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Tanning bed etiquette

Updated February 21, 2017

Sunbeds look like spaceship pods to the uninitiated, with millions of little hieroglyphic buttons and weird glowing blue lights. For the pale and pasty first-timer, the world of UV is an alien place, with rules and regulations that you may transgress unknowingly. All reputable sunbed salons will have a knowledgeable receptionist to answer all your questions, but there are a few tips and tricks of the seasoned tanner that will help you get the most out of the session.

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State of undress

All the pictures of people in sunbeds show them wearing a cute little bikini or, for men, a pair of long shorts. In actuality, though, many people like to use the sunbed topless or completely naked. Generally, each sunbed is in a private little cubicle with a lock on the door so you can relax with no fear of interruptions, and the salon assistant will clean and disinfect the sunbed after each use.


Sunbed usage is broken down in minutes, generally starting from when you enter the sunbed and start it up. Although you are not charged for the time you take to undress and dress again, if you take too long, the next salon patron may be waiting impatiently outside. Therefore it is good etiquette to wear something to the salon that you can take off and put back on quickly. For a 10-minute session, for example, five minutes to get undressed and five minutes to get dressed again should be plenty. If you like being leisurely in the salon, then a morning appointment, when the salon tends to be quiet, might suit you.

Skin care

Many salons offer special lotions to customers to help the tan develop or to help maintain the tan. Generally, you can apply these or other lotions before using the sunbeds, but if you are worried about leaving messy sticky marks on the sunbed, then the salon assistant will be able to tell you if your particular lotion is permissible.


Tanning salon assistants follow guidelines on what intensity and duration of sunbed usage is safe for different types of skin. They are there to advise you, as sunburn from excessive sunbed use is damaging to the skin and can increase the risk of skin cancer. Ultraviolet light is also damaging to the eyes, so you must wear eye protection, which the salon will provide. Sometimes, the conservative tanning times can be frustrating to people who want a quick result, but the best etiquette is to abide by the salon rules with good grace.

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About the Author

Jillian O'Keeffe has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work appears in regional Irish newspapers including "The Connacht Tribune" and the "Sentinel." O'Keeffe has a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University College Cork.

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