Tanning Safely: Sun vs. Sunbed – What You Need to Know

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The allure of a sun-kissed tan has captivated many, but it’s essential to prioritize safety when achieving that golden glow. Tanning can be done in two primary ways: under the sun’s natural rays or by using a sunbed. In this guide, we will explore both options, highlighting the risks and benefits of each and offering tips on how to tan safely.

Tanning Under the Sun


  • Vitamin D Production: Sun exposure triggers the body’s production of vitamin D, which is vital for bone health, immune function, and overall well-being.
  • Natural and Relaxing: Many people find tanning in the sun to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, as it offers an opportunity to unwind and connect with nature.


  • UV Radiation: The sun emits two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation – UVA and UVB. While UVB is responsible for vitamin D production, UVA and excessive UVB exposure can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Uneven Tanning: Achieving an even tan can be challenging, as certain body parts may receive more sun exposure than others, resulting in uneven coloring.

Tips for Safe Sun Tanning:

  • Use Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before heading outdoors. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
  • Seek Shade: Take breaks in the shade to avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Wear Protective Clothing: Cover up with wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and lightweight, long-sleeved clothing to minimize direct sun exposure.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out.

Tanning Using a Sunbed


  • Controlled Environment: Sunbeds provide a controlled environment with regulated UV exposure, allowing you to monitor your tanning time.
  • Even Tanning: Sunbeds offer a more even tan, as the UV rays are evenly distributed across the body.


  • Increased Cancer Risk: Sunbeds emit concentrated UVA and UVB radiation, which can damage skin cells and increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
  • Premature Aging: Frequent sunbed use can lead to premature aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.


Tips for Safe Sunbed Tanning:

  • Know Your Skin Type: Consult with a professional to determine your skin type and the appropriate duration of sunbed sessions.
  • Limit Exposure: Avoid excessive sunbed sessions and follow the recommended time limits for your skin type. Do not try to tan too quickly.
  • Use Protective Eyewear: Always wear FDA-approved protective eyewear to shield your eyes from UV radiation.
  • Moisturize: Keep your skin well-hydrated by using a moisturizing lotion after each sunbed session to mitigate dryness and peeling.

The Safest Way to Achieve a Tan

While both sun tanning and sunbed tanning offer the potential for a bronzed complexion, neither is entirely risk-free. However, there is a safer alternative: self-tanning products. These products provide a sunless tan without the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Pros of Self-Tanning Products:

  • No UV Exposure: Self-tanning products work by staining the outer layer of the skin with dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a safe and FDA-approved ingredient that does not penetrate the skin or involve UV radiation.
  • Even Results: Self-tanners can provide an even, natural-looking tan without the need for extended sun exposure or sunbed sessions.
  • Skin-Friendly: Self-tanning products are generally considered safe for most skin types and do not carry the same risks of sunburn, skin damage, or cancer.

Tips for Safe Self-Tanning:

  • Exfoliate: Before applying a self-tanner, exfoliate your skin to remove dead cells and ensure an even application.
  • Follow Instructions: Read and follow the instructions on the self-tanning product carefully. Pay attention to the recommended drying time before dressing.
  • Gradual Application: Consider using a gradual self-tanning product to achieve a subtle tan that can be built up over time.
  • Test a Patch: Perform a patch test to check for allergies or adverse reactions before applying the product all over your body.

Tanning can be a fun and confidence-boosting activity, but it’s essential to prioritize safety over a deep tan. Both sun tanning and sunbed tanning carry risks, including skin damage and an increased risk of skin cancer. Self-tanning products offer a safer alternative by providing a sunless tan without UV exposure.

Tanning Safely: Sun vs. Sunbed – What You Need to Know

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