Tanning Bed 101: A Beginner's Guide
Are You Considering Indoor Tanning?
With bathing suit season well underway, many people will be going to their local tanning salon to get a bronzed body before hitting the beach. But what if you have never been in a tanning bed before? What do beginners need to consider?
Before going tanning, I recommend making an informed decision about whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. Many experts claim that there are too many risks, and tanning beds should be reserved for medicinal purposes only. Others claim that the benefits far outweigh any risks.
I encourage everyone to at least be aware of the risks, informed about the benefits, and do a little research on their own so that they can make an informed decision regarding tanning beds.
Benefits of Tanning Beds
Risks of Tanning Beds
Tips for Those Who Have Never Tanned Before
If you still want to go tanning even after knowing the risks, that's fine. I enjoy tanning, and I also find it very relaxing. Going tanning for the first time can bring up a lot of questions, such as should you use tanning lotions, do you need to wear protective eyewear, and what bed to use. The people who work in tanning salons can usually help you with any unanswered questions you may have, but still, it's smart to do your own research.
The first time I went tanning, I asked the woman working for a little advice regarding which lotion to use. I also inquired about what the difference was between the lotions. I had no idea what a "bronzer" was and didn't know what the words and ingredients written on the bottle meant. She said that all of them were pretty great, and it really didn't matter. Yep. All thirty lotions displayed in front of me were "great."
Needless to say, I spent thirty dollars on a lotion that was a great moisturizer but did not help with my color at all. Three weeks later, I had silky soft skin that was still really pale in color. This is why it's a good idea to know a little bit before you go to a tanning salon. You never know how informed the employees are.
Ideas for What to Wear
- nothing (go naked)
- a bathing suit
- tanning stickers (these can tell you how much darker your color gets, and can make a pretty temporary tattoo)
What Do You Wear?
Some people are absolutely appalled at the mere thought of laying in a tanning bed naked, especially knowing that someone else lay in that tanning bed naked. Others could care less and trust their tanning salon to sanitize properly the bed before they get into it.
So what (if anything) should you wear? There are a lot of different views on this particular question, and it all comes down to one very simple answer: wear whatever you are comfortable in. If you wear your bathing suit every time, you will have tan lines that reflect that, but that's your choice.
Do You Have to Wear Protective Eyewear?
Excessive amounts of UV exposure to your eyes can result in damage to the eye itself, the retina, and can cause cataracts and even blindness. I have read stories of people that have gone blind their first time in a tanning bed. While that is not a likely outcome, if you opt away from protective eyewear, it is a possibility.
Simply closing your eyes or putting a towel over them does not provide enough protection to prevent damage to your eyes. Many tanning salons provide disposable protective eyewear for one-time use that stick to the area around your eye to provide protection.
Buying tanning goggles is another option. Many of these have a string that wraps around the back of your head to ensure that they do not move while tanning.
Many tanning salons do not check to see if you have protective eyewear before you go tanning, and no one is going to follow you into a tanning bed to ensure that you are wearing them. Protecting your eyesight is your responsibility.
How Long Should You Go Tanning and What Type of Bed Should You Use?
How long you should go tanning depends on your skin type. The tanning salon will have you fill out some paperwork and determine your skin type. They should be able to help you with this decision (but still, you should do your own research).
If you burn extremely easily, you may want to start out only going five minutes in a Level One or Two tanning bed. The tanning salon that I go to only has one Level One bed, and often they recommend people use a Level Two. I, personally, started out going seven minutes in a Level Two bed and did fine. If five minutes does not give you a burn, you can try to go seven minutes the next time, and consistently add two minutes at a time. If you notice that you are starting to burn, wait an extra day or so before returning to the tanning bed. Trust me, it is possible to tan with out getting burnt.
Tanning salons offer different levels of beds as well as different types of tanning beds. The levels determine the amount of UV rays and therefore how quickly you will tan. These levels start out at Level 1 and go up to Level 4. Different types of beds include a lying-down bed, a stand-up bed, and even one that has a strip of tanning bulbs down one side to help tan your sides.
There is no particular bed that is better than another, it all depends on what you like. If I have a lot of energy, I like to use a stand-up tanning bed, and sometimes I dance while I'm in there. The beds you lie down in are much more relaxing, though, and sometimes I prefer that. Ask your tanning salon what different beds they have, try some different ones, and see what's right for you.
When tanning, don't lie still the entire time. This can cause wrinkles in your tan, which are not pretty. Wherever the UV rays do not reach, your body will not tan, so try this: prop your head up slightly on a pillow or lean it slightly forward (or use the pillow if the place provides one). Now, think about any wrinkles in your neck in that position. If there is a wrinkle there, the tiny bit of skin inside that wrinkle will not be exposed to the UV rays, resulting in a white line (tanning wrinkle) across your neck. This is why different positions when tanning can be helpful in achieving an all-over, even tan.
What Type of Lotion Do You Use?
There are a lot of great tanning lotions on the market today. Consider these options:
- A moisturizer is vital because tanning will dry your skin out.
- If you are looking for more color, then you may want to try a lotion with a bronzer or intensifier as well. A bronzer will add more color to your complexion. Most lotions that contain bronzers will say something along the lines of 10x or 30x on them. The higher the number, the more bronzer the lotion contains, and the darker it will help you get. Another trick is to look at the color of the lotion before purchasing it. The more bronzer a lotion contains, the darker its color will be.
- Other types of lotions include maximizers, accelerators, tingle lotions, and cooling lotions.
- When applying lotion, it is important to take your time and apply it evenly. If you wind up with five times more lotion on your stomach and hardly any on your chest, it can lead to an extremely uneven tan. If you have sensitive skin, it's a great idea to buy a small sample packet of the lotion to test before committing to an entire bottle.
For a more detailed explanation of the different terms listed on those thirty bottles of great lotion, check out Tanning with a Little Bit of Lotion: Choose the Right One for You. I've also included a couple more tanning lotion reviews in that article for you to check out!
Peace Love and Cupcakes Tanning Lotion
This is one of the first tanning lotions I bought, and it's still one of my favorites! Peace Love and Cupcakes is a lotion by Australian Gold and has a great, sweet smell to it. It also has 10x bronzer. Now, keep in mind the higher the number, the darker it will help you get. If you burn easily, you may want to start out with a low bronzer just to make sure. Also, you aren't supposed to shower directly after tanning, and no one wants to walk around smelling like tanning lotion all day. That's why there are two things I always check before buying a lotion: the smell and the color. The color is another way to tell how dark you will get instead of simply looking at the number before the bronzer.
With this lotion, I could see color within a day, and got complimented on how great I smelled!
Shea You Love Me
This lotion is an intensifier. Bronzers and intensifiers are supposed to do the same thing but in different ways. Bronzers have pigments in them to help you look dark while you're getting a tan. These are great if you want to hurry up and wear shorts without white legs :) Intensifiers are supposed to help your skin produce more melanin so that you get a deeper, more natural-looking tan. I'm on the fence with that. I tried this product for an extended period of time, and did not see a difference. I still love the product, but I use it for my face now. I have sensitive skin so I was a bit skeptical about spending this much on a lotion, but it was worth it. Shea You Love Me is very moisturizing, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free. Tanning can cause dry skin, and I don't want my face to get any darker (it's already in the sun so much, and I want my whole body to match) so this is the perfect lotion for my face. I only use about the size of a pea for my face, and this one bottle has lasted me months!
Other tanning articles and tips by the same author: