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.
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.