Tanning Beds 101

Tanning Beds

A Little Back Story

Tanning beds were developed as a result of medical research conducted in Germany in the early 1900s. Researchers thought that UV rays would increase calcium levels and strengthen bones in some patients. Then in the 1970s, Friedrich Wolff, a German researcher used tanning lamps for his studies with athletes. During the course of his research, he noticed athletes had developed tan skin after exposure to the UV lamps, and tanning beds became popular in Europe and America. Early beds produced in the United States emitted high levels of UVB rays. UVB rays quickly produce sunburns, so researches increased the levels of UVA light to produce a tan without less burning.

Tanning Bulbs

The bulbs in a tanning bed are responsible for producing the UVA light rays that give you a tan. They are fluorescent bulbs, and like all bulbs they become less effective over time. Generally low-pressure bulbs should be replaced after 300 to 1600 hours of use. High-pressure bulbs have a maximum range 300 to 1000 hours. The life of a bulb is usually rated by the manufacturer. The rating lets you know how long you can expect the bulb to operate at a minimum 70-80% effectiveness.

Types of Tanning Beds

  • Low-Pressure Tanning Beds: These beds are the most popular. They use low-pressure fluorescent bulbs to mimic natural sunlight. A typical low-pressure tanning bulb emits a UVA to UVB ratio around ninety-five percent UVA, and five percent UVB. The higher amounts of UVB can lead to burning, but also produce higher amounts Vitamin D. A drawback of low-pressure beds is that they take more time to achieve a base tan and require more sessions to maintain your existing tan.
  • High-Pressure Tanning Beds: High-pressure tanning beds release higher amounts of UVA rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin. Conversely, they contain lower amounts of UVB, which leads to less burning as you tan. With high-pressure beds you can establish a base tan 6 to 8 times faster than with low-pressure. They also result in a deeper tan, which means you need to tan less frequently to maintain your color.
  • Wolff Tanning Beds: Beds with the Wolff name are not manufactured by Friedrich Wolff. Instead, the manufacturer purchases a license to use the Wolff name.
  • Horizontal and Vertical Beds: As their names suggest, in a horizontal bed you lie down for the duration of the session. With vertical beds you stand in a booth where the tanning bulbs are mounted behind Plexiglas and emit rays from all sides.
  • Level 1, 2, and 3 Tanning Beds: Tanning salons use the concept of “levels” to correlate with the intensity emitted by the bulbs. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking lower levels are associated with low-pressure lamps and level three beds are associated with high-pressure bulbs. The level of bed you choose will likely depend upon the intensity of tan you want to achieve and how frequently you schedule your sessions.

35 comments... leave yours here.
  1. Erika says:

    I usually prefer the laydown horizontal beds. I feel like I get a better and deeper tan and plus its a great time to slow down, relax, and maybe take a quick nap. When I tan, I like to feel it. I hate getting into a bed and coming out dry and the same color I got in there with. I’m a quarter okinawan so I am blessed to have a natural tan and rarely burn. But don’t get me wrong, I love to feel the burn! I’m still trying to find the perfect tanning lotion so if anyone has any ideas, post!

  2. Elizabeth u. says:

    When I want to get tan fast, I use a high pressure bed and stay in for about 6-8 minutes. Staying in for the full 12 would go past the tan point onto damaging my skin. The amount of time you stay in each bed is very important. You may spend the full 12 minutes in the bed, but develop an uncomfortable sunburn later. Remember that you get darker for 4 hours after you get out the bed. I have a package at my tanning salon for a s-class bed. I go once or twice a week to the salon and am very happy with my bronzed look.

  3. MelissaG says:

    I personally use a mix of the low pressure and high pressure beds. I started with two sessions in a higher pressure bed to avoid burning as easily. I tan fairly easily (average) so I did 10 minutes in the high pressure bed. After that I started at five minutes in a “level 1” bed and worked my way up adding a high pressure session once a week. Now, I maintain with a high pressure session every other week and one or two “level 1” sessions on the off weeks. The high pressure deepens the tan I already have, and the level 1 is more for maintenance. I have a nice bronze color without the “leather look”, and my acne has completely cleared.

    I do, however, take full advantage of my high-pressure sessions and go full time. The plan including those beds are more expensive, and I am going to get my money’s worth. Also, I have found the high pressure beds to be bigger and more comfortable, though hotter temperature wise. My favorite is the Matrix L33.

