A high pressure tanning bed creates a deep, long-lasting tan after only a few minutes of lying in the bed. These beds use both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays to create a natural-looking tan. People who choose to tan in high pressure beds can achieve a dark skin tone after a week or two of regular tanning. There are, however, risks to tanning in a professional tanning bed.
A high pressure tanning bed differs from other types of tanning beds in that it delivers UVA and UVB lighting. UVB rays cause the skin to start producing more melanin in order to protect itself against the UVB lights. UVA rays continue to darken the natural melanin produced by the skin. Most people lay inside these types of tanning beds for three to 15 minutes a day.
If someone has never used a tanning bed before, or has very pale skin, it is advisable to lie inside a high pressure tanning bed for five minutes or less until a base tan is achieved. With each tanning bed exposure, one may gradually increase the number of minutes. High pressure tanning beds with many lights can give someone a base tan in only three to five sessions. In contrast, tanning in a regular tanning bed will gradually create browner skin over many sessions.
Lower-pressure tanning beds have higher UVB levels, which can cause sunburns in fair-skinned people. High pressure beds radiate lower levels of this lighting, so the sunburn risk is minimized. Too much UVB exposure can cause one's skin to dry out quickly and shed in just a few days, which lightens the tanned skin. UVA rays do not dry out the skin as much, so one can get darker skin faster.
Almost anyone can use this type of tanning bed, except those who cannot naturally develop a tan in the sunlight. Tanning beds are especially popular with young women. There are multitudes of oils and lotions that claim to develop deeper, darker tans in conjunction with tanning bed use.
Tanning bed operators claim that using a high pressure tanning bed is safer than lying out in the sun, but some research shows that excessive indoor tanning can cause skin cancer. People with pale complexions or Northern European ancestry develop skin cancer at higher rates than darker-skinned individuals. Other risks of tanning bed usage include hives, allergic reactions, bacterial or viral infections and eye damage.