How Many Times Should I Tan in a Tanning Bed the First Week?

Using a tanning bed always poses a risk of causing skin cancer and damaging your skin. The first week of tanning is a particularly dangerous time, because your skin is at its most sensitive, and you may be tempted to tan excessively to get a jump-start on your tan. Tanning beds vary in intensity, so the Food and Drug Administration requires each tanning bed to include information about how often you can use it.

Recommended Frequency

When you arrive at a tanning salon for your first week of tanning, check the product label of your tanning bed. Because the sunlamps used in tanning beds do not emit ultraviolet light of the same intensity, the FDA requires the product label to include recommended exposure times and usage frequency. Do not exceed the recommendations on this label. The FDA recommends that during the first week of tanning you limit your exposure to fewer minutes than the product label recommends. As your tan builds, you can gradually increase the duration of your exposure, never exceeding the recommended limit. Many tanning salons allow clients to tan all seven days of their first week of tanning, but the FDA says not to tan more than three times during the first week and not to tan on consecutive days. The product labels should reflect this, but some manufacturers print labels recommending fewer or more than three days. Follow the product label if it recommends fewer than three days, but follow the FDA's guidelines if the label recommends more than three days.

If you follow these instructions, you may not notice a tan building until after all three sessions. This is normal and healthier than trying to achieve a tan in only one session. After you become tan, whether in the first week or afterward, the Food and Drug Administration recommends reducing your tanning frequency to only once each week (see reference 1), although you may tan for the full exposure length listed on the product label.

Warning for Teenagers

Teenagers are more likely to develop skin problems and cancer from tanning than adults. The FDA recommends against any tanning for teenagers, but says that if teenagers tan anyway, they should use shorter exposure times and tan less often. Because many tanning salons require parental permission for people under 18, parents should monitor their teenagers' tanning.