Can You Put Bronzing Bulbs in a Regular Tanning Bed?

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Tanning and bronzed skin makes many of us feel great. We love that sun-kissed look year-round. As a result, tanning beds have become a popular way to get those UVB (and UVA rays) and Vitamin D. But there are two common types of tanning bulbs: bronzing bulbs and regular bulbs.

Can You Put Bronzing Bulbs in a Regular Tanning Bed? For the most part yes you can put bronzing bulbs in a regular tanning bed. Make sure they are compatible bulb connections. You can get both UVA and UVB rays with bronzing bulbs, and they’re often the best choice to get a deep tan.

Why fight the cloudy skies, crowded beaches, and patchy sun and shade in order to get a natural tan outside? Indoor tanning has grown so popular that many salons now offer spray tanning and tanning beds. And many have installed tanning beds in their home.

In this article, we’ll dig into bronzing tanning bulbs and go over everything you need to know.


Tanning Bed Risks

Most everyone already knows that tanning beds are associated with melanoma. Spray tans are less risky. However, many also find that tanning beds and UV light are a powerful remedy for various skin issues, Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and other conditions.

There are clear benefits to tanning (though natural sun is definitely better if available).

Adults should be able to make informed decisions as to the types of light they expose their skin to, and the risks they take. Be careful, and be informed.

Now, onto the bulbs.

Bronzing Bulbs vs Regular Bulbs

Most “regular” tanning bed bulbs look like these bulbs, from Wolff tanning:

Wolff Tanning Bed Bulbs.

Bronzing tanning bed bulbs look like these:

Bronzing Tanning Bed Bulbs.

Pretty similar! What’s the difference between them?

(Note that both of those are bi-pin bulbs. RDC bulbs have a different connection).

See our guide to tanning bed bulbs for recommendations.

So what are bronzing bulbs, anyway?

Bronzing lamps are just another name for tanning lamps with lower levels of UVB, and higher levels of UVA radiation. They are often promoted as lamps that give a darker, more brown tan over a longer time.

But bronzing bulbs work best on those people who already have a base tan.

Bronzing bulbs work best on those people who already have a base tan.

While many people connect that to a more intense, ‘’hotter’’ lamp, it is actually the opposite.

UVB rays are less intense than UVA rays, but they are the primary rays that make you tan and improve your vitamin D levels.

In reality, ”hotter” lamps should produce a tan faster, but the tan ends up at a lighter toner. This kind of tan is usually associated with more orange shades.

Bronzing bulbs more closely mimic the sun’s natural rays. Bronzing bulbs will give a more even “base tan” that covers both UVA and UVB wavelengths.

This base tan will result in a natural SPF-3 over your whole body. Obviously not an SPF-50 like many sunscreens, but also not SPF-0 either.

Can You Put Bronzing Bulbs in a Regular Tanning Bed?

Yes, you can usually put bronzing bulbs in a regular tanning bed. You should check the instructions for your tanning bed, and make sure that the bulbs are compatible in terms of wattage and ballast connection.

But the bottom line is that most of the time, you can swap out your tanning bulbs for bronzing bulbs.

Are Bronzing Bulbs Better Than Tanning Bulbs?

No, they’re not necessarily better. They do different things.

If you want to get an artificial tan, you need to know the difference between these two kinds of bulbs. Tanning beds can typically feature regular tanning lamps or bronzing lamps.

Whereas UVA light typically goes deeper into the skin because of its longer wavelength, UVB will typically remain near the top of your skin, and this makes it responsible for sunburn.

Since the UVA rays go deeper, they’re responsible for a larger proportion of the tanning action that oxidizes your skin’s melanin.

UVA light rays tend to cause a more brown tan, while UVB rays make the skin more red/orange. Usually, when you first go out in the sun, it is the UVB rays that produce a response on the skin first.

After a few days of exposure, UVA light takes over, and you get that darker tan. Bronzing lamps come with a higher UVA score than regular tanning lamps.

The end result is that bronzing bulbs will darken your tan more than regular bulbs will. But they’re not as good to get the base tan.