    My best tip no matter what beds one uses, never go more than every other day! You are at higher risk for burning if you don’t give it some rest time, even if you didn’t burn yesterday.

  4. shaniel m says:

    I love going to the tanning bed its so relaxing I love to just lay in there and have some me time. The problem is I just don’t tan as well as my friends I go almost everyday and just can’t get that dark tropical tan I so desire! I just wish I had some advice on what to do. When I was younger I tanned so easy and so dark so is it age that’s blocking me? Some advice would be greatly appreciated until then ill keep going at least to get the me time I love so much!

  5. Linda J says:

    I like to go to the tanning bed because he helps me to relax and I personally think it helps me when my body is achy. It also makes me feel and better. I like other people have reached a point to where I am not getting a dark rich tan like some people I see that go to tanning beds do I need to purchase a special tanning lotion ? I buy the lotion from my salon . I have tried several different name brands and still nothing. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  6. Cindy C says:

    I have used tanning beds for the last 16 years or so. I know you hear people say that they are bad for you, well so is the sun and a lot of other things in the world today. Getting in a tanning bed after a long day at work is the most relaxing time to me. If I am achy and sore it makes me feel so much better. I also like to get in there before the summer to get a good based tan. I will continue to lay in a tanning bed as long as I am able. Love it!

  7. Randy D says:

    I really like the level 2 beds for a quick tan. It is very relaxing also after a rough day at work. I say tanning beds are awesome. I just bought a 10 visit package to just get my tan started for vacation.

  8. Carla J says:

    I love relaxing in my tanning bed. I have my own bed at home. I usually start in Feb. or March, tan for about 2 weeks every night, then I tan 2 to 3 times a week, This way, I don’t think its as harmful verse tanning all the time. I love getting in my bed, turning on my Ipod, just chilling out, most relax time I have. I got my bed about 5 years ago, still using the original bulbs too.

  9. kita says:

    i really like the new beds. I feel they produce more light and I see more results in through out my body, like the new bed cover more and tan faster with stunning results!

  10. kenny says:

    hey i think tanning beds are a way to get a tan and it helps your aching body at the same time if you use it in a proper manner it can be a wonderful thing but a lot of people are afraid of them but they are as safe as you make them and they need to be respected like anything else.

  11. karina says:

    Other factors on the list of tanning beds do’s and don’ts include tanning oils, type of tanning bed, and exposure limitations. For tanning oils, always use the type specifically made for indoor use, avoiding outdoor tanning oils that can intensify a burn. The type of bed is also important. You will have a choice of vertical or horizontal with the vertical chambers putting out much stronger UV rays than the type you lie down in. Finally, limit the time spent in a tanning bed and always begin the tanning process gradually! I usually do the standing one for 9 minutes, I just need 5 sessions to have a sun kissed glow, like Jeniffer Lopez.

  12. Jordyn Delossantos says:

    I love the stand up beds. You don’t have to tan half as long. Also, you get a better result. I got so much darker after switching from a regular tanning bed to a stand up one. If I lay out I don’t get a even tan. Also there is more of a risk to get sun burnt. Besides feeling good about my image, going in the tanning bed is so relaxing. If I was not standing up I would probably fall asleep. Everyone, no matter their color, should tan 🙂 Everyone could benefit from it!

  13. April says:

    I love to tan. I get tan really easily, that’s why I like to use tanning beds. It’s a lot better than having to sit in the sun along time. Having a tan makes me feel more confident, it also helps with some aches and pains you may be having. I think going 4 to 5 times a week to establish a base tan is what I did and now I only go about twice a week. My sister goes with me and she loves it too. She is much harder to tan than myself, but using lotions helps her a lot too.

  14. Kirst says:

    I really love the lay-down tanning beds – like Erika said, it’s so relaxing to lay in the bed, enjoy the warmth and just chill for the 10 or so minutes I’m in the bed! I especially enjoy tanning in the wintertime – not only do I get nice, tropical-esque warmth in the middle of December, which is great, I find that going tanning definitely gives me a mood boost as I’m prone to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in the wintertime. After a long hiatus from tanning (a combo of the disapproval of my boyfriend, who’s since lightened up and being a broke college student) I’m starting up again, and can’t wait!

  15. stefani says:

    I love the vertical tanning beds there faster and hotter. first when you go in there it is cold with the lotion them it gets very hot which I love a lot. The lotion that I use is Rumers by Australian Gold it is the best i’ve ever tried only thing is that the price is kind of high for my budget and would like to get samples of it if I could.

