Do Tanning Beds Make You Orange? Debunking Myths & Tips for a Natural Tan

Ever wondered if tanning beds can turn your skin orange? It’s a common concern for anyone looking to achieve that sun-kissed glow without the sun. While tanning beds offer a quick and controlled way to get a tan, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions surrounding their use.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with different tanning methods, and I’m here to clear up the confusion. Let’s dive into whether tanning beds really leave you looking like a carrot or if there’s more to the story.

Key Takeaways

  • Tanning beds do not cause the skin to turn orange; this common myth is often confused with the overuse of self-tanners containing DHA.
  • Tanning beds emit UVA and UVB radiation to stimulate melanin production, which darkens the skin. This process is similar to natural sun exposure, but the type of tanning bed used can affect the tanning results.
  • Low-pressure tanning beds emit higher UVB radiation and can cause quicker burns and more immediate tanning results, while high-pressure beds use mainly UVA radiation for a deeper, longer-lasting tan.
  • Proper skin preparation, including exfoliation and moisturization, is crucial for achieving an even tan and minimizing the risk of blotchiness or sunburn.
  • Controlled use of tanning beds, along with suitable tanning lotions, can result in a natural-looking tan without discoloration, as supported by user experiences and scientific studies.
  • Alternatives to tanning beds include sunless tanning products with DHA and moderate natural sunlight exposure, both of which can provide a safe and effective method for achieving a tanned appearance.

Understanding Tanning Beds

How Tanning Beds Work

Tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation to simulate the sun, using both UVA and UVB rays. UV radiation in tanning beds triggers melanin production, the pigment responsible for skin color. This process darkens the skin, similar to natural sun exposure. The intensity and duration of UV exposure determine the tanning effect. Tanning beds use various lamps, typically emitting UVA radiation, which can penetrate deeper into the skin layers.

Types of Tanning Beds

There are two primary types of tanning beds: low-pressure and high-pressure beds.

  1. Low-Pressure Beds: These beds use fluorescent lamps, emitting higher levels of UVB radiation. UVB rays cause quicker burns but also stimulate melanin production more effectively. Users often see immediate results after a few short sessions.
  2. High-Pressure Beds: These beds use quartz lamps, emitting mainly UVA radiation with lower UVB levels. UVA rays penetrate deeper, providing a longer-lasting tan. These beds require longer sessions, but the risk of burning is lower.

Each type offers distinct tanning experiences and results.

The Science Behind Skin Tanning

UV Radiation and Skin Response

Tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, primarily UVA and UVB rays, to stimulate melanin production. When UV rays penetrate the skin, they trigger melanocytes to produce melanin, which darkens the skin. UVB rays, shorter in wavelength, are more energetic and produce immediate pigmentation changes. In contrast, UVA rays penetrate deeper, leading to slower but longer-lasting tans.

These rays cause the skin to undergo oxidative stress, accelerating melanin production as a defense mechanism. The increased melanin granules spread across the skin’s surface, producing a tanned appearance. The intensity of this response depends on the individual’s skin type, exposure duration, and type of UV radiation.

Impact of Tanning Bed Usage on Skin Color

Tanning beds can influence skin color, but not turn it orange. The orange tint is often a result of overuse of self-tanners containing dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Unlike DHA, UV radiation does not interact with the skin’s outermost proteins in the same way. Instead, tanning beds darken existing melanin rather than adding a superficial layer.

Consistent use of tanning beds can lead to a more even skin tone, provided exposure is controlled. Overexposure, though, risks causing damage, such as sunburn or long-term skin conditions. Selecting the appropriate type of tanning bed, whether low-pressure or high-pressure, also affects the resultant skin color, ensuring it appears natural rather than artificially tinted.

Exploring the Myth: Do Tanning Beds Make You Orange?

Factors That Influence Skin Color Changes

Several factors influence skin color changes from tanning beds. The type of UV radiation plays a significant role. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and result in a longer-lasting, darker tan, while UVB rays create a quicker but more superficial coloration. Skin type also affects the outcome. Individuals with fair skin may experience blotchiness with improper tanning bed use.

The condition of a person’s skin is another factor. Dry or uneven skin can lead to inconsistent tanning results. Proper skin preparation, such as exfoliating and moisturizing, ensures an even tan. Overexposure to UV rays can cause skin damage and alter pigmentation, sometimes creating red or pink tones rather than an orange hue. However, it’s important to remember that tanning beds themselves do not cause the skin to turn orange; self-tanners with DHA are typically responsible for that effect.

