Do Tanning Beds Lighten Hair?

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Tanning beds make you look like you’ve got bronze-glowing skin no matter what time of year it is, no matter where you are.

But apart from darkening the skin, it has an effect on hair. Do tanning beds lighten hair?

Yes! Instead of darkening the hair, tanning beds lighten the hair.

Would you like to lighten your hair? Or do you want to keep it the same shade it is now? In this article, we’ll discuss how to lighten hair in a tanning bed, and also how to protect your hair from color change, as well.


Tanning Beds 101

Sunbeds act as a substitute for natural sunlight by producing UV light from tanning bed bulbs. This ultraviolet light impacts the melanin in your skin, and makes you tan. 

When the skin is exposed to UV light, there is a process called melanogenesis that takes place. This process involves the production of more melanin pigment because it is being oxidized by UV light. 

Note: tanning beds are not safe, and are probably the worst way of getting a tan. Sunless tanners, spray tans, and natural tanning are all better choices. But we all need to choose our risks. End of sermon.

As a result, the body produces more melanocytes to act as protection. That is what causes the skin to darken when exposed to UV light, either from the sun or from a tanning bed.

Skin Diagram Source: Wikipedia
Skin Diagram Source: Wikipedia

Do Tanning Beds Lighten Hair?

The skin is composed of various layers and the cells are alive (with the exception of the outermost layer of skin). The increased production of melanocytes acts as protection for them.

However, this isn’t the case for your hair.

The hair is made of dead cells — that’s why the pigments in them don’t get replenished. 

As the hair is exposed to UV light, the pigments get oxidized and broken up. This is why the hair lightens in shade due to prolonged UV exposure.

So yes, sunbeds lighten your hair!

How to Lighten Hair in a Tanning Bed

Lightening of the hair is a natural reaction of the hair to UV exposure. If you expose your hair to the UV light of the sun, some people may call it sun bleaching.

Tanning bed bulbs act as stronger versions of UV light from the sun. Some tanning beds may be as much as 25x as powerful as sunlight. That’s the reason why your hair may lighten while using a tanning bed. 

If you want to lighten your hair using a tanning bed, all you have to do is expose your hair to the UV light. To do this, you have to refrain from tying your hair into a bun. But that risks tanning your body unevenly.

Eventually, it will lighten. Just remember that not all hair strands may lighten at the same rate. 

Is It Safe To Lighten Your Hair In A Tanning Bed?

Although you may prefer to have lighter hair, doing it through the use of a tanning bed isn’t ideal.

Remember that UV light has damaging effects. 

In this case, it oxidizes the hair pigments to lighten the hair. 

However, that’s not the only thing that UV exposure can do to your hair. It can damage it in the process.

It can become brittle and dry too. 

The cuticle can be damaged by the UV light. It could make the hair change not only in color but in texture as well. That’s why your hair can be frizzy or more fragile. 

That could further lead to split ends, broken hair strands, and thinning hair.

How To Protect Your Hair In A Tanning Bed

UV exposure can lighten the hair and dry it out.

If you want to avoid that, it is important to protect your hair while you use a tanning bed. There are several ways you can do that. 

The first and most common way is to use a shower cap. Choose an opaque shower cap so that the light doesn’t penetrate through it. Then make sure that all of your hair is tucked in. 

If you don’t have a shower cap, you can substitute a beanie or a large bandana. You may need to tie your hair in a bun or a ponytail first before covering it with your beanie or bandana.

A bandana would be better because it is cooler than a beanie. 

Other Ways To Lighten Your Hair

If you really want to lighten your hair, there are other ways to do that, aside from using a tanning bed. They are as follows:

Using A Bleaching Solution

When you ask the salon to lighten your hair, they will typically use a bleaching solution. These are chemicals that would damage your hair. 

Bleaching your own hair at home isn’t a great idea especially if you don’t know what you are doing. There are lots of things that could go wrong and you could end up losing your hair because of it. 

It could result in uneven, patchy, and a not-so-beautiful shade. Take precautions when you use bleaching products on your hair. 

See also:

Using Natural Lighteners

Instead of using hair bleaching products, you can lighten the hair naturally with minimal damage using natural ingredients. One of them is to add lemon juice to your conditioner. 

Lemon juice can lighten the hair but the acidity could lead to burning your hair. That’s why you have to dilute it by mixing it with your conditioner or coconut oil. 

Apple cider vinegar can be used to lighten the hair but should be diluted to 6 parts water. Apart from lightening the hair, it also helps remove excess oil or buildup on the hair and scalp. 

The unique combination of honey and cinnamon can be used to lighten the hair. When the two ingredients are combined, the trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide in honey are activated, which causes lightening of the hair.

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).