Skin // everything you need to know before your first indoor tanning session

Hey Babes!


I doubt you’ve noticed, but in my most recent pictures, my skin tone is a few shades darker than from what it is naturally. Well, my secret to the nice bronze color I’ve acquired isn’t actually a secret at all. In fact, it’s not even complicated, or unusual for that matter. All I’ve done for the past two months or so, is use a tanning bed at South Beach Tanning Company. In the sun, I tan pretty easily, especially for a white girl (or at least I’d like to think so). And living in Florida, I can get a natural tan pretty dang easily, even in the “winter.” Because I lucked out in that area, I would’ve never thought that I would ever in my life use a tanning bed, even though I love being tan.

I’m that girl who refuses to use sunscreen, and lathers in tanning oil when everyone else is high SPF crazy.

To give you an idea about just how ridiculous I am, when I was in color guard my first two years of high school, I ignored all the lectures about sunscreen during the summer band camp, and bathed in tanning oil, if anything at all. Karma got me though, because the acne medication I was taking made me sensitive to the sun, and I ended up with blisters on my chest and nose, earning myself the nickname “Rudolph.”

I’m not on acne medication anymore, but when I am in the sun, I’m more likely to tan than get a really bad sunburn. If anything, my shoulders may end up a little red, but, by the next day, it has already turned to a nice brown color.

Like I said before, I never cared for tanning beds, or thought that I’d actually use one, until I was kinda sorta gifted a “free year of level one tanning” at South Beach.

Here’s what happened:

In February, there was a “Galentine’s Day” event at a popular shopping center here in Orlando. At this event, there were vendors from the center giving away info, wine and beer, coupons, and other goodies. While my mom was putting cream and sugar in the free coffee she got from the Dunkin’ Donuts booth, I wandered over to South Beach Tanning Company’s table because they had one of those fun wheels you can spin and win a prize. There was a group of ladies in front of me, and I didn’t realize that it was the acquaintances we ran into at the beginning of the event until one of them turns around and goes “Barbara* just won a free year of tanning!”

Long story short, I just so happened to be at the right place at the right time, because after I stated how lucky Barbara* was, she gave me the free year without asking for anything in return, as long as I use it.

Since that lucky day in February, I have been going to the tanning salon three days a week, religiously. I’m a huge procrastinator, and because I promised Barbara* I would use the year, I went to South Beach the very next day after the Galentine’s Day event to get my tan on.

When I got there, I realized it’s not just “tan and go,” and there’s a lot of things you need to know, and a lot of choices you have to make. I’ve got it down now, but when I first started, I had no idea what I was in for. That’s why I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about artificial tanning, so you know what to expect when you arrive for your first session.

1. Do Your Research

I didn’t really have a choice of a salon, but if you do, I advise you look into different options. Yelp and Google are good sites to go to if you want to read reviews, but keep in mind that some people just have bad experiences or bad days, so don’t let one ‘1 star’ review keep you from checking out a place. On the opposite end, a lot of good reviews seems promising, but some places, (not exclusive to tanning salons), offer incentives for a writing a ‘5 star’ review, or good review in general, so be wary of that.

Also, some less than average reviews could have been from years before, and improvements may have been made since then, such as new management or new employees. If I were you, I’d read the most recent reviews, and read them on multiple websites. Another thing you might want to do is ask around, and see if anyone you personally know has gotten a tan from a good (or bad) place. Facebook has a “looking for recommendations” feature, where you can ask your Facebook friends if they know anything about what ever advice you’re looking for.

A third thing you will probably want to try, is going to the website of the tanning salon itself. It may be biased, but you might be able to see what the prices are, or if they have any current specials going on. A certain salon may have gotten great reviews, but it could be out of your budget. In my opinion, South Beach is pretty decently priced, but they’re also promoting a $1 enrollment fee for new members, and it seems like they have deals every month. If you’re willing to wait, you might want to call the salon itself and see if an employee is able to let you in on any upcoming deals.


2. Decide What You Want

Getting a fake tan doesn’t seem all that complicated, but, believe it or not, there’s options to choose from. Such as if you want a spray tan, or the UV bed, and then, you have to pick what level you want, and if you want a membership or just one session.

Basically the higher the level, the darker the tan, so choose wisely. And, different salons may have different equipment, which means a level two at Zoom Tan may be different than a level two at Otown Tan. You also need to know that there’s a maximum time you can spend tanning, so if you’re impatient like me but want the most out of your tanning session, you may want to look into how long you’re allowed to actually tan for. At South Beach, it’s 15 minutes for levels 1 and 2, but at levels 3, 4, and 5 it’s up to 12 minutes. It goes by fast for me, especially because you can listen to music, but I know that wouldn’t be the case for a lot of people.

