What Do You Wear In A Tanning Bed?

Beautiful tan woman in swimwear laying on beach
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Sometimes the sun just isn’t working for you. Whether you’re in winter or you’ve got a stretch of rainy days ahead, there are options when it comes to getting and keeping a tan. There’s spray tan, sunless tanners, and tanning beds.

If you’ve never used a tanning bed before (or even if you’re a regular) the thought of what do you wear in a tanning bed has probably crossed your mind.

Should you wear your favorite bathing suit?

Or just go in whatever underwear you’re wearing? Or do you even dare to consider baring it all under the glowing UV bulbs? How would you know which option is best for you?

In this article, we’ll explain what to wear in a tanning bed.


Are Tanning Beds Even Safe?

Tanning Bed

Unfortunately, whenever you hear about indoor tanning outside of a tanning bed salon, it’s usually someone telling you that using them causes skin cancer.

Although melanoma is a well-known risk of excessive tanning, as long as you follow the guidelines of safe tanning, the benefits may, for some individuals, win out over the risks.

In fact, according to the conclusion of a large case-control study published in the International Journal of Cancer in August 2011 by a team of scientists from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom: “Therefore, we have not found any evidence of a relationship between sunbed use and melanoma risk.”

Pro Tip: There are risks to literally everything we do, from walking down the street to driving in a car to sitting on the couch to laying in a tanning bed. We all need to find our own appropriate level of risk to achieve a life we find meaningful. Choose your risks wisely.

Start With The Goggles!

Tanning goggles

There is one very important thing that you MUST wear in a tanning bed and that is a pair of protective goggles , or disposable eye shields. Tanning goggles are the best way to protect your eyes from UV exposure. If you choose to tan without them, you risk causing severe damage to your eyes.

It’s easier to deal with raccoon eyes than blindness!

Although every good tanning salon will have a supply of goggles or disposable eye shields for you to use when you have your session, it is your responsibility to make sure that you use them.

If you plan on using a tanning bed on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a pair of your own protective goggles.

What Do You Wear in a Tanning Bed?

You’ve got the goggles. Now what do you wear everywhere else?

Everyone has a different view on what should be worn during a tanning bed session. The most important thing to consider is which will you be most comfortable with.

1. Rock the Swim Suit

If you’re about to get ready for that week in Cabo and you want to prep your bod before hitting the beach in your knockout bathing suit, then you may want to do your tanning bed session wearing your swimwear.

Remember, though, that any unexposed areas will cause tan lines, which some people aren’t okay with.

2. Undies It Is!

The most comfortable way for many people to tan on a tanning bed is to just go with the flow in their underwear.

Your most sensitive areas will be protected and if you choose to wear a strapless bra, you won’t have to deal with dreaded tan lines.

3. Birthday Suit(able)

Although this might feel like the wild child’s way to tan, it is the one way that gives the best results with no tan lines whatsoever.

So, if an all-over even tan is what you’re after, then tanning in your birthday suit is the way to go. If you’re still a little hesitant about wearing nothing, then you can always use a small towel to cover your most sensitive areas.

This might feel like the most “unnatural” way to tan, at first, but when you see the results, you’ll never want to go back.

Just be sure to put sunscreen on your privies, and be aware of tanning bed rash!

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You’ll definitely need to wear a [amazon link=”B07F4FWXLN” link_text=”lip balm that includes SPF protection” link_icon=”amazon” /[ to protect your lips from burning and drying out. Your salon may offer these products, but it’s wise to carry one with you anyway to use when you’re outdoors.

Make sure that you remember to remove any makeup and jewelry before getting into the tanning bed. And don’t wear heavy perfumes or essential oils on your skin, as these may react with the UV light and cause your skin to become irritated.

Speaking of which, it would be also wise to check the side effects of any prescription medication that you may be using, as some meds can cause an increase in your skin’s sensitivity with UV exposure.

Your tanning salon will also have an array of tanning moisturizers and lotions on offer for you to choose from. Using these is not required for you to use, so you shouldn’t feel pressured into buying them.

Making the right choice if you do will depend on whether you want a more of a bronzing effect, intensifier, or accelerator, or to just simply indulge in a tingle or cooling lotion. Ask the salon for guidance.

Now that you’re familiar with what people commonly wear in a tanning bed, you should consider how the light you’ll be exposed to will impact you.

The more bare, light skin you have, the more intense the tanning session will be.

The Fitzpatrick Scale

There is a skin color classification measure called the Fitzpatrick Classification Scale, developed by American dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick MD as a way to measure the correct dosage of UV light, based on how his patient’s reported their skin’s reaction to sun exposure.

See How Long After Using A Tanning Bed Does It Show? for more information.

Fitzpatrick Scale Source: Wikipedia
  • Type 1: This type of skin doesn’t tan, and always burns severely and peels. People with this white skin most often have blue eyes and freckles.
  • Type 2: This skin also painfully burns always, although it can tan lightly after peeling. People with this fair skin have blue or hazel eyes and red or blonde hair.
  • Type 3: Burns moderately and gains an average tan. People with average Caucasian skin tones.
  • Type 4: Rarely burns. Tans easily with each exposure. People with Asian, Hispanic and Mediterranean skin tones.
  • Type 5: Never burns. Tans very easily and substantially. People with brown skin tones.
  • Type 6: This skin tone is heavily melanated, never burns and tans very easily. People with black skin tones.

So now that you know what skin type you are, now you can choose how much to bare under the UV light.

The Benefits Of Safe Tanning

We’ve put together a long, exhaustive look at the benefits of tanning in the sun. Tanning in a sunbed is different, as you’re not getting exposed to natural sunlight. But many of the same benefits are present.

Humans only spend about 7% of their lives outdoors. That’s crazy low, and way less than what it used to be in previous eras. It’s almost certainly not optimally healthy.

While virtually everyone knows about the dangers of tanning, the benefits are frequently not discussed. Here’s a brief look at a few significant benefits.

Vitamin D

Almost half the US population is vitamin D deficient. A lack of this important vitamin can result in chronic skin conditions, mood swings, depression, seasonal affective disorder, low energy, and other chronic diseases.

Safe indoor tanning can help you boost your vitamin D production to not only help with immune function, bone strength, and heart health but has also been shown to lower your risk of some cancers, including breast cancer.

Healthier Skin

Vitamin D has been shown to boost skin immunity and improve inflammatory conditions like chronic dry skin, acne, eczema, and psoriasis, so indoor tanning may help your skin if you suffer from any of these.


Whether it comes from the sun or a tanning bed, UV light causes the top layer of your skin to produce a hormone called beta-endorphin that is released into your bloodstream. And when the beta-endorphin in your blood reaches your brain, it makes you feel happy AF. What’s not to like?

Nitric Oxide

UV light from a tanning bed produces nitric oxide, which improves blood flow. It may reduce blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health in general.

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).