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Sunbeds

Professional sunbeds come in different shapes and sizes. There are two main categories: horizontal, lay-down sunbeds and vertical stand-up units. Both have their advantages, based on your personal preferences and tanning goals.

Most professional salons segment their sunbeds into levels, based on tanning power, amenities and other factors. These units fulfill varying roles in the tanning process most effectively, and can be used in combination for optimal tanning results. Various additional sunbed features and amenities that can improve tanning and comfort include mix of UVA and UVB, facial lamps, reflectors, sound systems, body mist and more.

Sunbeds, like outdoor sunlight, emits UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) light. Of the UV light emitted by the sun at noon in the summer in Canada: 95 percent is UVA and 5 percent is UVB. More than 90 percent of professional indoor tanning units emit about 95 percent UVA and 5 percent UVB in regulated dosages similar to summer sun. UV light is the same whether artificially produced or from the sun. A UV tan is a natural protection from overexposure. The only difference is the intensity and controlled environment of a sunbed.

Recommended exposure schedules developed by the manufacturer under the guidance of Health Canada allow trained sunbed operators to set incremental exposure times, based on the “skin type” of a patron, that deliver consistent non-burning dosages of UV light to allow a tanner to gradually build a tan.

Total UV Output = UV Intensity x Duration of Exposure

While tanning units may be 2-3 times as intense as summer sun, the duration of exposure is controlled, and thus the total UV output is controlled, to minimize the risk of sunburn.

UV Tanning is Not For Everyone

Less than 5 percent of North Americans are what is called Skin Type 1 – which includes people of Northern European heritages (some Irish or English people, for example) whose skin is so fair that it cannot tan. Canadian indoor tanning protocol is not to allow these people to use UV tanning equipment in salons, and our skin type questionnaire identifies them. However there is great news for those with Type 1 skin. Spray-on tanning systems are so advanced, that they can still acquire a natural looking tan with new spray tanning technology.

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Sunbed Exposure Schedule

A typical indoor tanning exposure schedule for a 20 minute maximum piece of equipment allows a professional sunbed operator to gradually increase the exposure times of a sunbather over the course of the sunbather’s regimen based on the individual’s skin type.

Once you know your skin type, find the exposure schedule posted at any JCTA Professional Sunbed Salon to determine the proper session duration for you.

Example only - exposure schedules may vary by type of equipment.

Tanning Salon Responsibility

Trained operators’ control all tanning exposure times, minimizing a client’s risk of overexposure and sunburn, and require tanners to use Health Canada-compliant protective eyewear, which eliminates the risk of eye injury.

All clients undergo comprehensive evaluations, including identifying their sun sensitivity (skin type). Clients also are taught about photosensitizing medications, which can potentially make a person more susceptible to sunburn.

Clients are taught sunburn prevention and the appropriate use of outdoor chemical sunscreens. This education, combined with the fact that a tan is nature’s protection against sunburn, is why indoor tanning clients are up to 81 percent less likely to sunburn outdoors as compared to non-tanners, according to surveys.

Clients are presented with material outlining the potential risks of overexposure to UV light and sign informed consent agreements acknowledging this.

Indoor Sunbather's Rights

I have the right to use a sunbed; one that has been professionally cleaned and sanitized
I have the right to know my skin type
I have the right to a trained technician controlling my exposure time based on skin type and past sunbathing history
I have the right to protective eyewear that will help protect my eyes
I have the right to industry leading products to help me sunbathe responsibly and maintain my skin
I will not sunburn

Myths About Indoor Sunbathing

  • Myth #1: All dermatologists oppose indoor sunbathing

    Around three million North American indoor tanners are referred by their doctors and dermatologists for cosmetic skin conditions. Many of these local dermatologists believe as we do, that moderate exposure to UV is okay and sunburn should be avoided.

  • Myth #2: Any tan is damage

    Tanning is a natural and intended body function. Our bodies were designed to receive sunlight and creating a tan is part of that process. Saying that sunlight is dangerous and should be avoided is like saying that water causes drowning, and therefore we should avoid water.

