How to / Tutorial

Project Bronze: Indoor Tanning 101


Now I know my last post was all about saving your skin from the harmful rays of the sun and all the ways to achieve that tan glowy skin the no-sun kind of way, but not everyone likes self tanner, for what ever reason, or just don’t mind the idea of  tanning with the sun or in tanning beds. Now I know some of you out there are already curling your lips in disgust, the thought of tanning beds is just absolute blasphemy! I know tanning beds in general is a sensitive subject for people, no idea why though, so if tanning beds do offend you or the thought of someone like myself telling you the tips and tricks of the beds offends you, please just go ahead and stop reading here because from here on out that’s all it’s going to be about.

Now that all the tanning bed haters are gone, I’ll get onto it! Some of the things I mention may seem redundant or like common sense, but some people may have no idea at all what to expect, and may be too embarrassed to ask so please excuse any bits of this that may appear completely useless or obvious. Now I never used tanning beds until my friend started working at a tanning salon, like many people I was a bit uneducated about how they worked, what you did, and all that jazz. Plus people like the “tanning mom” and the entire tanorexia buzz on TLC’s “My Strange Addiction” didn’t really help my thoughts on them. In my head, and I’m sure many other peoples, I imagined these oompa loompa looking women climbing into a bed full of burning lights, only to come out with millions of freckles and skin cancer knocking on their front doors.

Fortunately that’s not the case! Well for the most part, I certainly see my fair share of people coming in and out of these salons a couple shades too dark and their skin taking on the that ‘leathery’ look. So yes it is possible to become the stereotypical tanning bed user, but hopefully my take on them and some of my tips will help prevent that from happening.

Types of Beds:

So I guess I’ll start out with the basics, the beds themselves. Now to my knowledge and for the salon that I go to, there are technically three different types of beds: VHR, Bronzing, and the good ‘ol normal beds. And then depending on your salon, I imagine they call them different things. Also depending on the bed you may have to flip over half way through, meaning there are only lights on one side, usually the top.

VHR tanning beds seem to be the most popular, and have a maximum time of 15 minutes. The ones at my salon have lights on both the top and bottom, these lights have both UVA (responsible for ageing) and UVB (responsible for burning) rays. Sometimes these beds are also called ‘Express’ beds.

Bronzing beds for most people are the most effective, but only after you’ve developed a base tan, meaning use this after a weekend in the sun, not the first day you’ve shown you legs any light after winter. These beds only use UVB rays and generally have a time of 12 minutes as their maximum, if there are lights on top and bottom; if you have to flip over, the maximum time is generally 24.

And then lastly there are your normal beds, which use UVA and UVB rays, these are a bit weaker than VHR beds, but work on the same principle.

What’s inside the rooms:

Like I’ve said, and I’ll probably keep on saying this, every salon is different so this may vary wherever you go. I want to talk about the things that may be provided for you in each room. Where I go, in each room there is the bed (obviously), a chair, a little stool where there is a box of tissues, lotion, and aerosol deodorant. Then on the wall opposite the bed there is a CD player /radio, and at the foot of the bed there is a trash can. And then on each bed when you walk in there is a towel rolled up with goggles inside, without the strings to wrap around your head, and a little plaque stating that the bed has been sanitized.

Pre-tan routine:

Before I got to tan I always make sure my skin is plenty moisturized because dry skin will burn much more easily than moisturized skin. Then when I go into the room there is a digital reading on the wall counting down the minutes until my bed will turn on, usually it is 5 minutes. I use this time to get out of my clothes, down to whatever I’ve decided to wear while I tan, then if I remembered to bring my tanning lotion, I put that all over my body, concentrating on my legs because for some reason they refuse to tan!

What do you wear (or don’t wear!)?

Probably my biggest question before I started using tanning beds, was what in the world am I supposed to wear? My bathing suit? My undies? Do I go naked? And then I had the question of well what if other people went naked before me, how gross! But rest assured the solution they use to clean tanning beds is some serious stuff, you won’t be getting anything on you from the previous person. The first time I went I went in my undies and my bra, taking my bra straps off my shoulders and tucking them into the band so there weren’t any awkward tan lines.  But since I only wear one pieces I didn’t feel the need to tan my stomach, so now I go in, usually with a tank top on, slip the straps of my shirt and my bra down under my arms, and just wear my undies, leaving my legs completely bare.

