4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

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Tanning outdoor under the sun undeniably comes with many benefits, but what if you can’t get your daily dose of sunshine? It might have something to do with your timetable, for example, if you work a night shift and wake up when the sun is already at its peak. It might also be due to the place you live having few sunny days. It narrows your choices down to self-tanners and salon sessions.

When you visit a beauty salon with a tanning service, maybe they will offer both tanning beds and bronzing beds. Therefore, knowing what you need will help you choose the most suitable device.

4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

A General View on UV Radiation

Types of UV Exposure

UVA (Ultraviolet A)

Also known as UV rays with long wavelengths, UVA makes up 95% of the UV radiation getting to your skin. It is present throughout the year, regardless of the weather being sunny or cloudy. As long as it is daytime, you are surrounded by UVA rays.

UVB (Ultra Violet B)

With a shorter wavelength, UVB light has a closer range of effect, but the larger energy held within allows it to cause severe damage. Places with warm and sunny weather will receive more UVB rays than cold and chilly zones.

The Risk from UV Radiation

UVA is generally considered the bigger threat because you can’t feel it while it still interacts and harms your dermis. It darkens the pigment without burning your skin, so you won’t be able to tell even if it has penetrated your skin deeply. It is the primary reason behind premature aging and skin cancer.

Meanwhile, UVB rays give you visible and sensible signs such as burns and changes in skin color without reaching the deepest layer of your skin and leaving a permanent impact.

We have to face another challenge here. UVA is more dangerous and also more difficult to deal with. Even if you stay indoors or in the car, UVA rays will still infiltrate the glasses, unless the glass was specifically designed to block UV radiation.

4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

How to Prevent Risks from UV Lights?

1. Cover yourself up

Wearing protective clothing can reduce the UV radiation coming in contact with your skin. A wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt or a coat, a pair of long pants, and sunglasses if necessary – you are 99% ready to go out with a complete set.

A small trick to know if the clothes you wear are thick enough: Put your hand in between the clothing and a source of light. If you can still see the hand, it means the material is a little too thin.

2. Use sunscreen

Find a product tagged with ‘broad-spectrum protection’ to keep yourself safe from UVA as well as UVB. The most recommended SPF index is 30, as it can block 97% of the UV radiation. Even SPF 50 only filters 99% UV for you, which is not too much better than SPF 30.

To avoid allergic reactions, make sure the ingredients are safe for you and consult your doctor if you are not sure.

3. Limit exposure

UV radiation is at its peak from 10 AM to 3 PM. We have a trick to check if the sun is too strong for you: If you stand outside and the shadow on the ground is shorter than your real height, the sun is probably still too high.

How Do Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds Tan Your Skin?

Both of them function based on UV radiation, which is the same as what the sun gives you. Let’s get our fact straight: UV rays increase the risk of cancer for you hence tanning beds or bronzing beds are not safer for you.

They both promote melanin production for a darker skin tone, though in two different ways:

  • UVA oxidizes melanin and thus darkens your skin.
  • UVB increases the amount of melanin stored in skin cells.
4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

Despite the similar function and appearance, a tanning bed and a bronzing bed still have several differences.

Number of Bulbs

There are bulbs that produce UV radiation installed on the surfaces and the cover of tanning beds and bronzing beds. When you get in and lie down, these bulbs will activate and darken every inch of your skin.

A tanning bed can have 10 – 50 UV bulbs, while a bronzing bed-booth might have more bulbs fitted inside.

The Ratio of UVA and UVB

As these two beds use UV rays to give you a tan, the percentage of each UV light is the primary difference between them.

Compared to a tanning bed, a bronzer bed will have fewer UVB rays, consequently lowering the chance of sunburns but not the risk of cancer, which comes from UAV rays mostly. You might not develop sunburn if you use a bronzing bed, though it doesn’t mean you are completely safe without cautionary methods.

The Base Tan

According to experts, people who go out frequently will develop a natural tan with an SPF of 3 – 4, which means they can endure sun rays without burning at least three times better than people without this base tan.

The recommended SPF for your sunscreen is 30, so SPF 4 is not much, but it is better than nothing, especially when you are in a rush with no time to apply sunscreen.

As tanning beds have more UVA radiation, they can help you develop a base tan. However, it also depends on the bulbs. If they are made to mimic natural sunlight, your skin will get accustomed to it and form a broad-spectrum base tan.

The Results

The lifespan of a tan from a bronzing bed is longer, mostly because of the intense UVA rays that penetrate your skin deeply and stimulate melanin production. You can say you will be tanned from within!