The end result is that bronzing bulbs will darken your tan more than regular bulbs will. But they’re not as good to get the base tan.

It is important to note that the final color of tanned skin depends mostly on the type of skin. Hereditary and other individual reasons seem to affect the color more than the type of rays.

That is because UVB and UVA rays always exist together. That is the case both in the sunlight and in the light from tanning lamps. It is only the ratio between them that changes.

What’s The Difference Between a Regular Tanning Bed and a Bronzing Bed?

There’s really no difference in the bed. It’s the choice of bulbs that distinguishes a bronzing bed from a regular bed.

Nowadays, you will usually find both options at most tanning salons. A regular tanning bed has mostly or exclusively standard tanning lamps, while a bronzing bed has higher UVA bulbs. See our article on tanning beds and bronzing beds for more.

Regular tanning is recommended for most indoor tanning beginners or people who are in a rush. They tend to produce results faster, but you don’t get complete coverage.

Bronzing beds are a better choice for users who want to take their tan to the next level. Effects from UVA (bronzing) lamps will be longer-lasting and perhaps produce a darker tan, depending on the skin type of the individual.

Tanning lotions will improve this process.

Can I turn my tanning bed into a bronzing bed?

For the most part, yes, you can turn your tanning bed into a bronzing bed. You can usually find both regular and bronzing bulbs for the same type of lamp.

You have to look out for two things first:

  1. The way the bulb connects to the bed. As mentioned above, There are two different types of connections, RDC (Recessed Dual Connector) and Bi-Pin. RDC lamps spring in and out, while Bi-Pin lamps have two pins that slide into the lamp holder.
  2. The model of the lamp. It will be something in the form Fxx, where xx are numbers. For example, it could be F59, where 59 stands for the length of the tube and F for fluorescent. 

Then you can contact a manufacturer or a wholesaler and ask if they can provide you tanning bulbs with different UVA-UVB ratios for that model and connection type. For example, you could be looking for a Bi-Pin F71 or an RDC F74. 

See our article on the best tanning bed bulbs for recommendations.

Remember, bronzing lamps provide a higher output of UVA rays. If you want to turn your bed into a bronzing bed, you should buy bulbs that emit more UVA than regular ones, which usually stand at 5% UVB.

The lower the UVB rating, the more ”bronzing” the lamp is.

FAQs About Changing Tanning Lamps

Will I tan faster in a tanning bed with bronzing lamps?

No. You’ll get a base tan faster with regular bulbs. Bronzing lamps are ”colder”. They are slower to produce a tan, but the tan will usually be longer-lasting and deeper.

Can I install a mix of different kinds of lamps?

Well, it is possible, but not advisable. Unless put together by a professional (there are a few lamp kits like that already on the market), and even tan will be difficult to accomplish.

Can I replace some of the old bulbs with new lower-rated UVB ones?

You can, but you really should not. Firstly, what is mentioned above about not getting an even tan will still apply. Furthermore, if you only replace some but not all of the lamps, you will end up with a tanning bed where bulbs have different life cycles. 

After one or two times doing that, it will be hard to keep track of which lamp needs changing when.

You should regularly test your tanning bed bulbs, and keep track of how long they have been used.

Can you put tanning bed bulbs in a regular light fixture?

Most likely you cannot put tanning bed bulbs in a regular light fixture. You would need to find a regular light fixture with the appropriate wattage, size, and pin setup for a tanning bulb. And when it comes to tanning bed bulbs, most are sold in packages of 12-36, so you’d be spending a fortune on bulbs but you’re only using one or two.
And even if you did find such a setup, you’re not going to get much color from it. A single bulb or two won’t do much.

Final Thoughts

So can you put bronzing bulbs in a regular tanning bed? Yes, you can. Most manufacturers identify which bulbs are bronzing, and which are not.

No products found.

Be sure you get a compatible size and format. If you want to get as dark as quickly as possible, stick with regular bulbs. If you want the benefits of UVA exposure and a deeper, slower tan that mimics the sun, choose bronzing bulbs.

When you’re ready to make the switch, see our guide to replacing tanning bed bulbs.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).