Tanning Salon 101

If you’ve set foot in a tanning salon before, then you certainly know the hard sell: you can get a bottle of tanning lotion or accelerator for upwards of $60, a “package” of tans that will keep your skin beautifully darkened, and further encouragements to come back since tanning beds are a supposedly smarter choice than baking out at the beach. Unfortunately, beginner tanners know little about salons, and hence they tend to make bad choices that ultimately affect both their experience and the results they get.

If you’re new to tanning and don’t know what a tanning facility is all about, we’ve put together a handy guide that will help you.


First, What Are Tanning Salons?

Tanning salons are facilities that offer people the opportunity to tan their skin through the use of tanning beds. Tanning beds employ UVA rays that trigger melanogenesis, a process through which melanocytes – pigment-producing cells located in the epidermis – produce melanin and make the skin appear darker.

People lie in tanning beds for a set period of time to gradually tan their skin. However, one or two tanning sessions won’t be enough to achieve the desired shade of tan. Instead, you must visit your salon for several weeks or even months until your skin turns as dark as you’d like it to be. To maintain the tan, it’s necessary to visit the tanning salon regularly, although not as often.


Types of Tanning Salons

There are two types of tanning salons:

  • Tanning Businesses: These salons provide only tanning booths, and usually have a pretty extensive range of tanning products including tanning lotions, tanning oils, accelerators and maximizers.
  • Tanning Facilities Attached to Hair Salons or Full-Service Spas: While you can find a large number of stand-alone tanning businesses, you’ll also find many salons that are attached to hair salons and full-service spas. Usually, tanning is provided to complement their offering of beauty products, and as such, there may be fewer tanning beds, and fewer tanning products, if any.


What to Wear in a Tanning Bed

When you choose indoor tanning, it is up to you to decide what you will be wearing inside the tanning bed. While some women prefer going in the nude to avoid tan lines, others wear a swimsuit or just their bikinis. However, since the rooms are private, you don’t have to worry about anybody seeing you when you’re getting dressed or undressed. The salon may provide a robe you can wear in case you want to tan but wear nothing. Make sure to wear a pair of protective glasses to prevent any potential damage to your eyes.


How to Start Off Your First Tanning Session?

Many beginners have this misconception that, since they’ve never used tanning beds before, they need to start with a basic regular bed. However, using a regular tanning bed can result in more frequent tanning sessions since your skin will produce little melanin. As such, you may consider using high-intensity beds instead. However, you must be careful and start with low exposure, otherwise you risk burning your skin.

Start at no higher than the maximum time of a bed – for example, if the maximum time of a bed is 12 minutes, start with about six minutes – four or five if you’re particularly fair-skinned. Do two sessions of your decided starting time to help your skin accommodate with the light. If you see any pink or redness when you come out of the tanning bed, try a minute or two lower to avoid burning your skin.

Ask the receptionist to help you decide on what time will work for you. She’s likely knowledgeable enough to give you a good time estimate, not to mention that she has experience working with many other clients.


Don’t Buy Tanning Lotions from Salons

Receptionists at these salons will try and push you to buy the most expensive tanning lotions, bronzers and accelerators. Why? Because they work on a commission, meaning they receive a small percentage of the cost of every product they sell. You may end up paying upwards of $60 for a small bottle, when you can get the same product at a drastically reduced price from sites like Amazon. Don’t succumb to those attractive, but completely false, statements about how a particular product will turn your skin dark instantly – it may, but the investment will be significant.

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