Turning over?

Also I know I’ve mentioned having to flip over half way through your tan, and some of you may be wondering how that works. Again to some of you this may seem obvious but to others it may not. First you get in the bed with whichever side you want to tan facing the lights, you tan, then your bed will turn completely off, no lights will be on or anything, this is when you flip, generally the bed will give you about a minute to do so and settle yourself back however is comfortable, you tan again on the opposite side and then when the bed turns off you’re all done!

The minutes before you tan:

Again this may seem very stupid to mention, but I’m going to anyways! How to actually get in the beds. When I first walked in, I was a little bit confused, because well I had never done this before! This is how I get into a bed and how my salon explains. Lift your hip, right or left depending on which way the bed faces and where the face plates are (I’ll get into that later), and kind of scoot your bottom onto the bed, then shimmy yourself up so that your feet are dangling, and both your hands can grip the bed on either side of you. Then like you are getting into bed swing your legs up and onto the bed and lay back.  Now that your are laying down, get comfy, you’re gonna be there a while. Now grip the handle on the bed lid, to reach this you may have to sit up a tiny bit, then as you lay back down pull it down with you and close it. This kind of freaked me out the first time I did this, so if you’re claustrophobic this is not for you! The lid will now be roughly 12-18 inches away from you. Now put on your goggles, this is VERY IMPORTANT!! The rays will harm your eyes very severely if you don’t because the skin on your lids isn’t enough protection. At this point I also put the towel over my face and chest because I just prefer not to tan there. After a little while the bed will whirl to life and all you need to do is lie back and relax!

*note: if the idea of using goggles that other people have used, no matter how clean they are, you can purchase goggles here, or most salons also have these weird sticker things called wink ease that act like cones over your eyes.*

Face plates?

Now onto something I touched on earlier, face plates. These are special light plates where your head is that tan your face specifically. Some beds don’t have them and only use regular bulbs, but most VHR beds do have them. This is why I always put the towel over my face and chest. I just really dislike tanning my face, and since I always where foundations there’s no need for my face to match the rest of my body.

After tan routine:

After I’ve tanned my body may be a little bit sweaty in some places, and it’s totally normal if you do sweat a little. So when I get out of the bed, I use the towel on my face to wipe down my body from any lotion residue or sweat. And if I used too much lotion and some residue is on the bed I just give it a quick wipe down. Then if my skin is feeling dry, sometimes it does sometimes it doesn’t, I use the lotion in the room very lightly wherever I feel dry. Then I get dressed and because my friend works there and I want to make less work for her, I straiten up the room, drop off my towel in the designated bins instead of leaving it in the room, and take my goggles up front so she can sanitize them.

And that really all there is to it! I know this post was super long and way more detailed than it needed to be, but I just remember going in for the first time and having all kind of of questions I was too embarrassed too ask because they seemed too simple to me.

And  in case some of you are interested, here are some of  my favorite tanning lotions for indoor tanning!

Maui Brown

Simply Black


Until next time . . .




**This post may contain affiliate links**


2 thoughts on “Project Bronze: Indoor Tanning 101

  1. Hello Darling,
    Gorgeousness Post!
    Very thorough and detailed, as well as incredibly helpful for people whom have never used tanning beds. Personally, the beds don’t appeal to me because I am slightly claustrophobic but I am contemplating using a standing one for prom. Have you ever used a standing one before?
    Love You,
    Natalie x 🙂
    P.S: New Post


    • Natalie,
      Thank you, thats exactly what I was going for. I’ve only ever seen one kind of stand up and if you think the normal beds will make you feel claustrophobic, then the standup ones really will because you walk inside an istsy bitsy room with just enough space for you to raise your hands up and spread your legs slightly, and then a door closes in on you, your completely surrounded. With the normal beds, there is a gap by your head, feet and about a 4-5 inch gap all along one side of your body. And that’s exactly why I’ve never used one. But if you’re unsure just go to your local salon and ask them if you can see the beds, for that exact reason, and ask them if you can close the lids/doors to see what I mean, then make your decision. Oh and if you’re doing this for prom make sure that you go a couples times in advance because you won’t get substantial color the first time around just like you don’t get super tan the first time you lay out. I hope this helped!


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