How to Get Tan Safely and Quickly (Indoor Tanning)
Welcome to Part VI of "Good Looking Loser's Guide to Inexpensive Skin Care".
Lets talk about tanning.
Over 28 million people in the United States do it.
In controlled bouts with the proper precautions taken, tanning can be safe and even healthful.
It can be dangerous and unhealthful too.
The "high-pressure" tanning beds of today are significantly better and safer than those of a decade ago.
Unlike just about everything else we endorse, tanning needs to be done in moderation and handled with care.
Our tanning protocol rests on the 'safe' side and is intentionally conservative while still producing results.
The most color, in a reasonable length of time, in the safest way possible.
Quick Indoor Tanning Background on Chris
I have been indoor tanning for over a decade. I'm 32 now. While I don't look much younger than my age (never have) - I also don't look much older. (see video below)
I have pretty much followed the exact routine I'm going to lay out for you.
Had I not followed this, I would probably look significantly older.
If you are just looking for what you need, here's the list -
This is All You Need to Get
* eye protection usually is available for free if you go to a decent salon
** after-tan lotion is not entirely necessary
See below for how to use these.
This is What You Need to Have:
1) High-Pressure Tanning Bed
The quality of your tanning bed is extremely important.
You want a "high-pressure" tanning bed (300-2000 watts) or a "medium-pressure" stand-up bed (200+ watts).
A medium-pressure lay-down bed is your last feasible option - just make sure you wear SPF on your face and flip over 3 or 4 times.
Old, shitty "low-pressure" tanning beds (100-180 watts) either DON'T WORK or they will BURN YOU in random places.
Low-pressure tanning beds release a disproportionate amount of UVB rays (the kind that burn you, wrinkle your skin and cause skin cancer).
UVB rays don't even penetrate your skin, nor do they even darken your skin.
They are completely useless and completely harmful.
You are better off not using these low-pressure beds and just tanning with protection outside.
The good news is - tanning salons that still use the older low-pressure UVB-heavy beds rarely change the bed's lights so their beds simply do nothing.
Newer, high-pressure UVA-heavy tanning beds have been calibrated to release a controlled amount of UVA rays (98% UVA) and the bare minimum of UVB rays (2% UVB).
UVA rays bronze your skin, trigger Vitamin D release and are safe in moderation for most skin types.
Arguably, tanning in a high-pressure (UVA) bed is safer than tanning outside. This is debatable since there's a lot of factors involved.
(This is not to suggest that UVA rays are harmless. They aren't. They are significantly less powerful and less harmful than their counterparts.)
A lot of people don't want to shell out the extra money to use the good beds but the reality is - it takes A LOT longer to get good color in an old/shitty bed and low-pressure beds can be very dangerous.
You aren't saving any money by choosing the cheapest bed you can find and you might get burned in the process.
2) Quality Indoor Tanning Lotion
(All over your body but not your face)
If you have never used a quality tanning lotion - you have NO IDEA how significant it is to the process.
A good tanning lotion will get you twice as dark as using no lotion, sunblock or a low-quality tanning lotion.
It might take half the time too.
IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.
I do not suggest tanning if you don't get a quality lotion. At all.
A lot of people get discouraged by the price of good tanning lotions. They aren't actually that expensive, the salons just charge excessive amounts.
They are pretty inexpensive if you purchase them online.
Here is the EXACT lotion that I usually use, it's not even expensive -
This is a "tingle" lotion, it gives a funny sensation as you get darker.
The tingle effect is harmless, it is caused by an increase in blood flow which ultimately makes you darker. You might find some redness after using a tingle lotion - this is NOT a burn mark. It's simply the effect of the ingredient Benzyl Nicotinate.
I personally like it. Just don't get it on your balls.
Here is a non-tingle lotion that my friend who works at Sunset Tan (membership are upwards of 200$/month) that I have been using lately -
I discuss both tanning lotions in the video above.
(and show you that I actually own these)
These lotions aren't super expensive. Like I said - you need a QUALITY LOTION, not necessarily a super expensive one. These lotions will be over $40 if you were to buy it at the salon.
Apply your tanning lotion liberally just before you get into the bed. Put all over your body but avoid putting it on your face.
A lot of guys put sunblock (SPF) all over their body before tanning. While that is safe, you won't get much color that way.
If you wondered - absolutely DO NOT use tanning oil.
Tanning oil will ruin the bed and ruin your skin. Especially when exposed to intense amounts of sunlight at a close distance.
This is NOT AN OPTION.
3) Quality SPF 50+ on Your Face
(Just on your face, apply 25-30 minutes prior to tanning)
This will keep you wrinkle-free and you won't have to worry about burning.
This goes on your face, ears and on your neck.
You will be substituting some color but premature aging IS NOT worth some temporary color on your face.
When you shave, your tan will come off anyway.
We have a MUCH SAFER remedy when your face needs some color.
Apply your SPF 50+ 25-30 minutes before you go tanning. For most people, this will be just before you leave the house.
As much as you are tempted to gain a couple shades of bronze on your face, do not skip this step under any circumstances.
