Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Fake Tan vs. Sunbed

This article leads us to the big debate.
Sun-bedding versus fake tanning offers many a dispute among my college friends/family/people I don't even know and I. This conversation topic has inspired me to research and write about it due to the longstanding opinions surrounding it.

Despite what a lot of people say, there are still many individuals who prefer using sun beds to a fake tanning lotion. It’s hard to believe with the amount of orange people you see today, but usually there can be up to a fifteen minute wait in many local sun bed salons.

Most of you will probably know how sun beds work, but here’s a short rundown of them.
The strobe lighting tubes in the beds emit ultraviolet radiation, both UVA and UVB, and these rays have ten to fifteen times greater intensity than the sun at midday. The reason these rays are more likely to cause skin cancer is because the radiation penetrates much further into the skin cells, causing both gene damage and skin cancer. 6,709 cases of malignant melanoma occur each year in the UK alone.

The main advantage of using sun beds is that you get an all over even natural tan for less money than a fake tan, it looks a lot better and it doesn’t streak, go patchy, wash off in water or disintegrate with a hard workout.

The best way to stay safe on a sun bed is to use sun cream. You are advised by the assistants in the tanning shop not to use it on the sun beds but this is generally because if they ‘forget’ to clean it after each use, they get complaints. They also sell tiny little pots of tan accelerator, that range from about £1.50-£5 and only last one session (you can buy a whole bottle for around £10), to boost their profits. Sun cream does in fact help to protect you from the UVA /UVB rays and stops you burning, plus if you buy a factor 15 cream then it protects but doesn’t block the rays completely (sun block on the other hand prevents the UVA/UVB rays from entering your skin and makes it completely pointless to use the beds). Eye goggles are provided in each cubicle, usually along with moisturiser/make up remover for each customer. Most people tend not to use the goggles on the lower intensity beds but it can cause eye damage on the higher ones or with frequent use, so it shouldn’t really be risked.

Spray tans. They usually last about a week with the best care, and they are also much more high maintenance. You are unable to shave less than 24 hours before getting them and it is also not advised to use deodorants or perfumes as this can make the tan discolour. In addition, up to eight hours after the tan is applied you shouldn’t; shower, use deodorant, perfume, soap, work up a sweat, etc and it is also better to wear no clothes until it has really dried and finished on your skin. After this you have to shower and exfoliate daily, pat yourself completely dry before dressing and then moisturise twice a day. Your bathwater also goes brown/orange and it can begin to blotch. Although maintaining your skin like this is beneficial anyway and does definitely not damage your skin, it is probably not the best tan for a busy person with little spare time, and a lot of effort. There is also the increased chance that you choose the wrong colour for your skin and unlike moisturising tans in shops, it takes a long time to wash off and it is almost impossible to scrub off without damaging your skin. Furthermore, unless the spray tanner is a professional, the appliers are not good enough to ensure there are no streaks, plus there is the issue of body confidence and being semi/naked around a stranger once a week.

When I was in school there was one girl who frequently got spray tans by a professional, and they were always streaky. One time my teacher announced to the class ‘does she know that she’s that colour?’ when she left the room to go to the toilet and further questioned her upon her return, asking if she had been to Barbados for the weekend.

I myself do use sun beds. I prefer having a natural even tan and a healthy (questionable!) glow. I know all about the disadvantages of sun beds and really worry about my health at times, especially as I try to go every other day for eight minutes at each time. I always apply sun cream to under my breasts and my tummy as that’s where I usually burn. Once my tan has built up to my desired colour I start going once a week instead. A lot of people who attend my college are orange from spray tanning and all the boys think they look ridiculous, especially as they continue to use their natural skin colour foundation and it makes them look even worse!

It costs me about £5.40 a go on the sun bed and there are always really friendly staff who give me advice whether I ask for it or not. Once, my friend came with me whilst I went on and they told her that she wasn’t to go on a bed (not that she insinuated she wanted to, she’s ginger and doesn’t tan at all) which has reassured me that the assistants really do care about the safety of their clients. At around £20 a week, it is the same cost as an average spray tan, therefore for me it’s definitely not about the money.

Recently, a couple of friends have started coming tanning with me after commenting on my glow, and they have become noticeably more tanned too, and love it! (I didn’t encourage it, and told them the common advantages and disadvantages of using them).

WARNING: sun beds are definitely addictive and should be used with extreme precaution, care and attention as to how long they are used per session. You should make sure to ask a tanning assistant for advice before using a bed.

What are your opinions on tanning? What are your tanning rituals? To tan or not to tan, that is the question...


  1. I have always loved baking in the sun. But since living in London and realizing that the UK summer sun gave me a dirty brown tan, I moved on to sun beds. After a nasty burn on my hand with wax i stopped goin because I was scared to make the scar worse. I used to use accelerators, but after reading your blog I think i will probably switch to sun cream with some sort of spf. Do you have any reccomendations?

