Bronzing Bed vs Tanning Bed: What’s the Difference?

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

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 tanning beds use different tanning bed bulbs than bronzing beds. Bronzing bulbs put out a greater amount of UVA light, while tanning bulbs put out relatively more UVB light.

Which one do you want? Most people start with a tanning bed to get color, then move on to a bronzing bed to deepen the tan.

In this article, we’ll go over bronzing bed vs tanning bed, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.

How Do Tanning Beds 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, winkles, etc. Spray tanning is safer, but many simply prefer UV light. There are risks to everything we do, and adults should be able to choose the risks we take.

Sermon over.

UV tanning will clearly increase your risk of skin cancer, can cause eye damage, winkles, etc. Spray tanning is safer, but many simply prefer UV light. There are risks to everything we do, and adults should be able to choose the risks we take.

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

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

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

Both 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.

Oxidation 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.

Tanning Bed vs Bronzing Bed: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to tanning beds vs bronzing beds, tanning beds use a different mix of UVA and UVB rays than bronzing beds do. Tanning beds tend to get you some color more quickly than bronzing beds, but bronzing beds will ultimately get you a darker tan.

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, but bronzing beds have a higher amount of UVA light than tanning beds do. 

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.

But on the other hand, this is similar to what is actually produced by the sun. If you want that vitamin D, you’ll need to be exposed to UVB.

If you want that vitamin D, you’ll need to be exposed to UVB.

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

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.

Tanning Speed and Darkness Level

The tan produced by bronzer beds is deeper and lasts longer than a tan produced by tanning beds. This is because a bronzing bed uses more UVA rays to penetrate the deeper layers and increase 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 Bed Should I Choose?

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 suggest beginners use a 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!

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 will tan your body, but may cause skin problems down the road.

If you want the deepest, darkest, longest-lasting tan, start by using a tanning bed, then move onto a bronzing bed.

Final Thoughts

Tanning beds and bronzing beds both make your skin tan. Bronzer beds produce a deeper tan for a longer period of time, but the results are less immediate than standard bulbs.

Start with a tanning bed, then move onto a bronzing bed once you’ve built up a base tan.

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).