The popularity of tanning beds for indoor tanning has increasingly become a common phenomenon in the last one decade. For starters, indoor tanning is the use of devices that emit ultraviolet radiation to produce a cosmetic tan. This service is typically found in salons, spas, hotels, gyms, sporting facilities and sometimes in private homes.
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The most common devices used for indoor tanning include tanning beds and sunlamp. In this article, we will be talking about how to use tanning beds, benefits and dangers involved, pricing, and some of the maintenance practices required, más información en Español.
- 1 How to use tanning beds
- 2 Tanning bed levels
- 3 High-pressure tanning bed
- 4 Advantages and benefits of tanning beds
- 5 Dangers associated with using tanning beds
- 6 Tanning bed pricing
- 7 To own or to go to a tanning salon?
- 8 Tanning beds vs. Sunlight
- 9 Maintenance and repair
- 10 Tanning beds replacements parts
- 11 Conclusion
How to use tanning beds
Using a tanning bed can cause injuries if you are not sure of what you’re doing. There are some minimum precautions and operational instruction you need to know before hopping into a tanning bed of any kind. Here are some quick tips and guidelines on how it goes down.
Scout for tanning services
- If you don’t own a tanning bed, you don’t have to worry; you can always get affordable tanning services from a salon, gym, hotel or spa near you. The most common place you will get these services, however, is in the salon. Scout around for several salons and ask to see their beds. Look closely to see that the beds do have any traces of dirt or stains. If you are happy with their hygiene, ask what kind of cleaner they use. Note that glass cleaners don’t kill or remove bacteria. Compare several salons and pick one that makes you comfortable.
Take a shower
- Before hopping into a tanning bed, take a shower and exfoliate your skin using a scrubbing sponge or exfoliating soap. The idea is to free your skin of dirt and dead skin cells. The exfoliation increases the effectiveness of the tan and makes it last longer.
Consider your skin type
- Most salons do have a skin analysis form that you will be required to fill, while others will sit you down for a short interview with the view to understand your type of skin and any existing/past skin conditions. This information is useful for correct calibration of the tanning bed so that you don’t get burned. The operator may also seek to know if you are using any prescription medication as some of them can affect how your skin reacts to the tanning process.
Use a high-quality tanning lotion.
- There are tanning lotions specifically designed to be used with tanning beds. They are a little different and more expensive compared to the regular sunscreen, but they are worth it. Tanning lotions are primarily meant to increase your tan from around 40 to 70 percent. They enhance the results and make your skin softer. While at it, beware of “tanning accelerators”; these tyrosine-based lotions and pills are not approved by FDA, and there is no evidence that they are absorbed by the skin or gut.
- Strip down as far as you wish. Most people keep their underwear and bra; others prefer a swimsuit, while some are Ok going nude. Use the same precaution as you would in a public shower. Don’t sit on chairs or tabs while naked, the tanning bed may be disinfected and sanitized, but this may not apply to the rest of the room. If you are paranoid, (which is Ok) request for a cleaner to wipe things down yourself. If you have never used a tanning bed before, request for a tanning bed crash course from a staff member. Even if you’ve used one before, models differ slightly; be sure you know what all the buttons do, how to control the fan, how to turn the bulbs on and off, how to shut the whole thing down, and so on.
Put on you safety goggles
- Do not even think of getting into the bed without safety goggles or some approved eye protection. Your eyes can be permanently damaged without them. The salon will always provide this for you. And remember sunglasses will not do the trick.
Get inside the bed
- Get inside the tanning bed and shut the lid. Typically, the staff attendant will assign a small time for you. They will always try to discourage you from staying too long in the bed, for your safety. Do not try remain in the tanning bed for longer than you should. Your first tanning session should not last more than 8 minutes. Wait for several sessions before increasing the session time. If by any chance your skin gets burned, wait until the burns to heal completely before resuming tanning. If you are using a flat tanning bed, be sure to turn in the bed for tanning on both sides of your body.