  2. Well being a student and not willing to pay a lot for a bottle of lotion I popped into boots and their small soltan bottle was around £4. (If you don't have a boots card I recommend it as I picked it up for free with my points) I'm quite fair skinned but my mums family is spanish, if that helps, and the cream prevents me from burning. The first time I went on the bed and didn't use sun cream, I burnt and ever since using it I've been fine! I actually went in yesterday and they convinced me to buy a pot of accelerator, so I mixed it with sun cream. Did the trick and if accelerator works for you then it will definitely be good to try out. I use SPF 15 on the bed and go on a medium-high intensity for 8 minutes. Hope this answered your question? Feel free to ask anything else :)

  3. This was a really interesting post to read. I used to be a serial tanner and I can safely say sunbeds certainly are addictive! Fake tan is very high maintenence and I hate the smell :( But then I began to worry about the implications that regular sunbeds would have to my health. Ive been cold turkey for about 8 months now! Haha :) and Im still getting used to my natural, and much paler skin. On holiday in portugal in september I literally just went a browny shade of pink after two weeks because I didnt have any sort of base tan. Meanwhile my boyfriend goes in the sun and is so brown after a couple of days!

    So yeah, Ive ditched the tan but as silly as it sounds I do miss it at times :( Im not against sunbeds or fake tan, I think there are good and bad aspects about them both but for the next while im taking a break from them both. Sorry for the huuuuge rant, and thank you for writing this post! :) xx

  4. No, I like reading comments!

    That's the same as me, I do tan but only very slightly when Im on holiday. My mum is full spanish so she basically goes black and my sister has inherited that too! I'm going to Malaga in 2 months with friends so I don't want to be pasty (even though some of them are purposely sitting in the shade!)

    I'm looking forward to when I don;t have to go to the shop so often, and just keep up the tan once a week!

    My sister told me they were addictive and we used to go together, after a few goes I was as hooked as she was! But, I get addicted to everything really easily!


  5. Ah I wish I didn't love tanning so much, I've given it up for about a month now and I already miss it badly! No fake tan compares to a real, deep "I just spent the whole day on the beach" tan :( I'm trying to stay away from sunbeds as long as I possibly can, and actually have self tanner on as I type this haha but in a perfect world they would not cause cancer or make your skin look like a leather bag haha!

    But anyway I really liked this post, I think you're one of the first people I've read from that wasn't just preaching against tanning. They are pretty awful in all honesty but after tanning regularly you can't help but approach it from a more balanced point of view because you know how addicting they are and how amazing the results look compared to the fake stuff! I love how all of your comments on this post are basically novels..aha heres one more, sorry! xxx

  6. Hi Ariel,

    I know exactly what you mean, you don't get the same satifsfaction from a fake tan, and the sun bed also creates a feeling I can't really explain - just like everyone is always happier in summer, you're always a bit happier if youve had a bit of sun (even if its fake... im not sure if that makes sense to you?)

    I haven't been on the sunbed in about 2 weeks now, the week before last until last tuesday I was soaking up the sun in the park/my mums back garden/my patch of light in my garden all day. I even covered myself in olive oil (Yes, I disgust myself...!) Now the suns gone in, I'm making a trip to the shop tomorrow morning (half price before 11am apparently.)

    I decided to write this post because I have never read a blog or article on the benefits of sunbeds (it seems like such a taboo!) and I'm sure you know where I'm coming from when I say that I would never encourage people to use them, just give friendly advice when people ask.

    I have been scared of using them a few times, particularly when an old leathery woman comes out before my session, and I think 'Oh God... I won't get like that will I?!'

    Anyway, it's okay, I really do love the essay responses, it makes me feel like the blog was actually worth writing and researching!


  7. I am kind of glad you wrote this post - it is definitely honest and a different point of view from most!

    Tbh a real tan always will look better than a self tan there is no question about it.
    BUT and it is a big but. It just isn't worth it.
    Right now you think you are being safe by using SPF but if you are tanned and you don't naturally get that tanned then you have damaged your skin.

    I really don't want to preach because I hate people that preach haha but skin cancer is the biggest form of cancer in people below the age of 30. It really is scary and hard to treat and also it so hard to detect.

    You may never ever get cancer and be lucky but if you ever did I am sure you would think having a real tan just wasn't worth it.
    Anyways i'll stop preaching!

    Interesting post though :)

    Fee xx

  8. Haha thanks, I get this a lot though and I have taken all this into consideration etc. I just always come back with 'ketchup and toothpaste can give you cancer too!' It makes me feel better and also reminds me that you can actually get cancer from so many things that it is better not to think about it, for fear I will live such a restricted life! My philosophy is to have a good life and fun whilst I can :) xxx


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