  16. radonda says:

    I have my own tanning bed and it is a 20 minute bed. This is very convenient but it is fun to go tan in some of the newer and much faster beds. Just curious if with the less hot beds anyone finds using certain tanning lotions helps to darken your tan faster. I am a lotion junkie but it sure gets $$ rather quickly. I do love the stand up beds as well but it is very relaxing to get to just lay and listen to music for 20 minutes…nothing like a tanning bed!! 🙂

  17. Stephanie G says:

    I prefer the stand up vertical beds because I am someone who is always on the go and they tend to be much faster. I go to my local Planet Fitness gym and they have tanning beds both vertical and horizontal. I can pop in on my way home from work and get a quick, deep tan in the Hex vertical beds. I also don’t have to worry about using any tanning lotions or oils that will stain the bed as I don’t have to lay against anything.

  18. Ashley J says:

    I love having a tanning bed in my own home. It is very convenient and I can tan whenever I want. It is a 15min bed and I am in and out in no time! I always went to salons before and would always have to worry about waiting or making sure the bed was clean, etc. Now I just get home from work, strip down, and jump in! I have light skin so I only burn in the sun, but I can easily achieve a dark tan in my tanning bed. Horizontal beds are the best because you can just lay down and get a little cat nap. Tanning is overall very relaxing and comforting and I am pleased with my bed.

  19. Gabby says:

    Ive been to several different tanning salons in SoCal. So far Darque Tan is my absolute favorite. The atmosphere is much more pleasant than ones I have been to, and the staff is very much professional. I cannot stand the other salons I have been to because of the lack of professionalism or knowledge… I enjoy utilizing the level 2 beds because they usually have facial bronzers which I can turn on or off.

  20. Amber says:

    I personally love the low pressure tanning beds. You get better, faster results and I have never burned! If you want a quick tan for a vacation, or a special event I highly recommend using a low pressure tanning bed or at my tan salon they are called Instant Beds. They are much bigger so you can relax more and enjoy your tan!

  21. nsanford1956 says:

    I get better results when I use the regular lay down tanning beds first for about two weeks then I switch to the vertical model to get that all over even tan. And of course the lotions I use help a lot too. In no time I am ready and set for the beach and never have to worry about burning in the sun.

  22. Alexfox says:

    In these days of making every penny count, I still am unable to give up my tanning. For many years I have used tanning beds, both in the UK and the US. I have recently started at new place and using a different bed. I prefer a bed although occasionally I’ll top up in a booth. I have found the new Suncapule 7 minute booth to make a dramatic difference to my tan. But for cost effectiveness, high pressure with a 7 minute booth every four time gives me the best tan for my dollar.

  23. Ashlea says:

    In my personal opinion, I much more prefer Vertical Beds. I am a little overweight, and the horizontal beds always seem to leave white lines. In the Stand Up beds i do not have this problem, and to me its much more fun because I jam out to the music. So exercise and a Tan! Nothing is better than that! Also i just wanted to state that tanning for some reason really makes me happier, and have a better sense of well being. I dunno, its just nice to go tanning and have a peach smoothie!

  24. Teresa says:

    I don’t tan very well in the sun. But tanning at the tanning salon in the nicer beds turns me so dark. I don’t burn my skin. I like to use lotions with bronzer so that will get me a nice even color.

  25. Christina Ferreira says:

    I am a beginner when it comes to tanning. As I got older it seemed harder and harder to obtain a tan and not burn. So I have decided to give indoor tanning a try. The first time I used a matrix bed which is double sided and only takes 12 minutes. I got a pretty decent increase in color (I am quite light skinned) I didn’t get a chance to go back and had to start over. I then tried the regular euro bed in which you have to turn 12 minutes in. I actually liked this one. It was comfortable and the extra 12 minutes was not bad. I got a decent color on this one too. If I had to choose it would probably be the matrix just because of the time.

  26. Jennifer says:

    I think the tanning bed is a great thing!!! It seems to pick me up when I am having a yucky day!! Tanning beds are great for single people who have to work two jobs to make it in today’s world, faster than having to lay out an hour on one side turn over and tan for an hour on the other side. My friends laugh at me when they ask how do you get all those hard areas tan, and I show them all the different ways I lay in the bed to get all the hard areas!!!

