How Many Times In A Tanning Bed Does It Take To Get Tan?

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go to the beach anytime we wanted, lay back in the chair, and sip our favorite drink with our toes in the sand? Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most people. Unless you live or work near the beach, finding time off work and time to travel tends to be a rare occasion. 

If you want to maintain a great tan year-round without having to take an entire weekend off of work, then a tanning bed is the next best option! Today’s modern tanning beds and tanning booths are energy efficient, and easy to install anywhere in your home.

Many wonder “How many times in a tanning bed does it take to get tan?” That depends on your base skin color, the type of bed, and the lotion you use. You’ll usually need 3-45sessions at least, but it all depends on your process.

We’ll go over that below.

Tanning in a tanning bed is quite different from tanning naturally in the outdoors. Although the process is somewhat similar, tanning beds are quicker and more powerful than an old-school tan.

Today, we’re going to answer this question and discuss some of the important things to be aware of if you’re just getting into at-home tanning. 


How Tanning Beds Work

Tanning beds are designed to mimic the effects of laying out on a sunny afternoon and give your body that golden-bronze skin tone that makes you look like an ancient Greek god (or at least close enough). 

Here’s how it works. 

When you’re outside on a bright afternoon, the sun is throwing waves of radiation at you known as UV rays. These UV rays consist of UVA and UVB rays (we’ll discuss this more below). When the rays are strong (during mid-day), they are able to penetrate the lower layers of your dermis. If you’re outside tanning, you should be tanning during the morning.

In response, the skin releases “melanocytes” that encourage the skin to produce more melanin to protect your upper layers of skin from burning. This is what results in your skin tone darkening.

Essentially a tan is just your skin trying to protect itself from the sun’s rays. The darker your skin is, the more protected you are from harmful radiation (at least partially). And in fact, the skin eventually develops a so-called base tan, which provides protection of about SPF-3.

That’s 1/10 of a typical SPF-30 sunscreen, but it’s not zero! This base tan is one of the benefits of tanning.

What’s The Difference Between A Tan And A Sunburn? 

A tan usually takes a few hours to set in as your skin needs time to produce all of the new protective melanin. People tend to get burned before they get a tan because they expose themselves for too long. See our tanning tips for more information.

If you’re just using a tanning bed for the first time, then the chances are that you won’t notice much skin color difference until the next day.

Some people mess up because they go look in the mirror, see their skin is still light, and then hop back in the tanning bed for a second session. This is usually the part where they mess up and come out looking as red as a lobster. 

Regular Tanning Or Bronzing? 

Whether you own your own tanning bed or you’re going to a tanning salon, you’ll usually be able to choose between standard tanning and bronzing. Both types of tanning use the same type of tanning bed. The only difference is the bulbs that are used. 

Standard Bulb

Standard tanning beds use high-intensity 100-watt tanning bulbs that emit a ratio of around 95% UVA light and 5% UVB light. These tanning sessions are for building your initial tan and typically only last between 5 and 10 minutes. 

Bronzing Bulbs

Bronzing bulbs look almost exactly like regular tanning bulbs, but they’re less intense and use a higher ratio of UVA to UVB rays (97:3). The light they produce isn’t quite as intense so you can tan under them for a longer period of time. The added UVA percentage is enough to stimulate your skin to produce extra melanin, resulting in a dark bronze tan. 

See here to find the best tanning bed bulbs for your needs.

How Long Should My Tanning Sessions Be?

If you’re just using a standard tanning bulb setup, then you should limit your tanning sessions to between 5 and 10 minutes.

If you have sensitive skin or you’re just starting to use a tanning bed, then you should always err on the side of caution and stay closer to the 5-minute mark. 

Tanning beds emit radiation that’s three times stronger than that emitted from the sun. So, while 5 minutes may not be a big deal in regular sunlight, it can make a considerable difference in a tanning bed. 

Your first couple of visits to a tanning bed will build the foundation layers for the rest of your tan. After this, you’ll just need to perform maintenance once or twice weekly as desired, depending on how dark you want your skin to be. 

If you’re using a bronzing bed, then you should treat it just like a normal tanning bed. However, you should be able to use it for a couple of minutes longer (e.g., 7 minutes instead of 5 minutes). 

Tanning Accellerator Lotions

You can speed up your tan by using a tanning accelerator lotion prior to getting in the bed. This will help you tan faster and deeper, and will help you get the most out of your session.

Just remember to wipe down the bed when you’re done, so you can help prevent the next person from getting tanning bed rash.

How Many Times In A Tanning Bed Does It Take To Get Tan? Answered!

Most users will start to see their tan develop after 3-4 sessions in a tanning bed. As you push through that point, it will continue to darken for 8-10 more sessions. If you want to maximize your speed, use regular tanning bed bulbs (not a bronzing bed), and use a high-quality tanning accelerator lotion, such as one of Aussie Gold’s lotions.

If you’re looking for more instant results, you can always supplement your tanning bed use with a self-tanner like Tan Physics. These will work together to get you dark quickly, while also getting you a “real” tan.

If you’re new to home tanning and you have fair skin, then your best bet is to take it slow. Since your skin isn’t used to the UV bulbs’ increased concentration, you have a higher chance of burning until you’ve built a base tan as a protective layer. And you really don’t want to get sunburned.

You should start tanning in small increments of 3 to 5 minutes per session a couple of times per week. After your first few weeks, your skin will have acclimated to the tanning bed, and you won’t have as high of a chance of getting burned. 

How Often Should I Re-Tan? 

If you have a fairer complexion, you should limit it to two days a week. if you have a darker complexion, then you can probably get away with it three times a week. Wait around 48 hours between tanning sessions.

If you spend a lot of time outside, then you may only need to tan a couple of times per month to maintain your skin color.

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).