’s heated by the tanning bed, but also cause tan lines. It may also be damaged by the UV light.

● Apply a lip balm with SPF: The skin on your lips is very thin, so it’s in need of extra protection. To keep it from being damaged, be sure to apply plenty lip balm with an SPF of at least 15.

3. What’s With the Weird-Looking Goggles?

No, those tiny goggles aren’t an eccentric fashion statement — they also serve a very important purpose.

As the American Association of Dermatology said in a 2014 article titled “Indoor Tanning Eye Safety,” “studies have demonstrated that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation during indoor tanning can lead to eye damage.”

That’s because “tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids.” Such damage can include cataracts and uveal melanoma, a cancer of the eye.

Plus, the skin around your eyes is extra-thin and thus is extra-sensitive, meaning it can easily be burned and irritated.

So, it makes sense why tanning goggles are an important accessory for indoor tanners. Keep in mind that regular sunglasses are inadequate — you’ll need to purchase a pair of specialized tanning goggles, which are available from many online retailers for less than $5. Many strapless models are available, which serve to eliminate unsightly tan lines.

To avoid the pale raccoon eyes that tan goggles to create, you can simply reposition the goggles periodically. Just make sure to not leave one portion of skin exposed for more than a couple minutes to steer clear of sunburns and excessive skin damage.

4. Should I Wear a Swimsuit Inside the Tanning Bed?

The answer to this question is entirely up to personal preference. If you want to achieve the most even tan possible and wish to avoid any tan lines, you’ll probably want to use your tanning bed sans swimsuit.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable forgoing your swimsuit or don’t mind tan lines, feel free to leave it on.

Remember, though, any pale, untanned skin, such as that which is normally covered by a swimsuit, will be very susceptible to burning.

With that in mind, you may want to leave your swimsuit on, or at least apply some SPF to those areas.

5. What Should I Do After Tanning?

After your tanning session, it’s a good idea to:

● Stay moisturized: UV exposure can dry out your skin, so be sure to regularly apply body moisturizer after tanning. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can also help.

● Use a tan extender: Many tan extenders contain color boosters which can help you maintain your bronze glow for longer. Some also contain ingredients that promote blood flow, which encourages your body to produce melanin.

● Apply self tanners: To reduce your UV exposure and keep your tan looking great between sessions, use sunless self tanners and reapply every five to 10 days.

With this knowledge under your belt, you can get a healthy-looking tan while reducing your risk of skin damage and maintaining your glow for as long as possible.

To learn more about tanning beds, check out our previous post on tanning bed safety, or take a look at The Unconventional Guide to Tanning Beds.