Get out of the tanning bed
- Once the timer runs out, get out of the bed and wipe yourself out if you’re sweaty. You might want to redo your makeup and hair if you are a bit roughed up. If you suspect you have been burned, ask the salon attendant to assess you, otherwise, put on your cloth and call it a day. The bottom line here is that you should moderate your turning to avoid burning or any other undesirable effects. It might help to mix this up with exposure to sunlight, as long as you remember sunscreen.
Tanning bed levels
Most salons and spas have five levels of tanning beds. These levels indicate the quality and intensity of the tan, with the higher the number offering higher-quality bulbs, fewer UV rays and typically more expensive. High and low pressure refers to the amount of vapor pressure inside the bulb.
Level One beds:
- These are typically the cheapest and simplest beds offered in salons. They use the standard 100-watt bulbs which are about 24 to 32 per bed. Maximum tanning time is usually 12 to 20 minutes depending on the model of the bed. If you are just starting out, you may want to keep the initial session timings at 4-6 and increase gradually as long as there is not redness.
Level Two beds:
- Level two tanning beds can be referred to as medium-pressure beds. They typically have 35 to 54 lamps per bed, and their tan builds slower but lasts longer. Level two beds feature built-in air conditioner, facial tanning power with varying intensities, a misty breeze and other features. They’re more expensive compared to level one but cheaper than the other higher levels.
Level Three Beds:
- These are high-pressure beds that emit fewer UV rays compared to levels 1 and 2. They are least likely to cause burning, and their tanning is more likely to last longer. They are extra large and more comfortable featuring “No-Burn” facial lamps throughout the bed, built in air conditioning, shoulder tanners, high-speed fans, and other special features. These beds contain about 60 lamps offering more tanning watts. Starting sessions should be 5 to 7 minutes, and only increase if there is no burning from the previous sessions.
Levels Four and Five beds:
- These are high-pressure beds that block out most of the UV rays. They are the most powerful tanning beds available, and their tan also lasts longer. The maximum time here is 13 to 15 minutes per session. They have all the special features available in level 3 beds with a special bulb for the face and a mattress bed. One session in these kinds of beds is equivalent to 3 to 4 sessions from a level 1 tanning bed. You can also set your start times relatively high, (about 8 to 10) due to the “No-Burn” bulbs.
High-pressure tanning bed
These types of tanning beds are equipped with high-pressure lamps secured behind a special UV filtered glass. High-pressure tanning beds are designed to reduce the harmful UV rays and offer indoor tanning in its purest form. They reduce the UVB rays and optimize the amount of UVA rays. The manipulation of these rays means that you will take less time to acquire desired results, and you will avoid the harmful effects of UV rays.
Advantages and benefits of tanning beds
Tanned skin, being one of the major outward signs of beauty, has become highly fashionable nowadays. The natural turn color catches the eye and gives a natural and exotic air. It also highlights one’s physical traits and emphasizes the color of their hair or eyes. Here are some of the benefits and advantages of using tanning beds.
- Even tan on demand:
- One of the distinct advantages of tanning beds is that you don’t have to wait for a sunny, warm day for you to get your tan. It allows you to tan your skin any time of the day, any season of the year. If you need to look flawless in a bikini at a party with an even tan, a tanning specialist can help you achieve this within a day. The beds have UV settings that ensure you don’t come out with blotchy or patchy spots. While you cannot control the intensity if UV rays from the sun, the tanning bed gives you all the freedom to play around with UV settings, temperature and pressure to acquire optimum results.
- Vitamin D:
- Vitamin D helps us maintain optimal levels of phosphorus and calcium. It plays a huge role in helping our bodies absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency is known to lead to brittle, soft, or thin bones. Using tanning beds, you can ensure that your blood gets enough vitamin D concentration.
- Treating Psoriasis:
- Even though some dermatologists discourage Psoriasis patients from using tanning beds, it is commonly used as a last resort to patients who are unable to access light therapy. However, if you are a psoriasis patient, be sure to consult your doctor before using a tanning bed.
- Prevents sunburn:
- Unlike basking in the sun, tanning beds highly reduces the risk of developing a burn. Modern tanning bed models have features such as “No burn” lamps, temperature control and varying pressure intensities. All these as meant to regulate the degree of tanning and filter out the harmful UV rays to protect you from burns.
