Whether you want to build up your base tan before heading to a tropical locale in the dead of winter, or you simply want to enhance your current tan in the heat of the summer, taking a trip to the tanning salon is a great way to give yourself a bit of color and achieve a healthy summer glow no matter what the season. However, spending too much time in a tanning bed or ignoring safety precautions designed to protect you from the machine's "sunless" rays can result in severe sunburns and an increased risk of developing skin cancer. To give yourself a sunny glow while minimizing your risks, keep the following tanning bed safety tips in mind every time you hit the salon.
Use an indoor tanning lotion
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself from the potentially harmful rays of a tanning bed is to apply a generous amount of tanning lotion all over your body before you begin. The majority of tanning salons have a wide variety of lotions for sale in their stores, but if you can't find the kind that fits all of your needs, you can also purchase one of hundreds of other options at online stores like Tanning Lotion Source and Lotion4you. Be sure to pick a product that is guaranteed to block both the UVA and UVB rays that can cause serious damage to your skin if you're not careful.
Always wear eye protection
An assortment of options are available when it comes to protecting your eyes from the harmful rays that accompany the use of an indoor tanning bed. Just as your skin can be severely damaged by the UVA and UVB rays emitted by a tanning bed, so can your eyes. Although many people mistakenly believe that simply closing their eyes tightly during a tanning session is sufficient protection, the truth is that your eyelids are only capable of blocking out about 25 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Tanning goggles -- which can be purchased at your local tanning salon if they're not provided for free -- are designed to prevent 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays from reaching your eyes when they are worn properly. Signs of short-term damage from an indoor tanning bed include itchy, red and watery eyes. Signs of long-term damage range from difficulty seeing at night and diminished color perception to an increased risk of developing cataracts.
Limit your tan time
If you are visiting a tanning bed for the very first time, you will likely be limited by salon staff to a tanning time of five to 10 minutes once or twice a week to see how your skin reacts to the system's sunless rays. This time will be increased slowly each time you visit until you are eventually permitted to tan for the maximum amount of time allotted, which is usually a period of 20 to 30 minutes per visit. If you have fair skin or have a history of burning easily, it's best to limit your tan time to only 10 to 15 minutes per visit, regardless of how frequently you tan and how long it has been since you started your tanning regimen. If your skin seems to be able to handle this amount of tanning time without burning or peeling, you can consider gradually increasing your time. But don't forget: The more you tan each time, the greater your risk for developing skin cancer in the long run.
Alternate the days you tan
Once you've built up a great-looking base tan and your risk of burning your skin is decreased significantly, the salon staff will permit you to tan as much or as little you desire, although each customer is generally only allowed one visit per 24-hour period. Regardless of how frequently the salon allows you to use up the minutes you have purchased, it's important to realize that tanning too often only increases your chances of developing skin cancer, so you should restrict your tanning sessions to one to three times per week rather than slipping into a tanning bed every single day if you want to get a healthy, sunny glow.