Getting a tan can take lots of time, and summer won’t last forever. Fortunately, folks who don’t have enough time to get a natural tan can use tanning beds instead! This guide will feature everything you need to know about using a tanning bed or booth.

Check Your Tanning Salon’s Bulbs

Let’s start with your tanning bed’s bulbs. Take a good look at the bulbs in your tanning beds! You don’t want to enter a tanning bed with busted bulbs. Since you’re relying on artificial UV light to bronze yourself, you need every bulb to be in peak condition.

Note that tanning salons will typically replace tanning bed lights roughly once a year. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a tanning bed at home, you won’t have to worry about changing your bulbs that often. Home tanning bed bulbs can go for 3 to 5 years without replacement, but this will change depending on how often you use the bulbs.

How Do They Work?

Your tanning salon should offer a variety of tanning options, but beginner tanners should choose either the low-pressure or medium-pressure options. But you may wonder, “How do tanning beds work?” It starts with the bulbs or lamps. Your skin will naturally produce melanin when exposed to UV light and subsequently darken, producing a tan!

Tanning beds are fitted with several bulbs that produce UV light to simulate the sun and stimulate your skin’s melanin production. Longer exposure times will lead to a darker and deeper tan. However, beginners should build up a resistance to UV light before scheduling a tanning session. 

Build up a Resistance First

If you’ve just come from a harsh winter, your skin won’t be in peak condition to get a tan. If anything, you might give yourself a sunburn if you head straight to the tanning beds. So before you hit up your tanning salon, slowly treat your skin to some natural sunlight.

This exposure will get your skin used to the feeling of UV light again. You don’t have to set aside time to bake in the sun for this. Any outdoor activity will work for this. Greenthumbs can work in their garden, and more active folks can play some sports. Anything to soak up some sunlight!

What to Wear Before and After the Session

If you’re going to a tanning salon for the first time, you’ll probably be curious about what you need to wear while tanning. Let’s start with your outerwear first. Wear something that’s comfortable and easy to slip in and out of. You won’t need too much prep time before entering, so ensure that you can get to business quickly.

Once you’re inside the booth, wear well-fitted goggles to protect your eyes from the UV rays of the booth. When picking out goggles, try them on first. It should be like putting on a blindfold since it needs to block all light from reaching your eyes. Check here for some ideas if you’re having trouble picking a pair.

Now, as for everything below your head, you’ve got to make a choice here: Do you want a complete tan, or do you want to fill out a specific swimsuit better? Your choice of clothes inside the tanning bed will determine what your tan lines will look like. 

The most even tan will come from being completely in the buff, plus you’ll eliminate tan lines as an issue. Since your tanning salon should clean up after every use, this won’t be an issue of cleanliness but rather your preference.

If you don’t want to be fully nude, then it’s best to pick a swimsuit that you want to be seen in and wear that instead. This will help protect any parts of your body with extremely sensitive skin, plus the tan lines will give you a good benchmark for your skin’s progress.

Inspect the Bulbs for Marks

Apart from making sure the bulbs give off even amounts of light, you’ll also need to check how clean they are. A good tanning salon should prioritize keeping its tanning beds spotless and functional! 

A tanning bed needs to be sanitized after every use, even if you didn’t stay for very long. Ask your tanning salon how often they sanitize their beds and what they use to clean them. They should be using a pH-neutral cleaning solution that doesn’t contain any alcohol. Alcohol is a solvent that can potentially damage a tanning bed. First-time tanners should consider canceling their appointments if their tanning salons don’t prioritize cleanliness!


Before you can begin tanning, you’ll need to exfoliate your skin first. Exfoliation will clear your skin of any dead skin cells and unclog your pores. This will create a more even “starting ground” for your tan and will reduce the chance of developing an acne breakout or other reactions.

When you exfoliate, take care to avoid any scented products like perfume or even deodorant. These chemicals may irritate your skin when exposed to the UV light of a tanning bed.

Apply Tanning Lotion

A trip to the tanning salon is just like getting a natural tan: You’ll need to apply lotion for the best results. But this time, you’ll need a healthy layer of tanning lotion instead of sunscreen. This has a couple of benefits: First, it’ll ensure your skin is moisturized throughout the process. A good layer of tanning lotion will also speed up the tanning process by absorbing more UV light in the booth.

Second, tanning lotion will lead to a deeper and more even tan, thanks to their formulations. Make sure you use a lotion specifically formulated for indoor tanning! Tanning lotions meant for natural and indoor tanning will have different ingredients, so check the label carefully.

Keep an Eye on the Time

Your skin will need to build up a resistance to a tanning bed’s UV light before you can get that sun-kissed look. Beginners can’t just hop into a tanning bed and then walk out when they feel like it! 

This will be easier to follow if you’ve followed the earlier step about building up a resistance. Whether you choose a tanning bed or booth, limit your first session to 5 to 7 minutes. Anything longer and you’ll risk burning your skin!

Your skin type will also play a part here. Folks with lighter and fairer skin will tend to burn easily, so ask the tanning salon’s employees how long you should tan for. If you’ve got darker skin, you may be able to stay in the tanning bed for longer, but don’t overdo it!

Pros and Cons of Indoor Tanning

While tanning salons are an amazing invention for folks who don’t have enough time to get a natural tan, some people prefer the old-fashioned way. Here are some of the pros and cons of indoor tanning.


  • Will increase your body’s Vitamin D levels
  • Gives you time to relax while you tan
  • Gives you greater control over your tan


  • Can cause wrinkles if you’re not correctly prepared
  • May dry out your skin and reduce its elasticity
  • It may damage your eyes if you don’t have the correct goggles


Getting a perfect tan will take some extra planning on your part. You’ll have to build up a base tan, buy the right tanning lotions, and even exfoliate your skin! But the results will be worth it to look your absolute best.