Tanning Beds: History and Advice


Tanning beds were brought to North America by German scientist Friedrich Wolff in 1978 and rose to popularity in the mid-1980s. Since then, tanning beds have been a common way to tan without having to spend hours and hours in the sun's unpredictable radiation.

Make no mistake: the ultraviolet light used in tanning beds is almost exactly the same kind of ultraviolet light that comes from the sun, and therefore comes with the same risks. But if you understand how tanning beds work and how to use them without abusing them, tanning beds can be a great way to get that perfect olive or bronze hue you've been yearning for.

All conventional tanning beds have lamps that produce ultraviolet radiation - both UVB and UVA rays. The UVB rays are accountable for stimulating production of the naturally occurring skin pigment melanin. However, minor overexposure to UVB rays causes burn, while major overexposure is linked to skin cancers. The UVA rays are the ones that oxidize the melanin, producing the golden brown color. The UVA rays account for the majority of rays originating in the lamps or bulbs in a tanning bed.

If you are using a conventional bed, first develop a base tan by tanning for twenty to thirty minutes, three to five times a week, for about four weeks. Then, maintain the tan by tanning two to three times a week thereafter.

High-pressure tanning beds are different, in that they utilize only UVA rays and no UVB rays. The term "high-pressure" refers to the atmosphere inside the lamps or bulbs, which are made out of quartz. The higher air pressure is what allows the lamp or bulb to filter out virtually all UVB rays - the rays that produce burn. The result is a faster, deeper, longer-lasting tan.

If you are using a high-pressure tanning bed, develop a base tan by tanning for ten to twelve minutes, three to five times total, over a matter of ten to fourteen days. Maintain the tan with only two or three visits per month.

Use a tanning bed lotion or "tan accelerator" to increase tanning speed and quality. Apply tan accelerator all over your body before and after your tanning session, since melanin oxidization and production continues long after you've been exposed to UV light. This will keep your skin cool, comfortable, moisturized, and just generally healthier.

Always wear tanning goggles while inside the tanning bed. Simply closing your eyes or wearing regular sunglasses is not enough protection from UV light.


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