Nevertheless, the tan from a bronzing bed might be a bit difficult to notice at first, for it doesn’t have much effect on the top layer of the dermis. When your skin regenerates, the deeper tier of your skin will not be the first to peel off, making your tan last longer.

If you are looking for immediate albeit temporary results, you can trust a tanning bed and its intense UVB radiation.

4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

Which is Better for You?

We won’t say there is a better device between these beds. They will result in your desired skin tone while still exposing you to the health risks eventually. If you are in a dilemma, you can choose either depending on your goals and preferences.

When you need to see the result after only a few tanning sessions, pick the standard tanning bed. However, if you are not in a rush, you would love to try bronzing beds for a deep, long-lasting tan.

Last but not least, due to the deep impact of bronzing beds, it is not suitable for people who have never tanned before. Also, beginners might get a bit impatient if they don’t see the effect instantly.

Combining the advantages of two beds is a great solution too! In this case, we recommend getting a base tan with the regular tanning bed before moving to the bronzing bed to enhance the base.

Safety Tips for Tanning Beds

If you are investing in a tanning bed at home, safety is extra important and these tips will be useful!

Keep the sessions short

Depending on the bulbs installed in your tanning bed, the UVA radiation from it might surpass what the sun gives off. It means a short session with tanning beds might have the same effect as spending hours under the sun.

Always limit your tanning session to 15 minutes at most and take a two-day break in between. Even though you are not seeing any sign of damage, the cumulative effect of UV rays will get to you eventually.

Wait until you’re 35

It sounds like a joke, but we are being serious! Scientists have shown that people under the age of 35 have the chance of developing melanoma SIX times higher. Therefore, despite tanning seems like a beauty trend for young folks, you should steer clear of it until you reach a safe age.

If you are buying a tanning bed to use at home, make sure your beloved people know about this tip!


The first area you should think of is your eyes. The lights in a tanning bed can cause severe injuries, and eye injuries are the most unpleasant to deal with. You can find a pair of goggles made for tanning beds and keep it near the tanning bed so you won’t forget.

Secondly but no less important, the skin of your lips, your face, and your chest is remarkably thinner than the rest. Thus, even at home, you should keep the sunscreen on.

Remove makeup & fragrance

Of course, our cosmetic products and fragrances are safe to use, but only outside of the tanning bed. However, under the heat and the UV rays, unwanted reactions might happen and give you a flawed result. For example, deodorants might lead to irritation and thick layers of cream might result in faded streaks.

4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds


What are the levels of tanning beds in a salon?

When you get to know more about the tanning process at a salon, you might be a little confused with the levels from 1 to 6 that they offer.

  • Level 1: You will start from the most basic tanning beds with a long duration and low price. Therefore, it is suitable for a relaxing and inexpensive session. Thanks to the high levels of UVB rays, this level has a strong surface impact, helping with maintaining your tan or developing a base tan.
  • Level 2: The effect is not too different from level 1, but these beds offer bulbs focusing on your face and arms for a more even tan. Some manufacturers use medium-pressure bulbs instead of low-pressure bulbs.
  • Level 3 & 4: These beds use many high-pressure bulbs, also known as commercial tanning beds that most salons would choose. About 99% of UVB rays are filtered out, hence you won’t see immediate results, but the tan will stay with you for a longer time without you being obligated to visit the salon several times a week.
  • Level 5 & 6: You won’t often see these levels at your salon. The tanning time is ridiculously short, though the intensity of UVA rays and the cost are both terrifying.

Will a bronzing bed burn me?

 Although it is recommended to have a base tan before you use a bronzer bed to enhance the effect, there is no risk of burns you need to worry about. Bronzing beds (or lamps) offer more UVA rays that reach the bottom layer of your skin, so the surface should be safe!

How many times a week should I tan?

If you are getting your first tanning session, the staff should give you the necessary information. However, you can also check the label tag by yourself for advised exposure time and usage frequency from the FDA.

We recommend keeping the duration of the first session shorter than the suggestion written on the tag and limiting the number of sessions to 3, even if the salon allows clients to tan every day. You might not see the result after the beginning week, but you are developing a healthy base tan.

4 Differences Between Tanning Beds and Bronzing Beds

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Now you have known the differences between tanning beds and bronzing beds, what are you going to choose? Do you want to see the results immediately with a tanning bed? Or are you willing to give the bronzer bed a chance for a long-lasting skin tone? Either way, don’t forget our safety tips! Happy tanning!

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