- Some people choose to tan indoors due to the convenience that comes with it. Nowadays, people are too busy to chase the elusive sunlight that only appears a few hours in a day or even weeks in some areas. With some tanning beds such as the stand-up versions, you only need to hope in for a few minutes, and you will be on your way looking and feeling fabulous.
Dangers associated with using tanning beds
There have been quite some stories surrounding the use of tanning beds for a while now. As people look to maintain their bronze glow at the end of summer, claims are coming in on how an unhealthy using a tanning bed is. In essence, things are not as ugly about using tanning beds as a few individuals might want to paint them.
The concerns associated with using tanning beds have a lot to do with how you use them than with their working principle. Many cases of burns and injuries reported in the past are associated with bad tanning bed usage practices such as overexposure, not using protective eyewear, wrong calibrations, among others. There have been a few exceptional cases where individuals with pre-existing disease conditions have worsened even after correctly using a tanning bed. In summary, here are some of the health concerns that have been raised in the past about using tanning beds.
- Prematurely aged skin
- Overexposure to UV rays from a tanning bed can cause visible damage to the skin by reducing elasticity and breaking down collagen. This often results in increased dark spots and wrinkles, leaving you with a loose, leather appearance that makes you look a decade older. So be sure to tan moderately, use correct calibrations and avoid overexposure by all means.
- Skin cancer
- Recent studies have revealed that too much exposure to UV rays from tanning beds can increase your risk of developing melanoma. And the risk is higher for users under the age of 35. Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer that is responsible for 75 percent of all cancer deaths. It’s the second most lethal form of cancer in women after breast cancer. Again, minimize the frequency of your tanning bed usage; reserve tanning for those days when you really need it.
- Skin infections
- Tanning salons that use shared tanning beds can expose you to skin infections. Poorly sterilized or poorly maintained beds can harbor fungus and bacteria that cause nasty infections to an unsuspecting user. To avoid this risk, always go for salons that have high hygienic standards with no previous cases of outbreaks and infections. If you have the capacity, consider acquiring your own home tanning bed where you can be assured of optimal hygiene.
- Actinic keratosis
- Actinic keratosis is a premalignant growth defined by a rough, scaly patch of the skin that forms in the area that has been overexposed to UV rays. Although this is initially harmless and can be easily removed by your dermatologist using liquid nitrogen, if it goes undetected for long, it can cause a major form of skin cancer.
- Weakened immune system
- The World Health Organization has indicated that too much exposure to UV radiations can weaken your immune system. UV radiation can be made even worse if a skin infection occurs along the way.
Other dangers that have been associated with using tanning beds include an increased risk of developing cataracts, eye damage, damaged DNA in skin cells, and tanning addiction.
In general, dermatologists recommend supplementing vitamin D to your body from diets and occasional safe exposure to sunlight. There are, however, numerous measures you can take to avoid all the adverse effects tagged on the usage of tanning beds. Use tanning beds less frequent, observe the recommended session timing for your type of skin, always use approved eye protection and indoor tanning lotion and observe all the safety requirements when using a tanning bed.
Tanning bed pricing
Like many high-end luxury electronics, tanning beds come with different pricing points, mostly dictated by the model and the brand of the machine. The price of a tanning bed will also be influenced by the quality of tanning it delivers. If you remember the five tanning bed levels that we discussed earlier; level four and five tanning beds are more expensive compared to level one beds. Additionally, stand up tanning beds tend to cost more than the traditional horizontal tanning beds.
On average, most new tanning beds will cost you anything from $1000 to $5000 depending on the model, brand, and features. Used tanning beds range anywhere between $250 to $1500, depending on the model, features and current condition. If you are particularly concerned about hygiene issues, owning one of these pieces might give you a peace of mind.
To own or to go to a tanning salon?
Talking of peace of mind, is it worth it owning a tanning bed? Or would you rather just go to the salon? Owning a tanning bed and going to the salon have pros and cons.
