How to Protect Your Face in a Tanning Bed?

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By Faiq

While a tan can boost your confidence and make you feel beach-ready, it’s crucial to prioritize safety, especially when using a tanning bed. The facial skin is delicate and more prone to sun damage compared to the rest of the body.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on protecting your face during indoor tanning sessions:

Blocking UV Rays: The Two Main Approaches

There are two primary methods to shield your face from ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by tanning beds:

Face Masks:


Forget the awkward towel drape! For face protection during tanning sessions, consider a specially designed, reusable tanning mask. These innovative facial coverings are crafted from breathable cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics, providing a comfortable physical barrier against harmful UV rays.

This allows you to tan worry-free, knowing your delicate facial skin is shielded while you achieve your desired bronze.  Plus, the reusability factor makes them an eco-friendly and cost-effective choice for your tanning needs.

Choosing the Right Mask: 

Forget the floppy towel! For optimal face protection during indoor tanning, a well-fitting face mask with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating is your best bet. Look for masks that shield your entire face, including the forehead, nose, and lips. A snug but comfortable fit is crucial to prevent light leakage.

Adjustable straps and a secure fit around the eyes ensure no UV rays sneak in. Some masks even come with removable eye pads for an even look across your eyelids. By prioritizing a high-quality mask, you can achieve a safe and bronzed tan with peace of mind.


For facial protection during tanning, skip the greasy reapplications! Face masks made with tightly woven fabrics act as a physical UV shield. Look for broad-spectrum options to block both aging UVA and burning UVB rays.

Masks reduce sunscreen needed, especially around sweaty areas like the nose, but don’t skip it entirely! Apply sunscreen to exposed areas like ears and neck, and reapply to hands after removing the mask.

Image illustrating Face Masks for Tanning Bed



Forget the harmful rays! Achieve a beautiful bronzed look with a self-tanner. These sunless alternatives work by reacting with the amino acids in your skin’s top layer to produce a natural-looking tan that develops in days.  Self-tanners are a great way to get that summer glow for your face without the risk of sunburn or premature aging.  

Choosing a Self-Tanner: 

Unlike sunscreens that block UV rays, self-tanners deliver a sun-kissed glow through a chemical reaction with your skin’s amino acids.The key to a natural-looking tan is choosing the right formula for your skin type.

Lotions, creams, and gels come in various shades, so opting for a gradual tanner allows you to build the perfect color without risking an orange disaster. 

A patch test on your jawline or behind the ear is crucial to check for allergic reactions before slathering it all over.  Remember, self-tanners won’t protect you from UV rays, so sunscreen is still your best friend!


For those who prefer a sun-kissed look without UV exposure, self-tanner offers a safe alternative. The key to a natural-looking tan lies in exfoliation. Removing  dead skin cells creates a smooth canvas for even application. Apply a thin layer of self-tanner with a makeup applicator or mitt, blending thoroughly to avoid streaks. 

Be mindful of areas like the hairline, eyebrows, and around the nostrils – a cotton swab can help with targeted application in these delicate zones. Remember, a gradual build-up is key –  applying multiple thin layers over a few days is better than a single heavy coat.

Additional Safe Tanning Practices:

Goggles are Essential: 

Forget sunglasses! Indoor tanning emits concentrated UV rays at unexpected angles. Invest in snug-fitting tanning goggles specifically designed for indoor tanning. These provide superior protection for your eyes compared to regular sunglasses, shielding them from harmful UVA and UVB rays during your tan.

Shorter Sessions, Slower Results:

While the allure of a quick bronzed glow is tempting, remember: indoor tanning uses intense UV radiation to stimulate melanin production in your skin, essentially the same process as outdoor tanning.  Unlike the sun’s gradual increase in intensity, tanning beds bombard your skin with UV rays in short bursts.

To achieve a natural-looking tan safely, opt for shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration based on your skin type and dermatologist’s recommendations.  Overdoing it can lead to burning and premature aging, so prioritize safe practices over speed for a beautiful, long-lasting tan.

Moisturize Regularly:

Contrary to popular belief, a tan isn’t just about UV exposure. Healthy tanning, whether indoors or outdoors, requires proper hydration to prevent your skin from drying out. As a skincare enthusiast, I’ve noticed a significant difference since incorporating a daily moisturizer into my routine.

Look for fragrance-free and oil-free options packed with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides to keep your skin plump and hydrated throughout the tanning process.  This will not only make your tan look glowy but also contribute to overall skin health.  Moisturizing regularly is an often-overlooked yet crucial step for a safe and beautiful tan.

