The History of Indoor Tanning Beds


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Indoor tanning beds are popular cosmetic tanning devices that use several fluorescent bulbs to expose the skin to ultraviolet rays, similar to the light emitted from the sun, all year around.

Indoor tanning beds are championed by tan lovers for their trademark ultraviolet/UVB control, and limited exposure times, while the sun emits unlimited exposure to it's rays. The levels of ultraviolet rays released by indoor tanning beds are higher than those produced by the sun. The infrared heat associated with indoor tanning beds has been linked to deep muscle pain relief. Indoor tanning beds offer various maximum exposure times, typically ranging from five to forty-five minutes. Most beds may be used for twenty minutes at a time. All indoor tanning beds are required to feature “Recommended Exposure Schedules, " either on the front of the tanning bed or in the Owner's Manuel. Manufacturers suggest adhering to recommended guidelines on exposure while using indoor tanning beds. Most users achieve the optimum desired tan within seven to ten sessions. One to two weekly sessions are recommended to achieve a continuous tan courtesy of an indoor tanning bed.

Indoor tanning beds do not provide a tan as deep as the one provided by the sun. Tanners are recommended not to tan indoors and outdoors on the same day. People with a dark indoor tan are at an increased risk for going outside and suffering a severe sunburn because the deeper levels of the skin may not have been properly exposed. Such overexposure to UV rays can destroy the level of melanin in the skin.

The indoor tanning bed process begins with three to five minute exposure to the lamps of the bed, followed by twenty minute bed sessions over the course of three to four weeks. Many states have enacted regulations requiring a forty-eight hour waiting period between indoor tanning sessions due to the affiliation between tanning and the risk of developing skin cancer. The majority of such states require timing mechanisms located outside the tanning bed room to prevent users from unintentional overexposure.

Tanning lamps, or tanning lamps as they are also called, are the major component in indoor tanning beds. In addition to listing an exposure schedule, tanning beds must also make note of the lamps certified for use on the unit. Owners of commercial indoor tanning beds, like tanning salon owners, must replace tanning lamps with the exact same lamp or an equivalent lamp certified by the bed's manufacturer. Tanning lamp replacement and tanning salon replacement compliance is state regulated in the United States.

From the time of their introduction in 1978 until 1988, indoor tanning beds were not subjected to any government regulations. The 21 CFR 1040.20 federal law was the first regulatory act placed on indoor tanning beds. The law was created to ensure that tanning beds and tanning salons adhere to a set of skin cancer prevention guidelines. Creating these health guidelines is left up to the individual states.

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