My initial membership was a level one bed, but South Beach is having a special this month where you can pay $10 and upgrade to the next level for the rest of the month. So on April 2nd, I paid $10 so I could tan at level two until April 31st. According to the employee working that day, the level two will make me darker, (and it has), and I’ll be maintaining it once I switch back to the level one bed.

That brings me to my next point, if you’re thinking that you’ll just pay for a one time session in a level one UV bed and be three shades darker, think again. A level one UV bed will rarely show much change after a one time use, so you’ll want to use it multiple times, even if you’re paying for each session separately. A level one spray tan, however, will change the color of your skin immediately. You should also know that if you don’t tan in the sun, you won’t see much results from a UV tanning bed, so the spray is probably the way you want to go.

When choosing the type of bed and level you want, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind, one of them being how soon you need the tan. If you want to look good for an event you’re attending, such as a wedding, prom, or a reunion, you’ll probably want to go with the sunless (spray) tan. The results are effective immediately, but they only last up to ten days depending on the level you go with. I don’t recommend tanning the day of or the day before an event. You want to make sure that the color progresses nicely, and if anything goes wrong, you can change your plans, wardrobe, or makeup accordingly.

If you’re not in a rush to get darker, you might want to go with the UV bed. Although, it takes a couple of weeks of going regularly to actually notice results. If you prefer the UV bed over a spray, and you want to be tan for an event, you should start tanning at least a month in advance.

Whether you choose a spray tan or a UV bed, there’s risks associated with each, which I’ll get to later, but, knowing the risks may sway your opinion towards one or the other. And, the way you tan in each type of bed is different, which might also sway your opinion on which one you use. In a spray tan booth, you stand while the mist sprays you, while in the UV bed, you lay down and the bed closes over you. At some salons, instead of going into a booth and having it spray you, there might be the option of having an employee apply the spray for you. If you’re getting a spray tan, you might want to know exactly how you’re going to be misted, because it might determine if you wear underwear or not.

Before my first time tanning, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to open the bed when I was done and be trapped in there for awhile trying to scream for help. To my relief, the bed didn’t close all the way and there was a tiny gap that allowed me to push it open easily. And, I even have enough room to flip over and lay on my stomach if I want to. Some beds, though, do close all the way, so if you’re claustrophobic or paranoid, you should ask the salon how far down the lid goes, or even ask to see it.



3. Be Prepared

When I arrived at South Beach to activate my free one year membership, I was under the impression that someone was going to spray me down with tanner and then I’d be good to go. But that wasn’t the case.

First of all, the membership was a level 1 UV bed, not spray. So when I got there and handed the receptionist my coupon, I had to fill out a questionnaire to determine my skin type. The only two things I remember it asking is 1) if I’m on any medications and which ones, and 2) If I’ve ever had cancer. If you are on any medications, you should talk to your doctor to see if indoor tanning is ok for you. Things like acne medication make you sun-sensitive, and there’s a good chance you’ll burn if using a tanning bed while taking it. Also, if you’ve ever had skin cancer, you absolutely can not tan, at least in the UV bed.

If you’re choosing to go with a spray type of tan, you want to make sure to wear or bring loose clothing, and if you’re tanning in the nude, you won’t want to put your bra back on, because there will be a risk of tan lines before your spray tan fully develops, which takes a few hours. If you aren’t comfortable with getting completely naked, you can wear a bra and underwear, but make sure you don’t mind getting them ruined. If you want, you can buy a cheap pair of undergarments at somewhere like Wal-Mart, just to use for spray tanning.

Since I thought I was getting a spray tan, I had brought a baggy change of clothes to change into, but, I ended up not needing them because since it was the UV light, there was no risk of rubbing and I could change back into my normal clothes. I always tan nude, but like I said before, if you aren’t comfortable with it, you can wear underwear or a bikini. Just know that you’ll get tan lines, so if you’re not ok with that, you might just want to be brave and go with nothing on. If you do wear underwear or a bathing suit, you should go with a strapless top and skimpy bottoms so the lines you get will be easier to hide with your normal clothing. You also want to be aware of any jewelry or anything you have on, such as rings on your fingers (or toes) and/or ponytail holders on your wrist.

Before your session, you want to make sure that you’re shaved and not wearing any deodorant or perfume. Be sure to moisturize well after you get your tan too, because the process can dry your skin out.

If you decided to use a UV bed, the receptionist will probably advise you to purchase a lotion. They’re a little pricey, but if you don’t use one, you won’t be maximizing the amount of tan you can get from the machine. At South Beach, there’s lotion packets you can purchase for cheaper than a whole bottle, but if you’re buying a membership and you plan to tan frequently, investing in a lotion is totally worth it. By the way, if you think you can score a better deal on Amazon, be VERY careful, because a lot of lotions that are sold at places other than authorized tanning salons are counterfeit and could be very damaging to your skin. When buying from the salon itself, you know exactly what you’re getting, and the person working should be able to tell you about the product so you know exactly what you’re getting. Better safe than sorry!