  27. spinny says:

    I love using a tanning bed, it relaxes me and makes me feel good, never mind everybody looks better tan. I used to tan all year round,now i stop in the winter and start again in april or may, just when you have cabin fever and need to get some much needed color, the long winter takes a toll on you and your attitude. i use the future sun bed, which is ten min max. that’s a lot better then the 20 min. beds they had when i first started.

  28. Traci says:

    Like others that have posted here, I too agree that there can be positives to tanning. All you ever hear are the negatives. Personally, I suffer from depression and I feel like the nice glow that I get from a tan as well as the Vitamin D make me feel happier. This comes in VERY handy during the winter months when things are gloomy outside. I do believe that tanning should be done in moderation and proper lotions and moisturizers should be used in order to protect your skin. Tanning also relaxes me. When I can, I will stop on my way home from work before picking up the kiddos so I can unwind a bit and de-stress! I love tanning!!!

  29. Deedee says:

    I got a three month unlimited package at my local tanning salon last year. I haven’t always been a huge fan of tanning, but I found that I liked it a lot. It made me feel relaxed and happy, not to mention…all your clothes look better when your skin is tan, you look slimmer and sexier. I used the stand up bed for eight minutes per session about three times a week until I developed a nice, deep base tan. After two weeks, I cut back to twice a week to maintain it. The best part, no tan lines. The stand up bed is awesome because you can really get an even tan.

  30. Drew H. says:

    A few years back, I used a low watt lay-down bed to try and create a base tan. Living in the Northwest, it’s very difficult to keep a healthy looking glow year round. The results were less than satisfactory, so I discontinued. Last year, I tried again. This time, using a stand-up higher watt booth. Found myself getting burned very quickly. Upon adjusting the time according to some advice from the salon employee, I became much happier with the result. Only took me 3-4 times before I had a noticeable base tan. I am very satisfied with the salon I go to now, and extremely pleased with the stand up tan booth (avoids under-arm missed spots).

    Word to the wise: ask around, for a good tan salon, and brush up on what beds are best for your skin type! Finding someone who actually knows what service they’re selling helps a lot!

  31. shogun says:

    stand up tanning beds are my favorite but your feet and ankles never seem to tan like the rest of your body any suggestions

  32. tk says:

    how do i get the top of my shoulders to tan?

  33. Asiya says:

    First things first. The sowler you tan, the better. Lying out in the dun for a week is just going to result in flaky, crispy skin and the tan will be gone in days. Really the whole summer gradually tanning for only a few minutes a day is the healthiest way to go. you only need 20 minutes a day to get the vitamins you need from the sun.So, make sure you use suncream. Don’t be an idiot, at least SPF15 and you will still get a tan. Even SPF30 you can. Though if you’re naturally a pale, pinky colour you need a higher SPF and probably won’t tan that much anyway.Most people will tan in two weeks. And the first couple of days you probably won’t see a noticeable tan at all. 48 hours before the melanin in your skin activates after the first day out in the sun.Don’t burn, if you burn it’s game over, you’re seriously damaging your skin and the tan is just going to flake off, that is if the burn even turns into a tan. If you burn REALLY badly you’ll just shed your skin straight away.Avoid tanning oil. Stick to SPF suncream.In water you will burn faster, but it will refract the light around you so everywhere will get tanned, but you need to reapply suncream every half hour in that case, and avoid the water in the middle of the day. And stay out of the sun between 12 and 1 when you’re most likely to burn.Two weeks is usually long enough. But you can get a lighter tan in less time.

  34. wondering says:

    I’ve bought a solar wave 10..stand up booth… 3 sessions front and back only my chest my face have gotten burnt…legs, arms still white..using a step 1 base tan builder cLimaX*…the Tanner itself says to stand 2 inches away from the lamps I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong I don’t understand why I’m not tanning all over like I was supposed to..I am fair complected I have tanned in lay down tanning beds before I have tanned by the Sun before I just don’t understand why can’t i tan by this machine…it is a new machine and it has brand new lamps in it Salon Supreme Lamps

  35. Keri says:

    When I am 18 (I’m currently 17) I want to go a tanning bed for the first time. (Please know I have no knowledge about tanning beds) I don’t want to burn but I want a dark tan. What level of bed should I use, should I use a lay-down bed or a stand-up one? This is my first time, so will I get a dark tan the first time? Please let me know

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