Tanning beds have long been a popular method for achieving a sun-kissed glow, especially during colder months or in regions where natural sunlight is limited. However, the pursuit of a bronzed complexion comes with its own set of risks, and one of the most prevalent and underestimated dangers is sunburn caused by a tanning bed.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind sunburn in tanning beds, its potential consequences, and how individuals can protect themselves from this often-overlooked risk.

Understanding Tanning Bed Sunburn:

Tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is the same type of radiation present in sunlight.

The two main types of UV radiation are UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are primarily responsible for premature aging, while UVB rays are the main culprits behind sunburn. Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB radiation, making users susceptible to sunburn if proper precautions are not taken.

Tanning Bed Burns

Tanning bed burns, also known as sunbed burns, are a result of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation during indoor tanning sessions. These burns can cause various symptoms and require appropriate treatment. 

Symptoms of Sunbed Burns

  1. Redness: The affected skin becomes red and may appear flushed.
  2. Pain and Discomfort: Sunbed burns often cause pain and discomfort, which can range from mild to severe.
  3. Tenderness: The burnt skin may be sensitive to touch and feel tender.
  4. Itching: Irritation and dryness can lead to itching in the affected area.
  5. Warmth: The burnt skin may feel warmer than the surrounding skin.
  6. Swelling: In more severe cases, there may be swelling of the affected area.
  7. Blisters: Prolonged exposure or intense UV radiation can lead to the formation of blisters on the skin.
  8. Peeling: As the burn heals, the skin may start to peel, revealing new skin underneath.
How To Treat Sunbed Burns

How To Treat Sunbed Burns

  1. Cool Compresses: Apply cool compresses to the affected area to reduce inflammation and soothe the burn. Use a clean cloth soaked in cold water or apply a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel.
  2. Hydration: Keep the burnt skin well-hydrated by using a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer. Avoid products with harsh chemicals or fragrances that could further irritate the skin.
  3. Aloe Vera Gel: Apply aloe vera gel to the sunbed burns. Aloe vera has soothing properties that can help alleviate pain and promote healing.
  4. Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Follow the recommended dosage on the product label.
  5. Avoid Sun Exposure: Protect the burned skin from further sun exposure. If going outside, wear loose-fitting clothing that covers the affected area and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Proper hydration supports the healing process and helps the body recover from the effects of sun exposure.
  7. Gentle Cleansing: Clean the affected area with mild soap and water. Avoid scrubbing the skin, as this can worsen irritation.
  8. Avoid Peeling or Picking: Let the skin peel naturally. Avoid picking at or peeling off any loose or damaged skin, as this can increase the risk of infection.
  9. Rest: Allow the body time to recover by getting adequate rest. Avoid activities that may further irritate the burned skin.

How To Avoid Sunbed Burns

  1. Gradual Exposure: Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time spent in the tanning bed.
  2. Use Protective Eyewear: Wear approved goggles to protect your eyes from UV radiation.
  3. Choose Appropriate Bed Type: Different beds emit varying levels of UV radiation. Consult with salon staff to choose a bed suitable for your skin type.
  4. Follow Guidelines: Adhere to recommended exposure times and frequency guidelines provided by the tanning salon.

Burn Injuries

Burn injuries, including those from tanning beds, can range from mild to severe. They are categorized into three main degrees:

  1. First-Degree Burns: Superficial burns affecting the outer layer of the skin.
  2. Second-Degree Burns: Damage extends beyond the outer layer, causing blisters and more severe pain.
  3. Third-Degree Burns: The most severe, damaging all layers of the skin and potentially underlying tissues.

Burns From Tanning Bed

Tanning bed burns often result from prolonged exposure, leading to similar symptoms seen in sunburns. It’s essential to recognize the signs early and take prompt action to prevent complications.


While seeking a tan for cosmetic reasons, prioritizing skin health is crucial, given the potential for sunburn in a tanning bed. Sunbed burns pose short and long-term risks, including an elevated skin cancer risk.

Responsible indoor tanning, adherence to guidelines, and precautions can mitigate these dangers. For severe or persistent burns, seek medical attention. Embracing your natural skin tone and opting for safer alternatives like self-tanners promotes long-term skin health, sidestepping the risks of sunburn in tanning beds.