So far, I’ve purchased two lotion bottles. My first one was the “Bikini Body” by Devoted Creations. It moisturizes your skin and helps you get darker, all while toning and tightening your skin, as well as reducing the appearance of cellulite and color correcting redness. I was trying to choose between this lotion and another bottle, but I ultimately chose Bikini Body because it has aloe in it and it smells good. Not to mention I love the packaging.


The only thing I dislike about this lotion, is that even though it’s darkening, it doesn’t have bronzer in it. But, if you’re just starting out, using a lotion without bronzer is ideal, because you want to build your base tan naturally. Also, while bronzers make you darker and give you a post-tan glow, not everyone wants to look that dark, and, depending on your skin tone, you might appear orange.

My first indoor tanning lotion bottle will always have a special place in my heart, but I honestly like the second bottle I bought a lot more, which is the “Yes Way Rose.” I was choosing between that one and “Let’s Flamingle,” but the girl at the desk recommended the Yes Way Rose, so I went with that one. The main difference between this bottle and the Bikini Body bottle is that the Yes Way Rose has bronzer in it. But, if you like the fact that the Bikini Body is toning and tightening, then don’t worry, because so is this one. The reason I like the Yes Way Rose better is because it smells better and the consistency isn’t as thick, so I feel like I use less product during one session. The best thing about this lotion though, is that it is champagne and diamond infused. Luxurious right?

If you’re getting the spray tan and not the UV, you’ll still need to prep your skin before the tan is applied. When my younger sister got a spray tan, she said she had to use a PH balancing wipe to prevent orange tones and produce an even tan. She also had to put regular, non-tanning lotion on areas of the skin that are prone to ashiness, such as your heels, knees, elbows, etc. The PH balancing wipe and lotion were included in the price of the tan, so you don’t need to worry about spending extra money on a lotion bottle or packet.

For any type of sunless tan, lotion isn’t the only thing you’ll need before your session. You’ll also need a pair of goggles. The two brands I know of are “Super Sunnies” and “Podz.” The Super Sunnies are silicone and look kind of cone-like with a small round lens at the top, and while Podz has a line of goggles that look similar, they also have Soft Podz, which are all plastic and come in a little container. I have a pair of pink Soft Podz that I bought at my salon for 5 dollars, but, unlike the lotion, it’s safe to buy eyewear at Wal-Mart or Amazon.

I like my pair of Podz because they’re my favorite color, and say South Beach on the front. On the Podz website, you can find all kinds of super cute stylish goggles. Check out their “fashion collection” line, for instance.

If I were to need another pair of goggles for whatever reason, I would honestly get Soft Podz again, because I really like that they come in a rubber case with a little keychain that protects the lenses from getting cracked or scratched.

South Beach keeps my lotion bottle behind the counter for me, but I always keep my goggles in my purse so that I know I have them. If I were to change purses or something and forget them, God forbid, then luckily my salon has a disposable eyewear option you can purchase for a dollar.

The disposables are different than the normal goggles though, because instead of plastic or silicone, they’re made of paper, and are a cone shaped sticker. If you’re just trying out the tanning bed and planning to do a one time session, you should probably go with disposables in case you don’t like it. Also, if you’re planning on doing a monthly membership but don’t like the plastic/silicone eyewear, you can get a pack of 50 disposables on Amazon.

No matter what type of goggles you use, you should ALWAYS use them, or else you could really damage your eyes in the long run. To be honest with you, I did look like I had Trump eyes for awhile, but it wasn’t anything a little makeup couldn’t fix. Now, you can’t even tell I wear goggles while tanning. I know it’s weird, but I’m not complaining.


4. The Risks

Now, last but not least, the most infamous thing about fake tans: risk factors. You should know that being in the sun’s UV rays causes skin cancer, hence the reason you’re “supposed” to use sunscreen any time you’re going to be exposed to the sun, even if it’s just a brisk walk. But since you don’t use sunscreen when you tan in a UV bed, your risk for cancer is much higher if you go tanning often. You’re also at a higher risk if you have a family history of melanoma.

And, if you think getting a tan sprayed/airbrushed on is safer than being in the UV bed, do your research, because there’s dangers to mist tans as well. Spray tans have an ingredient in them called DHA, which is not harmful to the skin itself, but if it gets in your eyes or mouth, it can cause irritation and other side effects such as upset stomach and lightheadedness. Which is why you want eye protection when you’re spray tanning as well as tanning in the UV bed.


To sum things up, indoor tanning looks great and feels glamorous, but there’s a lot of info and supplies you need, like which type of tan you want, what level, and which lotion and protective eyewear you’re going to use.


Ok so, I know this was a long read, and if you got through it all, thanks for sticking with me.

Tell me this Babes: Do you like indoor tanning? Would you ever consider getting a fake tan? Why or why not?

Let me know in the comments! See ya later!


dress well. eat well. live well.




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