What’s The Difference Between A Tanning Bed And A Bronzing Bed?

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Spending your day basking in the sun at the beach can certainly give you a tan. But what’s a girt to do when the nearest beach is inaccessible, it’s cloudy, and there is 2′ of snow on the ground? There are plenty of other options! Spray tanning is an obvious choice, and of course tanning beds. If you go to the salon, you may well see both tanning beds and bronzing beds. 

So what’s the difference between a tanning bed and a bronzing bed? The short answer is that the beds are the same, but they use different styles of tanning bed bulbs. Bronzing bulbs put out a greater amount of UVA light, while tanning bulbs put out relatively more UVB light.

Which one do you want?

Let’s go through all the details and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

How Does A Tanning Bed And A Bronzing Bed Tan Your Skin?

Let’s get it out of the way right at the top: UV tanning will clearly increase your risk of skin cancer, can cause eye damage, etc. Spray tanning is safer, but it provides none of the benefits of tanning. Sermon over.

Both tanning beds and bronzing beds use UV radiation to tan the skin. These ultraviolet rays are the same type of light that the sun produces to give you that sun-dappled glow.

The two types of UV rays relevant to tanning and tanning beds are UVA and UVB rays.

Skin Layers and UV Exposure

Skin Diagram
Skin Diagram Source: Wikipedia

The UVA rays are of a longer wavelength than the UVB rays. The UVA rays affect the inner layers of the skin while the UVB only affects the topmost layers of the skin. Also, the UVA rays produce a quicker tanning result but they could also cause sunburn.

The UVB on the other hand, produces more delayed tanning and can also cause sunburn and blistering. 

Both the UVA and UVB rays affect the melanin in the skin to produce a tan. However, they do it differently. UVA will act directly on melanin by oxidizing it. Oxidiation causes melanin to darken, which is why the skin also looks darker or tanned. UVA also encourages the body to release nitric oxide.

On the other hand, UVB rays affect the amount of melanin on the skin. With exposure to UVB, the production of melanin is increased. UVB can also affect the other cells that store melanin so that more is present or available on the skin. This will also result in more tanned skin color, as well as increased vitamin d production.

What’s The Difference Between A Tanning Bed And A Bronzing Bed?

As we’ve mentioned, both tanning beds and bronzing beds used UVA and UVB rays to produce a tan on the skin. They also look similar to each other.

The bronzer bed is just like a tanning bed that is fitted with bulbs that produce UV radiation.  However, there are also differences such as the following:

Number Of Bulbs

Tanning beds and bronzer beds are fitted with UV-producing bulbs on the bed surface itself, where you lay down, as well as the cover. This helps make sure that you achieve an even tan without needing to flip over.

This will also help save time. With tanning beds, the number of light bulbs usually ranges from 10 to 50. Some dedicated bronzer beds may have a larger number of bulbs. These are often stand-up booths.

Percentage Of UVA And UVB 

The main difference between the two beds is the amount of UVA and UVB produced. Compared to the bronzer bed, the tanning beds usually have more UVB rays. Due to this, you are at more risk of developing a sunburn when you use tanning beds instead of bronzing beds. 

Sunburns are what you want to avoid as much as possible, as they particularly can lead to cancer.

The Results

The tan produced by bronzer beds lasts longer than those produced by tanning beds. This is because it uses the UVA rays to penetrate the deeper layers and increases the melanin. This increase in melanin on the skin makes the skin look tan for longer.

However, this is also the reason why the tan may not be immediately noticeable as compared to the tanning beds. 

The amount of melanin in the skin increases but that will not produce results immediately as compared to the effect of UVB light. Additionally, the amount of melanin will gradually lessen when the skin thinks that it doesn’t need it anymore. That makes the tan last longer. 

On the other hand, tanning beds produce more immediate but more temporary results. The reason for this is because it uses a slightly higher UVB light. This kind of UV radiation can produce the tan immediately because it affects the melanin that’s already present on the skin in a fast way. However, the tan is also more quickly lost. 

The Base Tan

After the skin is repeatedly exposed to sunlight, you develop a tan known as a base tan. The base tan provides a small amount of natural sun protection, on the order of an SPF-3 (that’s 1/10 of a typical SPF-30 sunscreen).

That’s not much. But it’s not zero, either. And you don’t need to use potentially harmful chemical sunscreens to get that protection.

However, if you’re using a Bronzing bulb that doesn’t provide much UVB radiation, you won’t get any UVB protection with your base tan. If you have a bulb that mimics natural sunlight, you’ll get a more beneficial full-spectrum base tan.

Which One Should I Choose?

One isn’t really better than the other. It’s just a matter of preference. Both the tanning bed and bronzing bed exposes your body to UV radiation, which can cause skin problems. However, if you need to choose between the two, consider the results you want to get. 

If you want a more immediate result with few sessions, go for a standard tanning bed. But if you want longer results with a deeper tan, then use the bronzer bed. Most people will also suggest beginners go for the tanning bed rather than the bronzing beds.

This is because you get to see the results faster. 

Of course, you can also combine the use of both beds. If you want to do that, you should aim to get a base tan before you use the bronzing bed. In this way, the bronzing bed would complement the results you get out of the tanning bed. 

You could also consider a tanning bed with red light therapy for a powerful combo!


Tanning beds and bronzing beds both make your skin tan. They also both use UV lights to help you get that deeper color you want to achieve. However, there are also subtle differences in the bulbs used and the amount of UVA and UVB used. 

Bronzer beds produce a deeper tan for a longer period of time. But the results are less immediate than standard bulbs. Just remember that the use of both beds exposes you to UV rays that could be harmful to the skin.

Written by Kayla Young

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