Sunbeds are back: everything you need to know about tanning in 2023


And… they’re back. Sunbeds are once again grabbing headlines. While the popularity of sunbeds had waned over the years, the tanning solution seems to be making a comeback.

What are sunbeds?

First things first, what exactly are sunbeds and how do they work? Sunbeds emit UV rays, so they’re basically fake suns. Some sunbeds, however, can be up to fifteen times stronger than the Med sun. That’s why you can tan so much faster on a sunbed than you can just lying out in your garden.

Why are they back?

You can thank TikTok for the return of the sunbed. Videos promoting tanning solutions are flooding the social media platform. It’s not limited to sunbeds either. Tanning injections and nasal sprays are also having a moment. It’s worth noting tanning nasal sprays and injections aren’t actually legal in most countries (that includes the US and the UK).

TikTok influencers are pushing wild claims that have been refuted over and over by doctors and dermatologists. One woman is even going viral for promoting the use of a saltwater spray before going to your next sunbed tanning session. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work.

Why are people still using sunbeds?

Most people are aware of the risks of using sunbeds, and yet, the tanning salons are not going away. In fact, they’re hugely popular, if somewhat a dirty little secret for most users.

Users say sunbeds help with their skin conditions, give them a boost of vitamin D and prepare their skins for holidays.

Could we see a ban?

Sunbeds aren’t just about getting that beautiful holiday glow even in the dead of winter in grey London. They have risks associated with them, and the Government even passed a legislation back in 2010 (the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 for England and Wales) which would ban sunbed use for under 17s. It’s the same in the rest of the UK (Scotland passed the legislation in 2008 and Northern Ireland in 2011).

Sunbeds have been proven to increase the risks of skin cancer, accelerate the ageing process and can also cause eye issues such as cataracts and conjunctivitis.

This year, fashion magazine Refinery29 launched a campaign to completely ban sunbeds in the UK. Named Sun Blocked, the campaign cites the Skin Cancer Foundation that “even just one sunbed session before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by 75%”.

That hasn’t stopped one third of adults in the UK from having used sunbeds at least once in their lives.

A ban on sunbeds also made BBC headlines when a man who used sunbeds from the age of 16 got skin cancer at 21. He’s also calling for a ban.

But I want a tan!

If you’re wondering how to tan safely, we have bad news for you. Tanning is inherently unhealthy. Getting darker is your skin’s way of trying to protect itself from harmful UV rays.

Obviously, we also understand you may want to get a bit of a glow. All the doctors agree: a fake tan is the way to go. While they’re not the same – we hear you – they are the only safe way of getting darker without a side of potential cancer.

Tanning lotions have come a long way from the cringe-worthy orangey formulas of the past, so you may want to give them a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Sarah Kante