  • Myth #3: Sunbathing is addictive

    So is eating, drinking, breathing, sex… well, you get the point. Research has shown that when we’re exposed to UVB light, endorphins are produced in our brain making us feel good. These same endorphins are produced with other natural activities too.

    All living things naturally crave sunlight exposure. There’s a good reason for all of us feeling better when the sun is shining and it’s not dark and gloomy. Calling tanning an addiction is a bit of a distortion on something that’s natural and intended.

  • Myth #4: Sunbathing is just like smoking cigarettes

    Unlike exposure to UV light, inhaling toxins found in tobacco is an unnatural process. Our bodies weren’t designed to process these toxins and smoking has been proven to “cause” many diseases including lung cancer. Making this comparison really downplays the dangers associated with cigarette smoking.

    Studies linking tanning to increased risks of skin cancer are complex. To date, there are no studies proving a “causal” relationship between moderate sunbathing and melanoma skin cancer. This doesn’t mean the indoor sunbathing industry doesn’t believe there are risks or that we should ignore existing science. That is why we inform all patrons of the potential risks associated with indoor sunbathing in our consent forms, equipment labels, signage and educational materials.

    NOTE: If tanning were like cigarette smoking, why do dermatologists continue to use sunbeds in their offices to treat non-life threatening skin conditions? Wouldn’t that be like prescribing cigarettes to treat acne?

  • Myth #5: Sunbeds are different than sunshine

    Mid-day summer sunlight is made up of 95% UVA light and 5% UVB light. More than 90% of sunbeds emit the same thing but in slightly higher doses, usually 2-3 times more intense. That’s why professional sunbathing salons control the duration of your total exposure based on the UV output of the tanning unit.

    It’s simple math. Your total exposure to the sun or a sunbed is based on the intensity of the UV light multiplied by the total exposure time. So if the sunbed you’re using is two times more powerful than sunlight, your indoor sunbathing professional will carefully adjust your exposure time to at least half of the non-burning exposure you would want to get outdoors in summer sunlight.

There’s a lot of information floating around about indoor sunbathing. Unfortunately, a lot of it is inaccurate. So here’s the real story behind the biggest misconceptions about UV light and indoor sunbathing.

Do you have a question you need answered? Click here.

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Sun Tanning | Pre-Tan

The primary goal of every trained tanning professional is to teach sunburn prevention to every client. Building a gradual suntan actually creates three different forms of natural protection against sunburn:

  • Melanin pigment is produced in outer skin cells after being exposed to sunlight. Melanin literally enshrouds and shields skin cells in the epidermis, protecting each cell from getting too much UV exposure.
  • After sun exposure, Extra keratin migrates to the surface of the skin, thickening it, which makes the skin naturally more resistant to sunburn.
  • Vitamin D for immunomodulation and DNA repair.

These three steps combine to create a powerful natural sunscreen that doesn’t wash off quickly. One benefit of indoor tanning is that trained operators can give a tanner controlled UV exposure to gradually develop this sunscreen – often called a “pre-tan” – while minimizing the risk of sunburn. This acclimatization is used by outdoors workers and vacationers to reduce their risk of overexposure.

The value of a base tan, as millions of sunbed users know, is that it adds another layer to your sunburn protection arsenal – making chemical sunscreen worn outdoors for outings on sunny days even more effective at preventing sunburn. Here’s how that works:

  • The effectiveness of chemical sunscreen products are measured in what is called “Sun Protection Factor” (or SPF). An SPF 15 product means a user can spend 15 times longer in the sun while wearing sunscreen before they would sunburn if applied correctly.
  • Say, for example, a sunbed user begins tanning under the direction of a trained salon operator following the exposure schedule of that piece of equipment (average start time 2 to 3 minutes). After about a month that tanner may gradually develop a tan and works her/his way up to the maximum session time. At this point, she/he becomes naturally on average SIX TIMES more resilient to sunburn than when she first started tanning. So that tan has an SPF 6 value (BC Health Ministry Report 2012).
  • When someone with a base tan uses sunscreen outdoors, they essentially multiply the sunburn-prevention effectiveness of the sunscreen. In other words, an SPF 15 product applied to the skin correctly of a person whose base tan has already made her six times more resilient to sunburn creates a net SPF of 60. (SPF 15 x 6 = SPF 90).

