Uva Vs. Uvb Tanning Beds

Over 11 million Americans visit tanning salons annually, each hoping to emerge with a glamorous, bronze tan. Instead of sitting outside in natural sunlight for hours, people can spend mere minutes in tanning equipment and achieve the same result. There are two types of tanning beds that mimic the UVA and UVB rays from the sun. While both of these will help tanners achieve their desired darkness, there are many differences between the two beds.

Ultraviolet Rays

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a part of the light spectrum from the sun. There are three types of UV: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVA and UVB both reach the earth, UVC is usually absorbed by the ozone layer. UVA and UVB both contribute to tanning of the human skin. UVA is the dominant tanning ray which produces the golden tan. When people notice their skin turning red and develop a sunburn, this is due to UVB. Both UVA and UVB rays are found in tanning units across America.

UVA Tanning Beds

Many tanning salons offer UVA tanning beds which offer their clients a quick, burn-free tan. These beds are often referred to as "high-pressure" tanning units. UVA tanning beds typically have less than 1% UVB rays, making it virtually impossible to burn the skin. The UVA beds are made from quartz lamps, filter, and reflector systems. Due to this, UVA beds tend to be a bit more expensive than the regular tanning beds. A single session will run somewhere around $30 as opposed to a $5-7 session in a UVB tanning bed.


One of the more popular companies to distribute UVA tanning units is Ultrabronz. Ultrabronz offers a 24-minute bed in their 950 series. Users are encouraged to tan for the full 24 minutes regardless of their previous exposure to UV light. Most people only need three sessions to get a deep, dark tan. The company also offers the popular Sunx2 360. In this unit, the client stands for 10 to 12 minutes and receives a full tan in about five sessions. According to the company's website, Ultrabronz is the only company in the United States to manufacturer high-pressure tanning units.

UVB Tanning Beds

Despite the fast tan obtained from UVA beds, the most popular tanning units in salons are the UVB tanning beds. The UVB tanning beds contain about 93% UVA rays and 7% UVB rays. Although the UVB ray is the "burning" ray, indoor tanning sessions are timed based on the tanner's skin type and UV experience. Most first-time tanners are recommended to go the lowest amount of time to prevent burning. Once they start to develop a tan, they can tan for longer amounts of time. Most people need about 7-10 tanning sessions to develop a deep, dark tan in either a UVB bed or booth.

Wolff Tanning Equipment

Wolff tanning beds are one of the most common beds used in salons. The company offers both beds and booths. The Pro 24S is a bed that has bulbs on the top and bottom of the canopy. Sessions can last up to 20 minutes. To prevent burning, it is recommended that first-time tanners begin by tanning for eight minutes and work their way up in two-minute increments. Wolff also offers a booth called the SunDome. The SunDome is a 10-minute stand-up booth with bulbs all around the unit. With this unit, the recommended starting time is five minutes and work their way to a darker tan in one-minute increments.

Dangers of UVA and UVB Tanning Beds

Both UVA and UVB rays have been linked to skin cancer. Some people claim that UVA beds are safer because the skin does not burn, but this has not been proven. When an individual uses a tanning bed, the excessive UV radiation can produce genetic mutations, which can lead to skin cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named UV as a human carcinogen. Excessive UV radiation has been said to be as dangerous as smoking cigarettes or chimney sweeping. People who use any type of tanning bed are 1.5 times more likely to get basal cell carcinoma and 2.5 times more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma. Studies have also shown that people who begin using tanning equipment in their teens are 75% more likely to develop their melanoma risk.