As listed in Part I of Good Looking Loser's Skin Care Guide, this is the SPF I use and recommend -
If you burn easily, get the SPF 70.
But no less than SPF 50.
Take this step seriously, especially if you are going to be a committed indoor tanner.
This is how you prevent your face from aging during the tanning process.
* 4) After Tanning Aloe or Coconut Oil
This isn't entirely necessary since you WILL NOT BURN if you follow our Tanning Guide as it is written.
You can use a mid-level Aloe lotion too.
Avoid the super cheaper brands such as Banana Boat. I don't think they are as good.
Remember - Aloe should be applied multiple times unlike Coconut Oil which is good to go until you wash it off.
Cocoa butter isn't a bad alternative, I am partial to Extra Virgin Coconut Oil however.
If you are following our guide as it is written, your body will be darker than your face.
This is supposed to happen.
I see absolutely no point in significantly tanning your face and jeopardizing your skin since any face tan is highly temporary.
Little by little, it washes off - in the gym, while shaving or even when you wash your face.
I suggest you get a self-tanning lotion that is specifically meant for your face.
I have been doing this for over a decade, especially in my mid and late 20's when I went out a lot.
This is the facial self-tanning lotion I recommend -
Use as directed.
The darker, the better.
The "light" colored lotions literally do nothing for most people.
The cool thing about these lotions is that you will see the color in about 15-20 minutes.
Try not to wear a white shirt though.
Like indoor tanning lotions, sunless tanning lotions are expensive in stores. Get it online for cheap.
How Much Time Should I Tan For?
Since tanning beds and their lights can vary significantly, it's hard to say how long you should tan for.
The best high-pressure beds (and even the good standup medium-pressure beds) will tan you plenty in just 6 minutes.
You shouldn't have to go more than 2 times a week.
Try to use the same bed so you can appropriately adjust your times.
As a rule of thumb -
Increase the amount of time by 2 minutes, every week/10 days or after you have gone at least 2 times.
You need to build up a base tan in the first few weeks so you don't burn.
If you THINK you are burning - YOU PROBABLY ARE and you should TURN OFF the bed immediately.
If you do burn, apply Extra Virgin Coconut Oil or Aloe Vera as soon as possible.
A lot of high-quality beds have a face lamp that you can turn on or off. I suggest that you turn it off after ~5 minutes (~3 minutes if your face has no prior color).
We will use safer means to tan your face.
What Should I Do Inside the Tanning Bed?
Make sure you have basic eye-protection to wear.
Quality salons will provide these for free.
Do not go in the bed without protection and think you can just close your eyes to protect your vision.
Also, I suggest you change positions at least 3 or 4 times.
If you are tanning for 12 minutes, ideally -
- lay on your back for 3 minutes
- lay on your stomach for 3 minutes
- lay on your left-side for 3 minutes
- lay on your right-side for 3 minutes
As mentioned, if there is a face lamp - turn it off after ~5 minutes.
Standup beds don't have a face lamp to turn off but the sunlight is not as intense as a high-pressure bed.
You should be fine if you are wearing SPF 50+.
How to Tan Safely
Here's a little recap of how it's done -
- Select a High-Pressure bed or the best Medium-Pressure bed the salon has.
- Apply SPF 50+ to your face, ears and neck (25-30 minutes prior)
- Apply a Quality Tanning Lotion (0-5 minutes prior)
- Make sure you have eye protection and close your eyes - do not tan without it.
- Flip over every 3-4 minutes - no matter what.
(on your back, on your stomach, on both sides)
- Turn off the face lamp at 5 minutes.
- * Apply post-tan Coconut Oil or Aloe AFTER you get home.
- Apply a Quality Facial Self-Tanning Lotion, as needed.
What About Melanotan?
Melanotan II is a peptide that (when combined with sunlight) can get you tan super quickly and safely.
Combining our tanning routine and Melanotan will get you extremely dark.
Probably too dark.
I don't use Melanotan very often because I tan easily, but it's worth looking into if you have fair skin -
What About Spray Tanning?
Spray tanning is just how it sounds - you get sprayed with bronzer and there are no harmful sun rays.
That's all well and good.
The only problem is it seems to wash off super quickly and it's not exactly cheap or super convenient.
If you sweat a lot, shave 1 or 2 times a week or just take regular showers - your spray tan will be gone very quickly.
Save your money for a facial self-tanning lotion, you can get better color, faster, cheaper and anytime you want.
Get the spray tan done if you need some instant color for a special event or hot party.
What About Outdoor Tanning?
Our guide can be used for outdoor, beach or poolside tanning as well.
The main thing to remember is - you need to apply the SPF ALL OVER YOUR BODY and ALL OVER YOUR FACE, every 50 minutes.
Some people just put sunblock (SPF) on one time and spend hours in the sun. That's not going to get the job done.
Tanning oil (with SPF) works well for outdoor tanning in moderate sun. Using oil in extreme sun or on your face is not a good idea however.
This was the final installment in Good Looking Loser's Guide to Inexpensive Skin Care, you can find the other entries here -
Our forum discussion on this guide and related subjects is here -