That’s the reason so many indoor tanning clients come to salons in the winter and spring prior to sunny vacations. In sunny environments many fair-skinned people can sunburn during normal outdoor activities even while wearing chemical sunscreen. But with a base tan their chemical sunscreen becomes more effective and they are much less likely to sunburn.

It is highly recommended that you PreTan for at least 10 sessions, and start a month before your vacation to get the maximum results.

More Information

Vitamin D

It's 'The Sunshine Vitamin'

For more than 750 million years living organisms on Earth have manufactured vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. No other vitamin is produced that way. That’s why Vitamin D is known as “The Sunshine Vitamin” and most sunbeds, just like sunlight, emit enough UVB light to trigger natural vitamin D production in your skin.

While indoor sunbathing is used to make you look and feel great, an undeniable effect of this service is that indoor sunbathers manufacture sufficient levels of vitamin D. In fact, one single UV session can create as much vitamin D as 100 glasses of milk.

Dr. Reinhold Vieth, retired from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said this about sunlight and sunbeds in a court affidavit:

“sunbeds and summer sunshine are effective means by which to increase our serum 25(OH)D levels. The advantage of a tanning bed is that exposure to UV light can be controlled more precisely than casual sun exposure and thus can be safer than advising the public to guess at their own sun exposure from sunlight.”

There are also thousands of resources available for you to learn more about vitamin D. Here’s a few to get you started:

While you may not need to become tan to make vitamin D from sunlight/sunbeds, and while vitamin D supplements are another option, you should know that most people who tan in equipment that emits UVB will make vitamin D and other photoproducts.

Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen is an important product for outdoor sun care and sunburn prevention. But using chemical sunscreen appropriately is equally as important. Sunscreen is a chemical-based product like cough syrup — you use it only when you need it. Cough syrup is used when you are suppressing a cold, but daily use would be silly. Likewise, chemical sunscreen should only be used when sunburn is possible. Over-use is just as silly. And kids and parents today know that.

A JCTA Member Salon teaches proper sunscreen usage as part of a total skin care regimen. Chemical sunscreen should be used to prevent sunburn – period. Using chemical sunscreen every day, even when sunburn isn’t possible, isn’t a good idea for several reasons. For one, chemical sunscreen blocks your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, one of the most important hormones in your body. Plus, the chemicals found in most sunscreen products don’t just sit on top of your skin. These chemicals penetrate beyond your skin and gets into your body and bloodstream.

For further information on proper use of the Sunscreen and their effectiveness, click here.

To find out more, read the Environmental Working Group’s conclusions on sunscreen usage and do your own homework.

Managing Risks

Moderation is Key.

Almost anything we experience in life comes with risks and indoor sunbathing is no exception. That’s why professional sunlight facilities promote a balanced message about indoor sunbathing and educate their patrons about the potential risks of UV overexposure.

Professional sunlight salons believe in teaching moderation and sunburn prevention to minimize the risks associated with UV exposure. Getting you a beautiful tan starts with educated skin care technicians evaluating your skin type, setting a moderate exposure schedule, issuing protective eyewear and implementing other safety screening techniques.

Sunbathing customers are required to read and sign consent forms that include warnings about potential risks associated with indoor sunbathing. Health Canada requires a warning label to be affixed to every piece of equipment to makes sure everyone knows the risk and can also be found posted in other general areas.

To find out more about the risks associated with a Professional salon, click here.

To read the JCTA Report on the Science of UV light, click here.

Know Your Skin Type

Your smart tanning regimen begins with determining your particular skin type.

Take the Skin Type Quiz