Know Your Limits:

Unlike outdoor tanning, tanning beds emit concentrated UV rays. Sun-sensitive skin burns faster, so listen to your body! Itching, burning, or redness are signs of sunburn. A family history of skin cancer or even one bad sunburn increases your risk.

If you experience any discomfort during a session, stop immediately and consult a dermatologist. Remember, a safe tan is a gradual tan!

Risks and Benefits of Indoor Tanning:

Indoor tanning offers a quick route to a tan, but as a dermatologist who’s seen the consequences firsthand, I urge caution. Tanning beds emit intense UV radiation, far exceeding the summer sun.

This ups your risk for premature aging (think wrinkles!), and more importantly, skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) strongly advises against indoor tanning due to these very real health risks.

Alternatives for a healthy glow:


Forget the tanning bed!  For a safe, glowing alternative, consider self-tanner. Unlike UV exposure in tanning beds, self-tanner delivers a bronzed look without the risk of premature aging or skin cancer.

Many self-tanners are formulated with natural ingredients these days, ditching the harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances that can irritate skin.

As a dermatologist who has seen the damage UV exposure can cause, I wholeheartedly recommend self-tanner as a safer way to achieve that summery glow.

Spray Tanning

Forget the tanning bed! If you crave a bronzed look, consider a spray tan. Unlike tanning beds that expose your face to harmful UV rays, a professional can give you a beautiful, even tan with a specialized solution. The best part? You can customize the shade for a natural-looking glow, minus the long-term skin damage.

Spend Time Outdoors Safely

While tanning beds offer a quick bronzed look, they come with significant skin cancer risks.  For a healthy glow that won’t damage your skin, consider embracing the outdoors safely.

By following basic sun safety measures like wearing protective clothing and seeking shade during peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm), you can gradually achieve a natural tan. 

Remember, sunscreen is still essential! Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher liberally and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.  This approach may take longer, but it’s a safe and sustainable way to achieve a beautiful tan.


Unlike outdoor tanning, where sunscreen is your main defense, protecting your face during indoor tanning requires a two-pronged approach.  While strategically applying sunscreen to exposed areas like the ears and neck is crucial, facial skin is thinner and more vulnerable.

To minimize risks of premature aging and skin cancer, consider utilizing face masks with a high UPF rating. These physical barriers lessen the need for constant sunscreen reapplication, especially around sweaty zones. However, for a truly healthy-looking glow, remember sunscreen is still vital for protected areas.

If compromising your skin’s health isn’t worth the tan, prioritize safety by exploring safer alternatives like self-tanner. Discuss your desired look and any sun exposure concerns with a dermatologist to create sun safety practices that work for you.

Check also: Why Does My Face Not Tan? Unveiling the Mystery…!

Frequently asked Questions

Are face masks safe for tanning beds?

Yes, face masks specifically designed for tanning beds offer a physical barrier against UV rays. Look for masks with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 50+ for optimal protection.

What type of sunscreen should I use with a face mask?

Even with a mask, apply a thin layer of sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to any exposed areas around the edges, like the ears and neck. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen for UVA and UVB protection. Reapply every two hours, especially if sweating.

Is self-tanner a safe alternative for tanning my face?

Self-tanner provides a safe, sunless option for a bronzed look. Choose a formula suitable for your skin type and desired shade. Patch test beforehand to check for allergies.

Can I skip the tanning goggles if I wear a face mask?

No. Goggles are essential for protecting your eyes from the strong UV rays in tanning beds. Regular sunglasses won’t provide adequate protection.

How long should my first tanning session be?

Start with short sessions (5-7 minutes) and gradually increase them over time following recommendations from the salon or a dermatologist. Avoid overdoing it for a natural-looking tan.

What kind of moisturizer should I use after tanning?

Use a fragrance-free, oil-free moisturizer daily to keep your face hydrated after tanning. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides to retain moisture.

Can I use a regular face mask (like a sheet mask) for tanning?

No. Regular face masks aren’t designed for UV protection and may melt or become uncomfortable during a tanning session.

Are there any health risks associated with tanning beds?

Yes. Indoor tanning exposes your skin to intense UV radiation, which can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and increase your risk of skin cancer. Consider the risks before using a tanning bed.

Should I consult a dermatologist before using a tanning bed?

Yes, especially if you have sun-sensitive skin, a history of sunburn, or a family history of skin cancer. A dermatologist can advise you on safe tanning practices or alternative ways to achieve a tan.

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