Visiting a tanning salon is an excellent way to catch a quick tanning session on your way to a party or if you simply want to put your vitamin D requirements in order. They also offer a cheaper alternative compared to having to part with thousands of dollars to own a tanning bed.
However, as earlier discussed, shared tanning beds may harbor a variety of skin infections if not well sanitized and disinfected. Even though most salons do their best to kill and wipe off bacteria and germs, not all of them observe the required hygienic standards.
On the other hand, owning a tanning bed allows you to have a tan whenever you feel like, in the comfort and privacy of your home. You also don’t have to worry about hunting around for reliable salons or catching an infection from the shared salon bed.
The downside of buying your tanning bed is the price tag that comes with a good quality piece. Quality beds cost thousands of dollars that may not be readily available for something that you will probably only use a couple of times per week. But then again, considering what it might eventually cost you if you catch a nasty infection out there, owning one in your home might not be such a bad idea; especially so if you have a relatively large family.
Tanning beds vs. Sunlight
An average tanning bed produces roughly the same amount of UBV as the sun and about three the amount of UVA light. However, tanning beds produce more concentrated bursts which deliver faster results and require less exposure time. While both the methods have been associated with injuries from UV rays, indoor tanning using tanning beds has more safety precautions in place compared to basking in the sun.
Tanning beds have precautionary features such as a security timer, protective eyewear, “no burn” lambs, and varying radiation and pressure intensities to ensure that you tan safely. Additionally, using tanning beds produces even and long lasting results, unlike the sunlight where most people end up with patches and spots.
When it comes to convenience, tanning beds offer an instant and on-demand tan whenever you need it. As for sunlight, even in summer, you have to pray to your gods that the clouds don’t keep interrupting your shining moments, and when that happens; pray again that you will not end up looking all pale and patchy. Those with lighter skins are vulnerable to sunburns and are better off staying indoors and using small doses of tanning radiation from tanning beds. In other words, you cannot control the sun, but you can manage a tanning bed.
Maintenance and repair
Tanning beds are relatively sturdy and durable equipment, however, like many electronic types of equipment of this scale, things can go wrong in a thousand different ways. However, following an excellent maintenance and repair plan can minimize cases of breakdown. The most basic tips of ensuring that your tanning bed is properly maintained is by observing all the standard operating procedures as provided by the manufacturer.
- Checking for unusual smells and sounds that might mean trouble
- Clean and disinfect the bed after each use
- Dust the outside of the unit daily
- Wipe the entire machine weekly using an approved disinfectant
- Remove the inspection plates and vacuum the area.
Common Repair Issues
- Tanning bed overheating
- Tanning unit not offering the best tanning results
- Lamps hard to start or flickering
- Salon is excessively warm
- Time inoperable or not accurate
- Acrylic panels cracking prematurely
All new tanning beds come with an operating manual that has all the details on how to troubleshoot the above issues. Some of them are as simple as unplugging and plugging the power cables into the power source, while others might require advanced procedures such as adjusting the gas shock mounting position. I highly recommend that you stay within these operating parameters especially if your machine has a warranty.
Always call a qualified tanning bed repair person anytime you feel the problem requires more than minor troubleshooting. Opening up inner parts and trying to repair a major breakdown without technical knowledge can only worsen the problem.
Tanning beds replacements parts
While trying to repair a broken part is often the priority, there are those parts that are just irreparable, like a bulb for instance. It’s always a good idea to note down possible parts that soon or later will need replacement. Where necessary, you can always keep them at hand for when the need arises, especially those vulnerable to malfunction, wear and tear or breakage. Here is my list to get you started.
- Bulb holders
- Lamp holder
- Power cables
- UV meter
- Fan grill cover
As you can see, tanning beds are incredibly useful devices that have improved lives and made cosmetic tanning a whole lot easier and fun. The health concerns should not be a worry if you follow the right procedures and tan responsibly. If you plan on seeking tanning services from salons, just remember the mentioned safety tips, and you should have a fabulous tanning experience. Should you choose to acquire your tanning bed, well and good; there are plenty of reliable models and brands in the market for you to choose. Whichever the case, you will end up with a glowing, healthier, softer, and smoother skin after using a tanning bed.