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A tanning booth is a device that emits ultraviolet radiation, which is usually for the purpose of a cosmetic tan. They are very similar to a tanning bed, but the design is intended to be used while standing up, rather than lying down. Friderich Wolff was a German scientist who discovered tanning beds in 1978, causing the beds to gain popularity and leading to be manufactured ever since. Majority of the brands that are used today are called the Wolff tanning beds.
Tanning booths generally use 160 watt VHO (Very High Output) or 180 watt VHO-R (Very High Output with Reflector) lamps, which are similar to the Mediterranean sun during midday.
Typically the less expensive systems use standard 100 watt HO (High Output) or RUVA (Reflector UVA) lamps. Many people confuse "VHO-R" and "VHR ", with the latter being a trademark of Cosmedico lamps for their versions of the VHO-R lamps.
The average tanning booth has about 32 to 56 lamps with approximately 10 to 20 minute tanning sessions, versus tanning beds that may have on average fewer lamps with lower wattage leading to tanning times from 20 to 40 minutes.
Tanning Booths vs. Tanning Beds
Tanning booths are often quite similar to tanning beds, but tanning booth are vertical rather than horizontal. Amongst the two, there are other generally differences. Most tanning booths use a higher watt (VHO) and VHO-R lamp, which consume 160 and 180 watts, while majority of tanning beds use 100W HO lamps. Many users prefer to use tanning booths over tanning beds because it results in a better tan, easier movements, and no physical contact with the light bulbs.
Most booths do not have a reflector system behind the lamps because they use the VHO-R lamps, which have a more effective reflector built inside the lamp itself. This forces all the light to be focused out of the front of the lamp, reducing lost UV from phase cancellation. This is where two opposing waves (in this case, UV) that are out of phase with each other, partially cancelling each other out. Because of this, it results in a loss of net UV that reaches the user.
Another difference that is not as obvious is that there are no pressure points when tanning inside a booth. A person using a tanning bed is supported by the acrylic, and in these areas the blood flow is reduced. Melanin production is somewhat reduced in these areas leading to a tan that is not completely even. For most individuals, this isn't very obvious but certain individuals will experience circular areas with slight but noticeably less tan in those pressure areas. Most (but not all) tanning booths do not have acrylics and instead use a wire mesh to protect the user from the lamps. Although this results in a somewhat higher UV transmission, it does not offer the same protection that a solid acrylic sheet offers.
Furthermore, it is very common for tanning booths to have shorter exposure times than tanning beds. This is partially due to the higher use of the 160-180 watt lamps, which produce more UVA and UVB than a 100w lamp, which is found in tanning beds. Another factor is that most of the manufacturers use a higher UVB style lamp. Because the FDA regulates exposure time, using a method that biases against UVB (for all tanning units) reduces the average exposure time from the traditional 15–20 minutes, to 10–15 minutes, with times continuing to decrease. Tanning booths are subject to the same regulations as tanning beds, including posting the suggested time exposure in a conspicuous place on the tanning unit, and in the original owners manual.
Tanning booths are not as common as tanning beds; generally they cost significantly more, and are not as comfortable because the user stands while inside the booth. This limits the adoption of tanning booths over tanning beds particularly in the residential market, where comfort and price are primary considerations for purchasing. There are no published statistics on the number of booths sold versus tanning beds because all U.S. tanning bed manufacturers are private companies; causing these numbers to be considered proprietary. Anecdotal evidence would indicate that less than 10% of the tanning units in professional tanning salons are booths.
One reason professional salons may choose a booth over a bed is the amount of space required, as a booth requires significantly less square footage than a bed. Also, many booths have the option of a dressing room attached to the unit, which means the salon owner isn't required to build a special room to house the unit. This reduces their initial cost to install and often offsets the higher cost of the unit.
Although indoor and outdoor tanning is looked down upon, there are substantial benefits. However, the risks still (talked about below) out weigh the positives, here are some of the benefits from the UV rays:
- Increasing Vitamin D levels- vitamin D is found in the sun's natural ray, along with the bulbs in beds and booth, which helps boost the vitamin D levels in the body that help prevent the risk of heart disease
- Making acne less noticeable- this has been an controversial topic, which many people believe that the rays clear acne. However, that is not the case, the rays help darken the skin, which gives the skin a darker complexion allowing acne to be less noticeable
- Psoriasis- the UV rays help slow down the production of new keratin cells, decreasing the amount of skin shed
- Whitens Teeth- tanning salons offer whitening strips to help whiten teeth, while smiling in the bed or booth. Also, many people notice their teeth are whiter due to a darker skin complexion
- Self Esteem- the reason many prefer to tan is due to boosting their confidence by color. Majority of people like a darker complexion, which is why they choose to spend long hours in the UV light
As with any device that emits ultraviolet, there are risks, especially with overexposure. Tanning booths are not safer than tanning beds, due to the basic mechanics being the same. For information, see sun tanning for a complete list of the potential hazards associated with tanning indoors or out.
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer, advance skin ageing and wrinkling, photokeratitis, bacteria risk, mutate DNA, and reduce immune system response. Frequent tanning bed use triples the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Children and adolescents who use tanning beds are at greater risk because of biological vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation. Lacking the use of eyewear, increases the risk of causing arc eye. This can cause severe pain, itching, and corneal flash burn. Many people underestimate the risk of bacterial infections. If improper sanitations occur after the use of beds, people have a higher risk developing sexually transmitted diseases, acne, or skin infections.
The US Public Health Service states that UV radiation, including the use of sun lamps and sun beds is "known to be a human carcinogen." It further states that the risk of developing cancer in the years after exposure is greatest in people under 30 years old.
The regulation of tanning use with ultra-violet lamps has increased, particularly for people under 30 years of age. This is due to the greatly increased risk of skin cancers that has occurred in young adults. Some jurisdictions, i.e. the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland), California, and Australia, have banned the use of tanning booths and beds by those under eighteen.
In February 2012, the state Government of New South Wales in Australia announced its intention to ban new solariums (including tanning beds), starting in 2014. This excludes the use by medical professionals or privately owned system. In Queensland in Australia, announced a ban on commercial solariums and tanning beds starting in 2013.
- Tanning lotions – applied by rubbing lotion, which exfoliates the skin by dying the dead skin cells; creating a fake tan
- Air brush – using a spray method to dye the dead skin cells, which also creates a fake tan
- Bronzer – a makeup product that is usually applied by powder, which creates a darker complexion
- Natural Sun – although this can still lead to the risks that are explained above, the sun has 1/10 as many rays as indoor tanning and allows less damage to the skin
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- Title 12 CFR 1040.20 US FDA regulations that cover tanning lamps and devices