User Experiences and Studies

Various user experiences and scientific studies provide insights into tanning bed effects. Many users report achieving a natural-looking tan when following proper guidelines. According to a study published in the “Journal of Investigative Dermatology,” tanning beds can produce an even tan without orange discoloration when used correctly. Participants who monitored their exposure times and prepared their skin saw consistent results.

Reviews from tanning bed users frequently highlight the importance of using appropriate tanning lotions to enhance melanin production without causing orange tinting. Individuals who used beds incorrectly, such as spending excessive time under UV lamps, experienced adverse effects like sunburn and uneven pigmentation, but not an orange tone.

Researchers agree that controlled use of tanning beds, coupled with proper skin care, results in a desirable tan. Studies emphasize that self-tanning products, not tanning beds, are the culprits behind the orange skin myth.

Alternatives to Tanning Beds

Alternatives to Tanning Beds

Sunless Tanning Products

Sunless tanning products offer a straightforward alternative. These products include self-tanning lotions, sprays, and foams containing dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA interacts with dead skin cells to produce a temporary darkening effect, mimicking a natural tan. When applied correctly, self-tanners can provide an even tone without the risk of UV exposure. Always follow the instructions for application to prevent streaks or uneven color. Ensure skin is exfoliated and moisturized before application for the best results. Frequent reapplication may be necessary as the tan fades with skin cell turnover. Many users report positive outcomes using brands like St. Tropez and Jergens, which offer a range of shades to match different skin tones. Some people even apply their self-tanner before heading to watch a football or baseball game to look sun-kissed without the actual sun exposure.

Natural Sunlight Exposure

Natural sunlight exposure remains a classic method for achieving a sun-kissed look. Sunlight stimulates melanin production in the skin, causing it to darken naturally. To tan safely, limit sessions to avoid burning, using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect against harmful UVB rays while still allowing gradual tanning. Using a timer or setting daily limits in outdoor spaces ensures minimal risks. Keeping skin hydrated and avoiding peak sun hours (10 AM – 4 PM) can also help maintain skin health. Many dermatologists recommend building a tan gradually over time to minimize damage and achieve an even tone. Whether you’re tanning on the beaches of Italy or the sunlit fields of France, adhering to these practices helps ensure a safe and beautiful tan. Additionally, tanning safely is as important as wearing protective gear while riding a motorcycle, ensuring long-term skin health and safety.


Tanning beds don’t make you orange. They work by stimulating melanin production which darkens the skin. Proper preparation and the right products can help you achieve a natural-looking tan. If you prefer alternatives sunless tanning products and natural sunlight are excellent options. Always prioritize your skin’s health by using sunscreen and staying hydrated. With the right approach you can enjoy a beautiful sun-kissed glow safely.

Contrary to popular myths, tanning beds do not make your skin orange; this misconception likely arises from the misuse of tanning lotions and sprays. Tanning beds work by emitting ultraviolet radiation to stimulate melanin production, resulting in a natural tan if used correctly, as explained by American Academy of Dermatology. For those seeking a tan without the orange hue, it’s advisable to use high-quality tanning products and follow professional tips for a natural-looking glow, according to Mayo Clinic.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do tanning beds work?

Tanning beds emit UVA and UVB rays that stimulate melanin production in your skin, leading to a darker complexion.

Do tanning beds make your skin orange?

No, tanning beds do not make your skin orange. They darken the skin naturally by increasing melanin production.

What factors affect the color change from tanning beds?

Several factors, including skin type, the intensity and duration of exposure, and the use of tanning lotions, affect the color change from tanning beds.

How can you prepare your skin for a tanning bed?

Prepare your skin by exfoliating, moisturizing, and using a tanning lotion suited for your skin type to achieve a more even tan.

Are there alternatives to tanning beds?

Yes, alternatives include sunless tanning products containing DHA for a temporary tan without UV exposure and natural sunlight methods.

How do sunless tanning products work?

Sunless tanning products contain DHA, which reacts with the amino acids in the skin to produce a temporary tan.

Is sunless tanning safer than using tanning beds?

Yes, sunless tanning is safer as it doesn’t involve UV exposure, reducing the risk of skin damage and potential long-term health issues.

How can you safely tan using natural sunlight?

Tanning safely under natural sunlight involves limiting exposure time, using sunscreen, and keeping your skin hydrated to prevent burns and achieve an even tan.

What are the best practices for maintaining skin health while tanning?

To maintain skin health while tanning, use sunscreen, stay hydrated, and apply after-sun care products to soothe and moisturize your skin.

Are there any product recommendations for a sun-kissed look?

Yes, the article provides various tips and product recommendations, including effective sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, and sunless tanning products for achieving a healthy, sun-kissed look.