The desire for a beautiful golden tan leads many people to use indoor tanning beds. Just as the sun emits ultraviolet, or UV, radiation, tanning beds use a group of specialized light bulbs to emit a combination of UVA and UVB rays, both of which are needed to achieve a dark, lasting tan. As indoor tanning has grown more and more popular, many salons now offer a variety of tanning bed types, including bronzer tanning beds.
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For a tan to form, skin must be exposed to both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the deepest penetrating form of UV radiation, reaching all the way down to the skin's base layer. UVB rays, on the other hand, only penetrate the skin's top layer. When both types of rays are combined, a type of artificial sunlight is created, stimulating your skin's melanin and causing your skin to darken.
A regular tanning bed consists of 10 to 50 light bulbs. Each of these bulbs uses about 100 to 200 watts of electricity and typically emits about 95 percent UVA rays and 5 percent UVB rays. Bronzer tanning beds, however, use between 35 and 60 bulbs, each in the range of 160 and 220 watts. These bulbs also emit even higher levels of UVA rays, usually 98 percent.
Because of the low level of UVB rays used in them, the bulbs used in bronzer beds do not turn the skin as red as a regular tanning bed would. As a result, sunburn risk is reduced and a darker, longer-lasting tan is achieved.
Although bronzer tanning beds create a darker tan, the tan is achieved at a much slower pace than other types of tanning beds. To see results, a base tan is recommended before the use of a bronzer bed. Bronzer beds and the bronzing bulbs in them should not be confused with hot bulbs, as they work differently, emitting more UVB rays to produce a faster, but lighter, tan.
The bulbs within a bronzer tanning bed should be changed after 800 to 1,000 hours of use. Although most bulbs will produce light for 10,000 hours or more, after 1,000 hours, they no longer emit enough UV radiation to produce a tan.
While bronzer tanning beds do not emit nearly as much UV radiation as the sun, they can still cause skin damage. Even after years of use, there is still much debate regarding whether indoor tanning is a safer alternative to natural sunlight. And although UVA rays are less likely to cause sunburn, many scientists believe they are responsible for premature aging of the skin.