If it's your first time in a tanning salon, all the different types of beds to choose from can be overwhelming. One common point of confusion is the difference between bronzing beds and regular tanning beds.
Bronzing and tanning beds are meant to imitate natural UV rays from the sun. Since the beds can't use real sunlight, UV bulbs are substituted. The two types of UV rays used in bronzing and tanning beds are UVA and UVB.
UVA and UVB
UVA rays have longer wavelengths and penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays. Because UVB only affects the top layer of skin, it tends to create a reddish tan or even a burn. UVA rays reach deeper, oxidizing and browning the melanin in your skin.
Most regular tanning beds contain bulbs that emit 95% UVA rays and 5% UVB rays. Because of the relatively high level of UVB rays in regular tanning beds, they are more likely to result in burning or a more reddish tan.
Bronzing beds contain 2% UVB rays or less. They will bronze the melanin deep in your skin as well as the top layer of dead skin, developing a long lasting tan but also providing an immediate bronzing effect.
Regular tanning beds are best for developing a base tan because they allow you to tan more quickly. Once your base tan is established, switch over to a bronzing bed occasionally to help your tan darken.
The FDA warns that there is no such thing as a "safe tan." Extensive studies suggest that tanning increases your risk of skin cancer greatly. Contrary to popular belief, tanning does not protect you from sunburns or other types of sun damage.
Maureen McKamey is a Junior at Drake University, where she studies broadcast news. She just got back from spending a semester in Tunisia, where she studied Arabic and Arab media. McKamey hopes to one day be an investigative reporter or a foreign correspondent. She can't live without hockey or good dark chocolate.