Tanning Bed Rash & 5 ways to Treat It

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Tanning beds have become a popular option for people who want some tans without exposing themselves. It is a relaxed and satisfying experience until the side effects occur. A tanning bed rash might appear out of nowhere and stick to your skin stubbornly. However, with this article, you won’t need to worry about it anymore.

How to treat Tanning Bed Rash

What is Tanning Bed Rash?

Let’s see what happened: You walk into your favorite gym and get on a tanning bed, hoping to return with a strong, powerful sun-kissed skin. However, red bumps start showing themselves and making you itchy. They are what a tanning bed rash looks like.

You will usually find the rash on spots like knees and stomach, back, and the underside of thighs, for they usually have direct contact with the equipment.

What Causes Tanning Bed Rash?

Allergic reactions

If incompatible products come in contact with your skin, they might cause allergic reactions. The allergy might come from chemicals used for cleaning the tanning bed, the remnants of someone’s tanning lotion, or your own lotion.

In some cases, you might receive a recommendation to apply sunscreen as a prevention method against burns. If you are allergic to any of the ingredients, the rash will break out on your skin in no time. You can study the products more carefully before purchasing.

Since many people will be using these tanning beds, gyms and salons have strict policies about cleaning the bed on a daily basis. Your dermis might not like these chemicals. The simplest solution is discussing with the staff and asking them to find a subtler cleaner.

Blocked sweat duct

Similar symptoms also arise if you have a blocked sweat duct. When the perspiration is suppressed, it also causes a heat rash. You will see red dots first along with an itchy sensation before they evolve into blisters.

Some people get heat rash whenever the weather is hot, whether they are tanning or not. In fact, the areas covered by clothes are even more likely to be the target.

Dry skin

While giving you some great tans, the tanning beds also suck moisture out of your skin, hence professionals will always suggest you use a moisturizer in advance.


Although tanning beds are efficient and fast, the rays used for this process are actually harmful to human skin. Specifically, the UV rays can be the main cause of the rash. You will get 6 times of the UV from the sun with the tanning bed. Therefore, if you don’t keep the exposure limited, you will be facing the risk of cancer.

Light Sensitive Disorder (LSD)

LSD is rare but not impossible. It has a deep connection with allergies to UV rays, and people who suffer from LSD can’t take even minimal exposure to UV. When the causes above don’t seem to be the case, high chances that you have LSD.

How to Treat Tanning Bed Rash?

Tanning bed rash feels unpleasant, yet the treatments are quite simple and easy. We have some easy methods below. If none of them works, you should arrange an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible.

1. Stop tanning & use cold water

#1. When you have noticed the rash, please stop immediately. It will only get worse and spread to other areas of your body if you continue the tanning.

#2. Rinse the affected area with water and use a bar of antibacterial soap (for sensitive skin). Once done, pat the spot dry with a piece of a soft cloth.

#3. Avoid using hot water or letting the water run over the rash as well as rubbing the area aggressively. These actions only irritate the skin patches further.

#4. Until the rash disappears, don’t use the tanning bed again.

2. Try a cold compress

#1. After rinsing the area as suggested, give it a few minutes to dry completely then put a cold compressor to the spot for 15 – 20 minutes.

#2. There is no limit to how many times you can use the compress. Whenever the rash itches and stings, you can use this method to ease the irritation.

Tips: Preparing a homemade cold compress is easy! All you need is a soft, smooth cloth and cold water. Fibrous and scratchy materials are not good for the rash.

3. Take an oatmeal bath

#1. The next level of the rash will call for an oatmeal bath. You need enough water in the tub to submerge the affected areas and add several teacups of oatmeal.

#2. Give yourself 30 to 60 minutes and relax in the cool water, once per day.

Tips: Some people are allergic to oatmeal, and the rash might be stimulated further. If you fall into this category, you need to skip the step since it is not for you.

4. Keep the area cleansed

#1. When you try the cold compress or the oatmeal bath, make sure to not rub the rash.

#2. Wearing loose clothing and covering the area with a bandage might be helpful as well.

#3. Cleanse the affected patches at least twice away to get rid of the bacteria, especially if your skin is flaking or cracking.

Apply lotions

#1. Use an antibacterial cream on the rash before you put the bandage on. There is sufficient moisturizer in the cream to prevent the skin from going dry.

#2. The recovery will render your skin a little itchy, and an antihistamine can relieve the unpleasant sensation if your rash was due to a tanning product or a cleanser.

#3. When the rash starts healing, you won’t see or feel your skin cracking, and it is time for a hypoallergenic moisturizer.

#4. You can resume tanning when the rash has finally disappeared. If you are sure that the problem lies within your tanning product, changing it will be great for the new beginning.

5. Try these remedies

Drink water is always good for your health and your skin, and of course, it will soothe the irritation. Sufficient hydration also keeps the side effects of artificial tanning away.

Cucumber and Aloe Vera are always on top of the list when you need a natural ingredient for hydrating and cooling. Both of them are expensive, healthy for hair plus skin, and they mostly trigger no irritation.

Potato can reduce redness and pain if the rash doesn’t stop at itching.

Olive oil is exceptional as a moisturizer, and if your skin is not dry, the rash won’t get worse.

Yogurt is not only for eating, as you might have known! They soothe inflammation and sunburn pretty well. Even people with pale, sensitive skin can use yogurt to exfoliate and remove irritants. Apple Cider Vinegar has the same effect if you don’t mind the sourness!

If you have tried the most compatible methods and the tanning bed rash still persists, don’t hesitate to seek medical help to ensure you are not having any serious problems.

How to Prevent Tanning Bed Rash

We believe this section will catch your attention since it is always better to stop something bad before it has the chance to occur. The tips are simple and easy to follow!

– Keep your eyes on the details to see how clean the gym or the salon is. If the staff was attentive enough to maintain the floor and the small equipment in their immaculate state, the tanning beds are likely to be clean too.

– The tanning bed should be in prime condition, at least you should feel like you will be comfortable lying naked on it. If not, don’t hesitate to walk out and find a better place.

– Do you want to include tanning lotions or sprays? If yes, you would need to read the label tags and assure there is no ingredient you are allergic to.

– Don’t forget to use an SPF of 15 to prevent burning. After the session, you would want some aloe vera gel or 1% hydrocortisone cream to cool the skin and lower the risk of rash developing.


How to get the best tan?

– Shave and exfoliate first, so every inch of your skin receives the tanning rays.

– Remove your makeup as well as perfume or essential oil before you start tanning. Don’t wear jewelry either!

– If you use tanning lotions, intensifiers, or bronzers, make sure the formula is specifically for sunbed tanning. A lip balm with SPF protection is recommended too.

– Shower before tanning will open up the pores and prep the skin for the upcoming session as well as rinse off the chemicals afterward.

Does rash appear instantly?

Unfortunately, it will take a couple of days for you to notice the symptoms. The red bumps will pop up first and slowly develop into a wide patch.

Many people make the mistake of ignoring the itchy bumps and thinking they are bug bites or something similar and go on with the tanning. However, the rash resembles blisters more than prickly heat or mosquito bites.

Are there other tanning options?

Many experts won’t advise you to use a tanning bed, some groups such as The American Academy of Dermatology or Australia’s SunSmart Organization even want to ban all tanning beds. They suggest spray-tanning to reduce the risk to your health.

In Conclusion

If you are careful about hygiene and skin products, tanning bed rash is generally not difficult to deal with. Remember to stop using the tanning service instantly if you get some rashes and give your skin a few days to recover after it recovers. Happy tanning, stay beautiful!

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