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What is High Pressure Tanning?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 17, 2024
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High pressure tanning is a process by which a person tans himself in a special high pressure tanning booth. The aim is to produce a healthy looking and longer lasting tan. High pressure tanning uses a combination of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in order to provide a person with a deeper, longer lasting tan. Proponents say that the tan is safer and more economical than some of the other types of tanning booths available. It is important to take into account, however, statistics that show that any indoor tanning option can lead to a higher risk of skin cancer.

The combination of UVA and UVB rays is one of the components that set high pressure tanning apart from other tanning options. High pressure tanning booths use filters that only allow only a limited amount of UVB rays to penetrate the skin. It is believed that the UVB rays stimulate the skin to produce melanin, a pigment used by the body to defend itself against excess ultraviolet rays. The remainder of the ultraviolet light in these booths is UVA rays which darken this melanin. By using this combination of UVA and UVB rays, a tanner may achieve a tan in less time than he would if he were to use another tanning option.

High pressure tanning, as well as other types of indoor tanning, is often sought after as a way to achieve a tan during any season and any type of weather. This means that it is possible to maintain a tan when it is raining or during winter. A high pressure tan also tends to last longer than other tanning options. In addition, this tanning option may require fewer sessions to achieve a base tan and fewer visits to maintain it. Many other types of tanning require a person to undergo 15 sessions to achieve a base tan and two to three sessions a week to maintain it. High pressure tanning, on the other hand, can give a person a base tan in three to five sessions and require one session about two or three times a month in order to maintain it.

Many attribute this longer lasting tan to the lower ratio of UVB to UVA rays. UVB rays are thought to be the main cause of sunburns and thus, the main cause of skin cancer. In a normal process, the outer layer of a person’s skin will eventually die and slough off. UVB rays, however, can dry out the skin and cause it to slough off faster, taking the tan with it. UVA rays are thought to only deepen the skin’s color without drying it excessively, thus prolonging the length of the tan.

While some believe an indoor tanning session is safer than tanning in the sun, the high level of ultraviolet exposure available in a tanning booth may result in severe heath risks. For instance, overexposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin aging and allergic reactions, such as rashes. In addition, both UVA and UVB rays may cause skin cancer. A person can also put himself at risk of eye cancer by choosing an indoor tanning option. It is important, then, that a person know about all the risks and benefits of each tanning option before he decides to partake.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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