Why Doesn’t My Face Tan in the Tanning Bed?

The skin on your face tends to be more delicate than the skin on the rest of your body, so it requires special care when using a tanning bed. Of course, you still want your face to have a beautiful golden glow to match the rest of your body. But you definitely don’t want it to get burned or end up with red, painful skin after your tanning session.

Safely Achieving a Tan in Your Face in a Tanning Bed


Prior to going into a tanning bed, it’s crucial to exfoliate your skin. This helps to remove dead skin cells from your pores, allowing the UV rays to penetrate evenly and deeply. By doing this, you’ll achieve a more natural-looking and even tan. Build-ups of impurities or dead skin cells can interfere with the tanning process, leading to blotches and streaks. You can create your own sugar face scrub for exfoliation, just make sure to choose the right type of sugar.

Avoid Makeup

This is an absolute rule to remember! The chemicals present in many makeup products can interrupt the tanning process by preventing the UV rays from penetrating the skin and stimulating melanin production, which is responsible for a darker complexion. It’s essential to remove all makeup, including lipstick and eyeliner, prior to your tanning session. Even small amounts of makeup can result in uneven patches and definitely not the desired look. Some makeup products can even intensify the UV rays, causing further damage to your skin. Thus, it’s best to avoid wearing makeup in a tanning bed. However, if you’re out in natural sunlight, it’s recommended to use a tinted moisturizer with SPF 41.

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Don’t Overdo It

To achieve a proper tan on your face, it only needs to be exposed to direct sunlight for a maximum of ten minutes. Any longer than that and your skin will become damaged. If you plan on spending more time in the tanning bed, it’s advisable to apply a low-factor sunscreen to protect your face while still allowing it to tan. A moisturizer with SPF 15 or a similar level not only provides protection against UV rays but also helps moisturize your skin, supporting the production of melanin for a darker complexion.

Tanning Bed Tips

As you invest in tanning bed sessions, you want to make the most of them without damaging your skin. Here are some useful tricks to maximize your tanning session:

  • Shower before: Shower just before your tanning session using a fragrance-free soap with slight exfoliating properties. This removes dead skin cells, promoting a more even tan.
  • Check your medication: Some medications can increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. Speak to your doctor if you are taking any medications to determine if it’s safe to use a tanning bed.
  • Pre-tan accelerator: Use a pre-tan accelerator to enhance your tan during the session while keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated.
  • Know what you want: Have a clear goal for your tan and discuss it with the tan technician. They will guide you on the time needed in the tanning bed or the number of sessions required to achieve your desired tone.
  • Know your skin type: Different skin tones require different tanning approaches. Tan according to your skin tone to avoid skin damage and excessive redness.
  • Wear goggles: Protect your eyes by wearing goggles during your tanning session. UV rays can cause severe damage to your eyes and lead to long-term conditions difficult to treat.
  • Choose your clothing: You have the freedom to choose what you wear in the tanning bed. Whether it’s a full swimsuit, swimming shirt, or going topless with a thong, the choice is yours.
  • Just relax: Take the time to unwind and enjoy your tanning session. It’s not every day that you get to lay around and do nothing.
  • Wait between sessions: Ideally, wait for four days between each tanning session. Your skin needs time to recover from UV exposure. Tanning too soon can result in serious skin damage and a painful sunburn instead of a beautiful glow.
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For additional guidance on caring for your skin after a tanning bed session, refer to my guide on the 5 WS website.

Tanning Your Face Without UV Rays

If you’re concerned about tanning your face in a tanning bed and the potential damage it may cause, an alternative is using a sunless tanner. Although this method requires preparation and practice, you can achieve a tan from the comfort of your own home. Here’s how:

  • Tie back your hair: Keep your hair away from your face with a ponytail to prevent interference with the tanning lotion.
  • Cleansing: Use a cleanser to remove any makeup or dirt from your face. Lightly exfoliate with a washcloth to eliminate dead skin cells that may cause uneven patches.
  • Gentle exfoliation: Further clear out dead skin cells and dirt by using a gentle exfoliator. This allows the self-tanner to penetrate deeper for better and longer-lasting results.
  • Toner application: After drying your face, apply toner with a cotton swab to cover all areas.
  • Self-tanning lotion: Allow your face to dry completely before applying self-tanner. Massage a small amount onto your face using circular motions. For smaller areas and a more even blend, you can use a foundation brush or sponge.
  • Neck blending: Massage moisturizer into your neck to blend its color with the self-tanner, avoiding visible tan lines and maintaining a natural look.
  • Development time: Leave the self-tanner on for the recommended duration. Remember, the color will darken overnight.
  • Moisturize: To prolong the longevity of your tan and achieve a more natural appearance, moisturize your skin daily after applying the self-tanner. Self-tanners can dry out your skin, so keeping it hydrated is crucial.
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Related Questions

Do face tanners work in tanning beds?

Using a face tanner in a tanning bed is recommended. Facial tanners provide more UVA rays to your skin and result in a deeper, longer-lasting tan. However, not all salons offer specialized face tanners, so ensure to inquire before booking your appointment. Pairing a face tanner with a good lotion helps prevent premature aging and damage to your skin.

How can I tan faster in a tanning bed?

While it’s important not to intensify UV rays excessively, a tan accelerator can speed up the tanning process. It enables your skin to tan more quickly while providing hydration and nourishment, protecting your skin during the session.

Should I shave before using a tanning bed?

Shaving the day before using a tanning bed is recommended. This allows your skin time to recover from shaving, making it less sensitive to UV rays. Shaving ensures that the UV rays can reach your skin more evenly without having to pass through hair, resulting in a more even and natural-looking tan. Shaving immediately after your tanning session risks stripping away your new tan, so it’s best to shave the day before.

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