Can You Tan Through a Fake Tan on a Sunbed? The Facts Behind the Bronze

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You want the perfect tan for a big event. You decide to use a sunless tanner for quick results. But, you’re wondering if you can still use a tanning bed after.

Can you tan through a fake tan on a sunbed?

Yes, you can. But, it might not be the best idea.

Fake tans use a special process that changes the color of your skin. Tanning beds, like the sun, make your skin darker by making it produce a pigment called melanin. Using a tanning bed can actually make your fake tan fade faster.

To understand why it might not be the best to use a tanning bed after a fake tan, let’s look at how both of them work. This will help you see why doing both might not be great for your skin.


Can You Tan Through A Fake Tan On A Sunbed?

can you tan through a fake tan on a sunbed

So, can you tan with self-tanner on? Yes, you can use a tanning bed with a fake tan, whether it’s a spray tan or a sunless tanner. However, there are a few things you should know.

Making the Spray Tan Fade

UV light from the tanning bed speeds up how fast your skin cells renew. As a fake tan dyes these skin cells, your tan will fade as these cells are replaced. If you’ve spent money and time on a spray tan, you want to enjoy it! Using a tanning bed could cause your tan to fade unevenly. You might even want to remove your fake tan altogether after a couple of days.

Risk of UV Damage

A fake tan doesn’t protect your skin from UV light. Even with a fake tan, you can still get a sunburn. Self-tanners only change the color of the top layer of dead skin cells. They don’t produce any pigments that protect from UV light (i.e. a base tan).

Using a tanning bed isn’t a good idea. Almost all skin doctors and cancer organizations warn against them. Using a tanning bed with a fake tan could irritate your skin and create more free radicals, which are harmful to your skin.

Tanning lotions used in tanning beds may contain ingredients that help the skin absorb more UV light. This can increase the risk of damage, especially for skin already treated with a fake tan.

Adding more products to absorb more UV light can make your skin tan and burn faster. This is even more true for sunbeds, which give off a lot of UV light.

How Does A Fake Tan Work?

Fake tans, also known as spray tans, self-tanners, or sunless tanners, are a great way to get a tan without using a sunbed or tanning under the sun. You’ll find lots of different brands, like Tan Physics (reviewed here) and Loving Tan. These products help you get a tan quickly without exposing your skin to potentially harmful UV rays.

The secret ingredient in these tanners is a substance called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

DHA reacts with the topmost layer of your skin, known as the stratum corneum, which is made up of dead skin cells. This reaction changes the color of these cells, making your skin look darker.

Skin Diagram

The darkness of your tan depends on how much DHA is in the self-tanning cream, lotion, or spray you use. The tanning process starts within a few hours, and your skin can keep getting darker for up to 72 hours. The reaction stops when you wash off the self-tanner.

Fake tans are a safe way to add color to your skin because they don’t require UV exposure and don’t involve chemicals being absorbed into your body. As your skin naturally renews itself, the dead skin cells (and your tan) will fade. Usually, a fake tan lasts around 7-10 days.

You can apply these products at home, even on hard-to-reach places with a bit of help from a friend. You can also go to a tanning salon where professionals can apply the tanning solution for you.

Skin Damage Due To A Fake Tan

Even though fake tans are a safer option than sunbeds, they may still have some potential downsides. Here are a few things you should know:

Your Skin May Be More Prone To Sun Damage

If you’ve used a fake tan, it’s best to avoid the sun. A recent study in Germany suggests that skin treated with DHA and then exposed to UV light produces more free radicals. These can harm your skin and speed up aging. This is one reason why tanning with a spray tan isn’t a good idea.

Oxidative Stress

DHA reacts with the amino acids in your skin cells in a process called the Maillard reaction. This reaction can create free radicals, which make your skin age faster. We’re still not sure how big of a problem this is, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Inhibited Vitamin D Production

The pigments produced by the fake tan can darken your skin and make your body produce less vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for your health and is made when your skin is exposed to the sun. However, if you’re using a sunbed, you may not get much vitamin D benefit.

Sunbeds don’t necessarily give off the type of UV light (UVB) that makes vitamin D, one of the major benefits to tanning in the sun.

This all depends on whether you’re using a standard tanning bed or a bronzing bed.

Skin Irritation

Some people may get skin irritation from fake tans. This can include contact dermatitis, an itchy rash. The fragrances in many fake tanners can also irritate your skin. On the flip side, many people get tanning bed rash, too, though!

How Does Tanning On A Sunbed Work?

