How to Get The Best Tan in a Tanning Bed

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Are you new to tanning and want to know how to get the best tan in a tanning bed? Or perhaps you’ve been using a tanning bed for a while but want to up your tanning game?

Tanning beds work by emitting ultraviolet rays that are absorbed via your skin cells. This causes the melanin pigments in your skin to become darker.

Unfortunately, ultraviolet rays can be harmful. Keep reading to learn how to get the best tan in a tanning bed without exposing yourself to UV rays more than is necessary.

Before we get started, let’s find out how the tanning process works.

The Tanning Process

Interested in finding out how your skin becomes darker? Take a look.

Ultraviolet Rays

The sun emits three ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVC is the shortest of all three rays – it barely reaches the top layer of the skin. UVC doesn’t have much of an impact on your tan.

UVA and UVB are longer and more potent when it comes to their ability to darken your skin.

UVB rays penetrate the epidermis, or the top layer of your skin, to promote your tan. On the other hand, UVA rays are much longer and can go deeper into the layers below the epidermis for a darker, longer-lasting tan.


Your skin is made up of three layers. The top layer, or the epidermis, contains cells responsible for your skin tone, known as melanocytes.

When subjected to ultraviolet light, these cells produce a skin pigment called melanin. This pigment is your skin’s defense mechanism against the harmful effects of UV rays.

The longer you expose your skin to these rays, the longer your skin will keep producing melanin.

7 Tips to Get the Best Tan in a Tanning Bed

Now that you understand the tanning process, here’s what you can do to ensure you get the best tan in a tanning bed.

#1 – Determine Your Skin Type

There are six basic types of skin. Those with Type 1 skin are the fairest, so they burn more quickly but take longer to tan.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have Type 6, the darkest skin type. People with this skin type tan easily with minimal risk of getting sunburned.

Once you’ve figured out your skin type, you’ll be able to determine how long you can safely stay in a tanning bed. You’ll also know how often you can repeat your indoor tanning sessions.

Each tanning bed differs in terms of UV output, so there’s no set formula that applies to everyone.

For most people, all it takes is a few indoor tanning sessions for your skin to get that golden brown shade.

The general rule is that beginners should start with a 5-minute tanning session, especially those with light skin.

Next, you can gradually increase your time to 10 minutes per session. Some salons may allow you to extend your time even longer, depending on your skin type and tanning experience.

Talk to the professionals at your tanning salon. They’ll help you decide on the best times for you to ensure a safe tanning process.

Here’s a general guide for each skin type:

  • Type 1: Burns easily, recommended to avoid tanning beds
  • Type 2: High burning risk, no more than 5 minutes per tanning session
  • Type 3: Moderate burning risk, gradually build up exposure to 10 minutes
  • Type 4: Lower burning risk, gradually build up exposure to 10 minutes
  • Type 5: Seldom burns, can gradually build up exposure to 15 minutes
  • Type 6: Doesn’t burn in the sun, can gradually build up exposure to 20 minutes
hands on white background with different skin colors

#2 – Prepare Your Skin

Before rushing off to the nearest tanning salon, it’s important to prepare your skin.

First, you’ll have to remove dead skin cells to create a smooth surface. This helps maximize UV absorption for a quicker, more effective tanning process.

Start by gently exfoliating your skin during the week leading up to your tanning appointment.

The type of exfoliant you use is important. Try to go for an oil-free formula that won’t interfere with the tanning process.

#1 Exfoliator Recommendation

bondi sands coconut and sea salt body scrub

Bondi Sands Coconut & Sea Salt Body Scrub

✅ Tan friendly – won’t interfere with the tanning process

 ✅  Oil-free formula

 ✅  Leaves skin soft and smooth

#3 – Pick Out a Tanning Outfit

Before you decide on what you’ll be wearing while tanning, ask the professionals at the facility about their garment policy.

Some salons require you to wear bathing suits, while others have no problem with their clients tanning in the nude.

Whichever you opt for, there are certain items that are always forbidden in a tanning bed. One of these is all types of jewelry, including your watch, rings, and earrings.

Another is contact lenses or eyewear of any kind. The heat emitted from the tanning bed can damage the lenses and may even harm your eyes.

The only thing covering your eyes will be tanning goggles. You can either bring your own or rent a pair from the facility.

#4 – Apply an Indoor Tanning Lotion

On the day of your tanning session, make sure you bring along your indoor tanning lotion.

Then, before changing into your bathing suit, apply the lotion all over your body to ensure even coverage.

Remember that regular lotions won’t get you the same results. This is because they don’t contain the same ingredients that help boost the tanning process.

In addition, many tanning lotions are designed to help provide your skin with the right amounts of moisturization and nourishment. It’s a great way to help balance out the drying effects tanning beds can have on your skin.

#1 Tanning Lotion Recommendation

ed hardy coconut kisses

Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Tanning Lotion

 ✅  Unique blend that stimulates melanin production

 ✅  Isn’t patchy or streaky

 ✅  Hydrating formula

 ✅  Doesn’t smell of tanning lotion

#5 – Remove Makeup and Perfume

Avoid wearing any makeup or perfume when tanning. These products usually contain photosensitive ingredients that may result in uneven tanning, patchy areas, or skin irritations.

#6 – Spread Out Your Tanning Sessions

UV rays can be dangerous, so it’s important that you don’t try to rush the tanning process, or it may result in negative consequences, like sunburns, skin irritations, or flare-ups.

The best thing to do is to spread out your sessions. Daily exposure to UV rays is dangerous, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits anyone from getting more than one tanning session per day.

However, if you wait too long between tanning sessions, your tan will likely start to fade.

While it may differ from one person to the next, tanning experts usually recommend you start with three sessions per week for about two weeks. This should help you develop a base tan.

Reduce your sessions to just two per week for three to four weeks after that to help maintain your tan.

Then, once you’ve reached your desired shade, give your skin a break from UV exposure for a couple of weeks or so.

#7 – Keep an After-Tanning Maintenance Routine

The first thing you’ll be inclined to do the moment you step out of that tanning bed is to take a shower. Don’t!

If you used a bronzer or tanning oil in the tanning bed, wait a minimum of three hours before you take a shower, so you don’t wash the product off.

The best thing you can do immediately after each tanning session is moisturize your skin.

Apply a regular body lotion in circular strokes to trap moisture in your skin cells and avoid dry, flaky skin.

Choose a body lotion that absorbs easily but still contains nourishing ingredients to keep your skin looking supple and feeling soft.

To Sum Up

These tips on how to get the best tan in a tanning bed will help to ensure that your tanning experience is hassle-free. Remember, your skin’s safety should be your number one priority. Be patient and avoid overexposure.

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