What are Tanning Salons?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tanning salons are facilities that offer people the opportunity of achieving an indoor tan. Tanning salons typically have several tanning beds, likened in appearance to a clam shell, in which people lie for a set period of time to gradually tan the skin. Usually, to achieve the desired shade of tan, people use tanning salons for a period of several weeks to several months. To maintain a tan, people must revisit tanning salons regularly.

A tanning bed.
A tanning bed.

Tanning salons may be exclusive businesses, providing only tanning booths. Often, though, tanning salons are attached to hair salons, health or country clubs, or full service spas. Membership may be required at any or all of the above, or the club may offer pay as you go service. Usually, tanning salons offer a cut rate if one buys a large number of tanning sessions at one time.

In a horizontal tanning bed sessions should be limited to a maximum of 20 minutes.
In a horizontal tanning bed sessions should be limited to a maximum of 20 minutes.

When tanning salons first gained popularity, they were thought to be a safer alternative to tanning outdoors, because of less lengthy exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Older salons used UVB rays exclusively, which posed significant risk of skin damage. Today, most tanning salons employ UVA light rays, which, though less harmful, can still lead to permanent skin damage.

Using tanning salons or the natural rays of the sun to get tan can increase one’s risk of skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkling, and damage to the cornea and retina. Staying too long in a tanning bed can also cause skin rashes and burns to the skin. Despite these risks, many still use tanning salons to achieve the perfect tan. However, more consumer education has led to people eschewing tanning altogether.

Today’s tanning salons frequently do not allow minors to use tanning facilities without permission from a parent or guardian. Most have dropped the claims that tanning is “safe,” as they do not want to be later subjected to lawsuits. Other tanning salons are addressing the issues of safety by using products that produce a tanned look without skin damage.

Self-tanning creams and lotions are available over the counter. Some people do not like the effect of certain creams, as they can make skin appear orange as opposed to tan. Mystic Tan® is a new method employed by tanning salons to give at least the temporary appearance of a tan.

This process involves the client stepping into a stall akin to a shower stall. He or she is then sprayed with a temporary tanning solution that is angled to achieve maximum affect with no uneven spots. The client is directed to turn from back to front to get full coverage. Most are very satisfied with the results of a Mystic Tan®.

Alternatives in tanning salons will hopefully lead people away from tanning methods that amplify health risks. Incidence of skin cancer continues to increase, and reducing risk factors such as tanning may help in what the medical community views as a serious health crisis. Additionally, though tanning may improve one’s appearance in the present, it will negatively affect one’s appearance in the future. A tan today translates to wrinkled, damaged, and dry skin a few years down the line.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@grumpyguppy: Absolutely! In fact, we have a tanning bed of our own! There are a lot of people like us who don’t necessarily enjoy the company of the public.

With the proper space and surroundings, it’s simple to have your own bed and it’s much more comfortable! The same hygienic procedures should be applied. It is also more economical as it beats the regular tanning salon prices!


My mother is a heavy-set woman, and embarrassed about tanning at a public place. Is it possible to own a tanning bed of our own without having a business?



Yes, indeed. Not only should the facilities be cared for by the employees, but after each use, most salons require the customer to clean up after themselves. Each tanning bed is wiped down with a disinfectant after each use to remove any oils or bacteria on the body.

Also, if you ever how any doubt on the cleanliness, there will always be supplies there for you to clean up with before you use it!


Personally, I’m not tickled by the thought of tanning in a public tanning salon. Are there any hygiene procedures they go through first?

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