Now that we’ve covered how a fake tan works, let’s talk about tanning beds. Knowing how they work will help you understand why using a tanning bed after applying a fake tan might not be the best idea.

Sunbeds try to mimic how the sun naturally tans your skin. But unlike sunlight, which has both UVA and UVB rays, tanning bed blubs mostly give off UVA rays. Some special sunbeds can mimic sunlight more closely, but these are not common.

UVA rays go deeper into your skin. This is why using a tanning bed only takes a few minutes. The rays from a tanning bed can be up to six times as strong as the sun’s rays. Spending too much time in a tanning bed can really hurt your skin.

The UVA rays from a tanning bed stimulate cells in your skin called melanocytes to produce melanin. Melanin is a brown pigment that your body naturally makes to help protect your skin from UV light.

Dangers Of Tanning On A Sunbed

Using a sunbed can be risky. The biggest danger is that it can increase your chances of getting skin cancer. Whether it’s non-melanoma or melanoma, tanning on sunbeds raises the risk.

Almost all medical experts agree that tanning beds are harmful. In 2009, the World Health Organization put tanning beds in the same category as asbestos and cigarettes. They’re all classified as Class 1 Carcinogens, which means they can cause cancer.

The light from a tanning bed is more powerful than sunlight, and it raises your chances of getting deadly melanoma.

But skin cancer isn’t the only risk. Tanning beds can also make your skin age faster. This doesn’t just mean wrinkles; it can also cause sunspots.

For these reasons, it’s best to avoid tanning beds if you can. Instead, choose a spray tan or tan outside responsibly.

Of course, sometimes these options aren’t available. And we all take risks every day, like driving a car, crossing the street, or eating food. Some people really enjoy the feeling of UV light on their skin, even if it’s from a tanning bed.

We understand this, and we’re not here to judge! We just want you to be aware of the risks.

Alternatives To Fake Tans

Fake tans are popular because they can give you a beautiful bronze glow in just a few hours. But if you’re still working on your tan and need a quick boost, try body bronzers instead.

Body bronzers and fake tans often have a lot in common, and many products include both. But some body bronzers are different. They don’t contain DHA, the chemical that gives fake tans their long-lasting color. Body bronzers give you a rich tan, but they wash off in your next bath.

Here are a few DHA-free body bronzers to try:

SugarBaby Radiance Wash Off Bronzing Moisturizer Cream

No products found.

SugarBaby’s Radiance bronzing moisturizer cream keeps your skin moisturized and gives it a beautiful tan. It contains natural moisturizers, almond oil, shea butter, aloe vera, and vitamin E for soft, tan skin.

No products found.

St. Moriz Instant Wash Off Body Bronzer

St. Moriz Instant Wash Off Body Bronzer

Enjoy a tan that lasts all day with St. Moriz’s body bronzer. This bronzer gives you streak-free, golden brown skin in just a few minutes. You don’t have to wait for the tan to develop, and it won’t rub off on your clothes.

St Moriz Professional Instant Wash Off Tan with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E, Gradual Vegan Fake Tan, Medium (150ml)
  • 1 DAY MEDIUM INSTANT GLOW: Don’t feel...
  • HOW TO USE: Exfoliate & shave 24+ hours...

Selfie Tan’n Go Instant Body Bronzer with Wash Off Formula

Selfie Tan'n Go Instant Body Bronzer with Wash Off Formula

Get an instant glow with Selfie Tan ‘n Go’s body bronzer. The lightweight formula contains bronzing beads that burst when you apply them to your skin. It’s free of DHA, parabens, and fragrances, so it’s unlikely to irritate your skin. Apply once for a quick glow, or apply again for a deeper color.

Selfie Tan'n Go Instant Body Bronzer with Wash Off Formula - Sunless self tanner (Medium Tan) rich, Exotic natural looking fragrance-free tan for head to toe for all skin types, 6.7 oz
  • It works flawlessly for all skin types,...
  • This lightweight formula is packed with...
  • Get an instant head to toe sun-kissed...
  • Dries super-fast and is fragrance-free,...
  • Apply once for an instant, subtle glow....

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve applied a fake tan, the DHA in it changes the color of the dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin. This process is generally safe, but it does change how your skin reacts to UV light.

Using a tanning bed is always risky, but it can be especially harmful if you have a fake tan. It can also make your fake tan fade faster!

Instead of using a tanning bed after applying a fake tan, consider safer options. You might choose a deeper bronzer, use a spray tan, or get some sun the natural way. Just remember to protect your skin, whatever you choose.

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).